Changes to benefits for ill or disabled

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Q. I have been in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance for the past two years, I got a letter saying that as I have been receiving it for over 365 days it is going to stop. Is this correct?

A. From October 31 you may be affected if you’re getting contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 

What do the changes mean for you?

If you’re getting contributory ESA in the Work-related Activity Group, you’ll lose your contributory ESA after 365 days.

Time spent in this group before the introduction of the rule also counts towards the time limit. So if you have already been getting contributory ESA in the Work-related Activity Group for 365 days or more on when the regulation is introduced, your contributory ESA will stop immediately.

Time limiting does not affect claimants in the Support Group and/or if you’re getting income-related ESA.

If you’re in the Work-related Activity Group and getting both contributory and income-related ESA, the contributory element will stop after 365 days. Your income-related ESA will continue and be adjusted to cover the loss, provided your other income and your capital remain the same.

If you’re getting contributory ESA but not income-related ESA, you may become eligible for income-related ESA when your contributory ESA stops.

Income-related ESA is means tested, so the amount you get depends on your income and capital and on the income and capital of your partner, if you have one.

You may also become eligible for other benefits such as housing benefit, housing benefit for rates or tax credits or an increase in these benefits if you are already claiming them.

National Insurance credits if your contributory ESA ends

If your contributory ESA comes to an end due to time limiting, you can continue to get National Insurance credits on the grounds of limited capability for work. This will protect your National Insurance contribution record.

What to do now

The ESA Centre will write to you before your benefit stops to tell you of the change in your entitlement and ask if you want to be considered for income-related ESA.

If you might be eligible for income-related ESA when your contributory ESA stops, but you are not getting it now, make sure that you provide the ESA Centre with up-to-date details of your income and capital. This will ensure that they have all the information that they need to transfer you on to income-related ESA when the time comes.

If you are getting contributory ESA in the Work-related Activity Group but you have a health condition that is getting worse, you might become eligible to be placed in the Support Group instead.

This would mean that your contributory ESA would not be time limited. If you think this might apply to you, you would have to show that your health had got worse since your last assessment. You need to contact the ESA Centre and ask for a review of your case, providing extra medical evidence. You may be asked to attend a further Work Capability Assessment.

Before deciding to proceed with this option get specialist advice from your local Citizens Advice as this could put you at risk of being found fit for work.

Supplementary payments

If you aren’t entitled to income-related ESA or you are entitled to it but at a lower rate than you were getting with contributory ESA, you will be entitled to a supplementary payment equal to the financial loss. The payments will be made for up to a year, as long as you continue to provide medical evidence that you are not fit for work.

You do not need to apply. The supplementary team will contact you if you are eligible.

This payment is not ESA and is not a benefit. It is not taxable and should not count as income for means tested benefits.

If you have received a letter and you are unsure on your options, contact your local Citizens Advice so as a full benefit check can be completed.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland