Navigating the pitfalls of claiming New-style Employment and Support Allowance

One of the working-age benefits most missed by claimants and their support is New-style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is a vital benefit that would be a help to many people, but it is left unclaimed due to lack of awareness. This is mostly down to poor promotion of it by the DWP. It has replaced (for new claimants) the older Contributions-related ESA. It is claimed online through the website.

New-style ESA is a new benefit, brought in alongside Universal Credit, that is crucially not means tested. It can be claimed by anyone who meets the requirements, no matter their capital and savings and regardless of their partner’s income. It can be claimed if you are sick or disabled and unable to work. This is decided through the identical work related activity test in the more commonly claimed Income-related ESA or Universal Credit. 

The other crucial element in making a claim is a time reliant one, and this is the part that is often missed and cannot be rectified later. You need to make a claim within a short period of the incident that causes you to qualify. For life-long disabilities, this may well be becoming an adult. For others, this is likely a personal injury. In order to qualify you must have a full National Insurance record in the tax year prior to making the claim. This is the full April to April period, so if you are injured in January the DWP will look back to April and go back to the previous April to see if you meet the requirements. If you are unable to work you are unable to meet the requirements so you must make the claim soon after stopping work, between one and two years depending on when during the year you stopped work.

Many people are pushed towards Universal Credit when they are unable to work, and for many this will be the key benefit for them. However, New-style ESA is payable alongside Universal Credit (UC) and will not be at risk if your savings go over the limit to claim UC. I would always recommend someone makes a claim for it even if they are not going to be better off right away. People suddenly unable to work should be receiving New-style ESA with Universal Credit on top if they have further needs.

If you need more advice on how to claim or whether someone you are working with is eligible, please contact me on and I’d be happy to help.

Ian MacKendrick

Ian MacKendrick

Fellow & SOLLA Accredited Chartered Financial Planner, Expert Witness and Dementia Friend.

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