Last year I was off work so long my sick pay ran out. It was pretty scary and I had no idea what my options were to be honest! I’d been off for a while but my sickpay was rapidly running out and I had no idea when I was going to be well enough to return to work. When you’re sick, dealing with financials can be extremely taxing mentally and physically so I wanted to talk through how the ESA process was for me finding help last year in the UK and hope it helps anyone in a similar situation.
What is ESA?
I’d heard of PIP (disability benefits) and about job seekers, but ESA was a term i’d nevr heard of. Employment & Support Allowance is a UK benefit which offers you financial support if you’re unable to work due to medical issues or personalised help to help you be able to work. If you’re getting sick pay or job seekers you can’t apply!
There are three types of ESA- one is income related and one is contribution based and the final one is ‘new style ESA’. The income related one is to support low income people in need and the contribution based one is the same but for people who are employed and looks at how much tax you’ve paid in to work out how much help you get. The final ‘new style ESA’ one is for anyone as long as they’ve been paying National Insurance tax for the past 2-3 years. I won’t lie it was pretty confusing! I was advised that I wasn’t eligible for the income- related or contribution based ones as I wasn’t on any income benefits. However, I was eligible for the new style ESA one so I applied.
Now I was pretty sure I was eligible, I started my application. You can start an ESA application off over the phone but it’s a separate number for new style ESA rather than the other two. They started off taking my national insurance number and basic information and asked about my current situation.
They advised i’d need to go have an ESA assessment at the job centre to be sorted out. I was pretty nervous about this and went through the ESA application form with my partner first to be sure of my facts. I also scanned all my sick notes and doctors diagnosis to take with me as supporting evidence.
The actual assessment was fine! Despite my nerves and seizure in the job centre (owch), we went through my situation, details, proof of address, medical evidence and the forms all fine and I was told i’d be eligible and would hear officially by post soon. It really wasn’t that bad and the assessor and disability adviser also made me aware of a local disability resource centre which might be able to offer me extra support.
I heard about a week later that i’d been granted ESA and would be receiving a set amount a week whilst off work. This money would start from the day after my last bit of work sick pay. I did have an issue where I wasn’t paid on time and had to chase the claim up on the phone but it got sorted pretty quickly. I then received a set amount every two weeks for the amount of time my sick note covered.
When my sick note was about to expire, I was sent a letter stating if I wanted to continue claiming I needed to provide a further note which I did. I was advised that i’d need to have a work capability assessment if I was still claiming after 13 weeks. Although I received the capability assessment booklet which focused on how my illness affected my ability to function, I was thankfully able to return to work before I needed the assessment.
It’s certainly not a lot of financial help when you’ve got a mortgage to pay but i’m very grateful for the support I had! If you find yourself in a similar situation, do reach out and see what you’re eligible for- the worst they can say is no.
Useful Numbers and Links
- ESA.gov info page – https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance
- Apply for ‘new style’ ESA over the phone.
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Call the contact centre to apply for contribution-based and income-related ESA.
Telephone: 0800 169 0350
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0350
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
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