Changes to Employment and Support Allowance
Welfare Changes in Northern Ireland were brought in from 2016 onward. These include changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Find out about the changes and how they may affect you.
If you are already getting ESA you will have been placed in one of two groups.
Work-related activity group
In this group, you are expected to take part in work-focused interviews and prepare for suitable work.
Due to your illness or disability having a severe effect on your ability to work, in this group you are not expected to take part in any work.
Find out more about ESA groups on the following page:
Changes to ESA and how they affect you
Five changes were made to ESA.
Limits to the time you can get ESA
If you have been in the work-related activity group since 28 November 2016, you can only receive contribution-based ESA for a maximum of 365 days.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get ESA based on your income. If you are not entitled to receive payments of income-related ESA you will continue to get National Insurance credits.
If you are in the support group, you will not be affected by this change. Any time spent in the support group or the assessment phase before moving to the support group, will not count towards your 365 day time-limit.
Removal of special conditions for young people
There were previously special conditions that allowed some young people (aged 16 to 24) to get contribution-based ESA, even though they had never paid National Insurance contributions.
These special conditions have been removed and any claim for ESA on or after 17 February 2016 is now treated in the same way regardless of your age.
Work-related activity component for new claims
If your claim was made on or after 3 April 2017, not linking to a previous ESA claim, the work-related activity component will not be payable.
This brings payments for most claimants in the work-related activity group into line with the rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
If you are placed in the work-related activity group, you will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews with your Employment Service Adviser.
Since 3 April 2017, the 52 week permitted work rule has been removed. ESA claimants can do permitted work for up to 16 hours, earning up to £152 per week for an unlimited time.
Removal of reassessments for those with severe conditions
From 29 September 2017, reassessments are no longer required for claimants with the most severe lifelong disabilities, illness, or health conditions.
Find out more about eligibility and how to claim ESA on the following page:
Help and support
There is no need for you to take any action.
Welfare supplementary payment
If you have been in the Work Related Activity Group since 28 November 2016 and either you are not entitled to income-related ESA or you are paid income-related ESA at a lower rate than you received under contribution-based ESA, you will be entitled to a welfare supplementary payment.
This payment will cover any financial loss from the change and will be provided for at least one year, if you continue to meet the necessary criteria.
Payments will be made every four weeks in arrears.
Income-related ESA is being replaced by Universal Credit. Universal Credit is a payment for people over 18 but under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. It is now being introduced in Northern Ireland on a phased geographical basis.
You can find out more about welfare changes or welfare supplementary payments at the following page:
To get benefit advice, for you, your family or for someone else, you can answer questions anonymously online about your savings, income and outgoings at the following page: