Employment Support Allowance (ESA) can help single parents who have an illness or disability that affects their ability to work. ESA offers financial support as well as help with future employment prospects.

You can apply for ESA even if you’re working, as long as you’re not earning above £120 a week or working more than 16 hours a week. You won’t be able to claim ESA if you receive Job Seekers Allowance, Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay.

There are two types of ESA:

  • Contributions-based ESA, which you can claim if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions in the past.
  • Income-related ESA, which you can claim if you have a low income and savings under £16,000.

Work Capability Assessment

An application for ESA begins with an ‘assessment phase’ that lasts around 13 weeks. During this time, you'll be asked to complete a Work Capability Assessment. The assessment will be carried out by a doctor, and will consider your physical and mental health as well as your work capabilities. The results of the assessment will determine whether you’re eligible for ESA, and if so, whether you’re placed into the work-related activity group or the support group.

Work-related Activity Group

If you’re placed into the work-related activity group, you’ll need to attend regular interviews with an advisor. During these interviews you’ll talk about your barriers to work. You’ll also discuss whether any educational or training opportunities could boost your future employment prospects. It’s extremely important that you attend these interviews, as you could have your financial support reduced if you don’t. If there’s a compelling reason to miss a scheduled interview, you should ask your personal advisor for permission to reschedule as early as possible.

Support Group

If you’re placed into the support group, you won’t need to take part in any interviews or preparations for returning to work. However, you can voluntarily schedule an interview with a personal advisor if you think it would be useful.

How Much Will I Get Paid?

You’ll normally get the assessment rate for 13 weeks after your claim, while you are still in the ‘assessment phase’. This will be: - up to £57.90 a week if you’re aged under 25 - up to £73.10 a week if you’re aged 25 or over After that, if you’re entitled to ESA and have moved into the main phase, you’ll be placed into the appropriate group and will receive: - up to £73.10 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group - up to £109.65 a week if you’re in the support group If you’re in the support group and receive income-related ESA, you’re also entitled to the enhanced disability premium at £15.90 a week. You might also qualify for the severe disability premium at £62.45 per week.

How long will my payments last?

Contributions-based ESA will only be paid for 12 months if you’re in the work-related activity group. There’s no time limit for how long you can claim contributions-based ESA if you're in the support group. If you’re claiming income-related ESA, there’s no time limit for either group.

How do I start a claim?

If you think you’re eligible for ESA, the quickest way to start a claim is by calling the contact centre on 0800 055 6688​. They’re open from 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday.