New style Employment and Support Allowance

Universal Credit is being introduced in Northern Ireland on a phased geographical basis. If you live in an area where Universal Credit is available, you may be entitled to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).


You may be able to get new style ESA if you are ill or unable to work, are eligible for Universal Credit and have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions.

New style ESA can be claimed instead of, or as well as, Universal Credit depending on your circumstances.

You may still be eligible to get new style ESA if you start work, however, there are limits on the number of hours you can work and the amount you can earn. Your Work Coach will be able to provide more information.

Work Capability Assessment 

You must have a Work Capability Assessment while your claim for new style ESA is being assessed. This is to understand how your illness or disability affects your ability to work.  If you’re claiming both Universal Credit and new style ESA, you’ll only go to one Work Capability Assessment.

The Department for Communities will arrange this for you.

At first, you can get new style ESA for up to 365 days. After this, your Work Coach will advise you of your options. This time limit does not apply if you’re assessed to have ‘limited capability for work and work related activity’, which means you will not be asked to look for work or prepare for work.

In most cases, you won’t be able to claim new style ESA if you were found capable of doing some work after your Work Capability Assessment.

The main exceptions are if:

  • your current condition has got a lot worse
  • you’re claiming for a new condition

Differences between new style ESA and Universal Credit

The differences between new style ESA and Universal Credit are:

  • new style ESA is paid to an individual; Universal Credit is a single household payment
  • new style ESA doesn’t take into account any savings you have
  • if you have a partner who is working, their earnings don’t affect your new style ESA payment
  • Universal Credit can include money for your rent or childcare costs; new style ESA doesn’t
  • new style ESA is paid fortnightly and Universal Credit is paid twice a month


New style ESA is paid fortnightly in arrears into your bank, building society or credit union account.

What you’ll get

Age Weekly rate
18 to 24 year olds Up to £57.90  
25 and over Up to £73.10      

After 13 weeks, if you’re still entitled to ESA, you will get up to £109.30.

If you claim both new style ESA and Universal Credit, your new style ESA payment will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment.

If you get new style ESA you will get class 1 National Insurance Credits.  In some circumstances you may only get these credits and no money. This is known as a ‘credits only’ claim.

How to claim

To claim new style ESA, you should contact the Employment and Support Allowance Centre.

If Universal Credit has not been introduced in your area, you cannot make a claim for new style ESA. You may want to claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

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