Benefits Expert:

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Q I will be 60 in April and have been receiving Incapacity Benefit (IB) as well as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the High Rate for Mobility and the Low Rate for Care.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has just told me that my IB is to be replaced by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and that I have been placed in the ‘work-related activity group’. What does this mean?

I have not had a medical for six years. My condition has deteriorated considerably since then and I do not know how I could go to work.

Janet (by Email).

A ESA has replaced IB as the benefit for the sick. People still receiving IB are gradually being assessed for ESA and will be transferred to it if they have a ‘limited capability for work’.

The assessment involves the sick person completing a questionnaire about how their condition affects them.

This alone may be enough to decide if ESA is payable, without a medical examination.

If the DWP agrees that you qualify for ESA they will also decide if you have a ‘limited capability for work-related activity’.

If they think that you have, because your condition is bad enough, they will put you in what is called the ‘support group’ and give you more ESA.

Otherwise you will be put in the ‘work-related activity group’.

This means you must attend ‘work-focused’ interviews with a personal advisor as a condition for benefit.

At these interviews you may be expected to discuss the steps you could take to improve your job prospects.

The group you are put into is important because it will affect your future benefit. ESA is based upon either your National Insurance Contributions or your income.

From 30 April a person in the work-related activity group can only receive Contributory ESA for a year.

Once that year is up their ESA entitlement will be calculated according to their income. This means their ESA could be reduced or withdrawn completely.

If you think you should be in the support group, rather than the work-related activity group, you can appeal. If you do I would advise you to seek help from an advice organisation.

A person can claim ESA until they reach the age when they become eligible for their State Pension, which for a woman of your age will be 62.

Q With the DLA changes next year, what will happen to the Low Rate of DLA for Care and the Motability scheme?

Worried Pensioner.

A There will be two rates for both Care and Mobility but we do not yet know how much. Motability will continue for those getting High Rate Mobility.