Moving from Employment and Support Allowance to Universal Credit

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is one of the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing. If you are already claiming ESA, you don’t do need to do anything. DWP will contact you when it’s time to move on to Universal Credit.

Will I get less money if I move from ESA to Universal Credit?

The rates paid for the limited capability for work elements are lower than the current ESA rates. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said that as long as your circumstances stay the same, you won’t lose any money when you move onto Universal Credit. You will either get the same amount of benefit as you do now or you might get more. This is called transitional protection. However, if you have a change of circumstances, your claim for Universal Credit will be reassessed and the amount you get might drop.

Download a leaflet about Universal Credit if you have a disability or health condition from the GOV.UK website opens in new window.

Work Capability Assessment

When you make a claim for Universal Credit, you may be asked to attend a Work Capability Assessment. This is designed to assess how your disability or illness affects your ability to work. You will be assessed as being in one of the following categories:

  • You are fit for work

  • You have limited capability for work - which means that although you may be unable to look for work now, you can prepare to work at some time in the future

  • You have limited capability for work and work-related activity - which means that you won’t be asked to look for work or prepare for work

The assessment will also be used to decide which rate of the limited capability for work element you should get.

Limited capability for work rates for 2017/2018

RatePer month

Limited capability for work £126.11

Limited capability for work and work-related activity £318.76

Remember, this amount is paid monthly as part of your total Universal Credit payment.

Find out more about other elements of Universal Credit you may be able to claim in our guide Universal Credit explained.

Universal Credit and ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance

Depending on your circumstances, if you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you may be able to claim new-style Employment and Support Allowance on top of (or instead of) your Universal Credit payment. This will depend on how much you earn and whether you have made enough National Insurance contributions. If you are eligible to claim new-style ESA and qualify for help with other costs, like paying your rent or looking after children, you will have to make an additional claim for Universal Credit. If you aren’t eligible to claim new-style ESA but can claim Universal Credit, you can make a claim for the ‘limited capability for work’ element of Universal Credit.

 

If you can’t claim Universal Credit

If you don’t live in an area that allows you to claim Universal Credit, you may be invited to make a claim for either contribution-based or income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. If you qualify for help with other costs, like paying your rent or looking after children, you will need to make a claim for existing benefits, such as Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credit. Find out more in our guide What sickness and disability benefits can I claim? 

Am I eligible for new-style ESA?

New-style ESA is a contribution-based benefit. This means you may be able to claim it if you’ve paid enough National Insurance Contributions in the two full tax years before the year you’re claiming in. It is paid regardless of how much you or your spouse or partner have in income or savings. You will need to have a fit note from your doctor to start your claim.

 

Work Capability Assessment

You will usually need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to find out whether you’re eligible for new-style ESA. If you’re applying for Universal Credit and new-style ESA, you will have a single assessment for both benefits. You won’t have to undergo an assessment for certain medical conditions. For example:

  • any terminal illness

  • some pregnancy-related conditions

  • some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

After you’ve made your claim, you’ll be paid a weekly assessment rate for up to 13 weeks while you’re waiting for your work capability assessment appointment. After your assessment, if it’s decided you can get new-style ESA, you’ll be placed in one of two groups:

  • the support group – if your condition is so severe that you can’t work or take steps to prepare for work

  • the work-related activity group – if your condition allows you to do some work or to take steps to prepare for work 

 

How much is new-style ESA?

New-style ESA is paid every two weeks for up to a year (365 days).

If you’re also getting Universal Credit for other costs like your rent or support for children, the amount you’re getting in new-style ESA will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment.

Age 2017/2018 assessment rate paid for the first 13 weeks 18 to 24 up to £57.90 (per week)

25 and over up to £73.10 (per week)

New-style ESA rate - paid after your Work Capability Assessment

Group Rate for 2017/2018 Work-related activity group up to £73.10 (per week)

Support group up to £109.10 (per week)

If you’re in the support group and on income-related ESA, you’re also entitled to the enhanced disability premium at £15.90 a week. You may also qualify for the severe disability premium, which is £62.45 per week. Can I get new-style ESA after one year?

If you’re in the support group, you can continue to get new-style ESA while you remain in this group. You are likely to have another Work Capability Assessment to see if you still qualify. If you are in the work-related activity group, your new-style ESA payment will stop. If you’re still eligible for help because of your illness or disability, you may be able to claim the ‘limited capability for work’ element as part of your Universal Credit payment.

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