Benefits Expert: ‘How could this affect my ESA?’

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Q I AM receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of £71 a week but I understand this can be increased after a while. How do I go about getting the extra money?

Mr K (by email)

A SOMETIME during your first 13 weeks on ESA, Jobcentre Plus will contact you to carry out a work capability assessment. This involves your completing a health questionnaire and probably attending a face-to-face assessment with a health care professional.

The assessment will decide whether you have a limited capability for work. If you have, then it also decides whether you could undertake work-related activity that would improve your prospects of becoming ready for work.

If you are put in the “work-related activity” group your ESA will increase by £28.15 a week after 13 weeks on the benefit. If you are not fit enough for work-related activity you will be put in the “support” group and the increase in your ESA will be £34.05 a week. If you do not have a limited capability for work your ESA will stop.

Q I AM a single person living alone and receive ESA which I won on appeal in May. I am looking to move in with my partner who is in full-time work. How would this affect my ESA?

Kay (by Email)

A IT all depends what sort of ESA you are receiving. There are two kinds of ESA: Contributory ESA, which is linked to recently paid National Insurance Contributions, and Income-related ESA, which is means-tested.

Contributory ESA is not affected by income and circumstances, except that it might be reduced where certain kinds of pension are in payment. Income-related ESA will be affected by the person’s income and circumstances and those of their partner.

People in the “work-related activity” group can only receive Contributory ESA for a year. At the end of the year they can only receive income-related ESA, while those in the “support” group can receive contributory ESA indefinitely.

If you are receiving contributory ESA it will not be immediately affected if you move in with your partner. If you are receiving income-related ESA you will be re-assessed as a couple when you move in with your partner.

This means his income and savings will be taken into account and your ESA could be reduced or stopped, depending upon the circumstances. For example, you would not be entitled to income-related ESA if your partner worked for 24 hours a week or more. If you are receiving contributory ESA and you are in the work-related activity group, you will only be able to receive continuing benefit beyond a year if you qualify for Income-related ESA.