Employment and Support Allowance
If you’re under State Pension age and find it difficult to work because of illness or disability, you may qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). There are two types of ESA and you could be eligible for one or both:
- contribution-based ESA – you could get this for up to 12 months if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions
- income-related ESA – you could get this if you haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions to get contribution-based ESA and your income, savings or capital are low enough.
If you’re eligible to claim Universal Credit (UC), you will need to make a claim for UC instead of income-related ESA. If you live in an area where income-related ESA has been replaced by UC, you can still claim contribution-based ESA, but it will be called ‘new style ESA’. You can check whether you can claim UC on the Citizens Advice website.
You may be moved to ESA from other benefits that are being phased out, such as Incapacity Benefit. Gov.uk has more information about this.
After you make a claim for ESA, you will have to fill in a questionnaire that looks at how your illness or disability affects you. You'll also have to attend a work capability assessment to see if you are limited in your ability to work.
If you’re eligible for ESA, you’ll be placed in the work-related activity group or the support group depending on the outcome of your assessment. If you’re in the support group, you’ll be exempt from the benefit cap and you can continue to receive contribution-based ESA for longer than 12 months. If you’re in the work-related activity group, you’ll have to attend regular interviews with an adviser and prepare for returning to work.
How much you’ll get depends on your income, whether you’re part of a couple, the type of ESA you qualify for and where you are in the assessment process.
If you’re under State Pension age, and available for and actively looking for work, you may be eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). To claim, you must be either unemployed or working fewer than 16 hours a week, and not in full-time education. There are two types of JSA and you may be eligible for one or both:
- contribution-based JSA – you could get this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions. It’s worth up to £73.10 a week. You can get it for up to six months.
- income-based JSA – you could get this if you haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions to get contribution-based JSA. It’s worth up to £73.10 a week if you’re single and £114.85 a week if you’re a couple. The amount you get depends on your income and savings, and whether you’re disabled, a carer or have housing costs. You can’t claim it if you have more than £16,000 in savings or capital or if you have a partner who works more than 24 hours a week.
If you’re eligible for Universal Credit (UC), you will need to make a claim for UC instead of income-based JSA. If you live in an area where income-based JSA has been replaced by UC, you can still claim contribution-based JSA, but it will be called ‘new style JSA’.
You may be able to get Income Support if you’re living on a low income. You can claim if all of the following apply to you:
- you’re below the Pension Credit qualifying age
- you’re on a low income and have less than £16,000 in savings
- you work fewer than 16 hours a week. If you have a partner, they must work fewer than 24 hours a week
- you’re not eligible for ESA or JSA. If you have a partner, they must not be claiming income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Pension Credit
- you’re in one of the categories of people who can claim. For example, you’re a carer, a single parent with a child under five or, in some cases, if you’re sick or disabled. Try our online benefits calculator to check if you’re eligible.
Occasionally, you may be able to claim Income Support even if not all of the above points apply to you. Contact Citizens Advice for more advice.
Depending on which area you live in, you may have to claim Universal Credit instead of Income Support.
Working Tax Credit
You could get Working Tax Credit (WTC) if you‘re on a low income and carry out paid work for a certain number of hours a week. How many hours you need to work depends on your circumstances.
To find out if you qualify for tax credits, you can use the tax credits questionnaire on Gov.uk. If you qualify, you can order a claim form online or call the Tax Credits Office (0345 300 3900). How much you get depends on your circumstances and income.
Depending on which area you live in, you may have to claim Universal Credit instead of WTC. You can’t claim tax credits and Universal Credit at the same time.
Try our online benefits calculator to check what you could claim
Check if you should be applying for Universal Credit instead of ESA, JSA, Income Support or Working Tax Credit using the Citizens Advice eligibility checker