Changes to Employment and Support Allowance

Welfare Changes in Northern Ireland are currently taking place. These include changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Find out about the changes and how they may affect you.

ESA groups

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.

Support group

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 have taken place to ESA.

Limits to the time you can get ESA

If you are in the work-related activity group, you can now 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 is now treated in the same way it is for anyone else.

 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. 

Permitted work

The 52 week permitted work rule has been removed. ESA claimants can now do permitted work for up to 16 hours, earning up to £120 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

When changes to ESA time-limiting was introduced, if a person has no entitlement to income-related ESA, or if a person is entitled to income-related ESA but at a lower payment rate than they received under contribution based ESA, they will be entitled to a welfare supplementary payment.

This payment will cover any financial loss from the change and will be provided for one year, as long as the customer continues to meet the necessary criteria.

Payments will be made every four weeks in arrears.

Universal Credit

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. 

More information

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:

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