Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 1: Benefits and tax credits
7. Employment and support allowance
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7. Employment and support allowance

Employment and support allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who have limited capability for work because of illness or disability. There are two types – income-related ESA (see below) and contributory ESA (see Cross reference).

'Limited capability for work' is assessed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), usually at a medical examination.

The DWP is responsible for administration of ESA.

Income-related employment and support allowance

Income-related ESA is means tested and is for people with a low income who have 'limited capability for work'.

Income-related ESA is being replaced by universal credit (UC) and eventually claimants who are on income-related ESA will be transferred to UC.

Who can claim income-related employment and support allowance

If you are not in the UC system, you qualify for income-related ESA if:Footnote you have 'limited capability for work'; and you are aged at least 16 and under pension age; and you are not getting income support (IS), jobseeker's allowance (JSA), pension credit (PC) or statutory sick pay (SSP); and your partner is not getting IS, income-based JSA, PC or income-related ESA; and you are not working or, if you are, it is 'permitted work'; and your partner is not working 24 hours or more a week (there are some exceptions to this); and you are not in education (this is the general rule, but part-time students and some full-time students can claim); and you are in Great Britain, you are not a 'person subject to immigration control' and you satisfy the habitual residence test, including having the 'right to reside'; and you have no more than £16,000 capital; and your income is less than the set amount the law says you need to live on (known as your 'applicable amount' – see Cross reference).

For details of these qualifying conditions, including how your imited capability for work is assessed, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

Amount of benefit

The amount of income-related ESA you get depends on your circumstances and the circumstances of your partner, if you have one. The amount also depends on your income and capital. It is calculated by going through the following steps.

Step one: work out your capital

If your capital is over £16,000, you cannot get income-related ESA.Footnote Some kinds of capital are ignored.

Step two: work out your applicable amount

This is an amount for basic weekly needs. It is made up of personal allowances (see below), premiums (see Cross reference), housing costs (see Cross reference) and either a work-related activity component or a support component (see Cross reference).

Work out your applicable amount by adding together your personal allowance, premiums, eligible housing costs and, once you have been getting ESA for 13 weeks, either the work-related activity component or the support component. Note: the work-related activity component has been abolished for most new claims with effect from 3 April 2017.

The first 13 weeks is called the 'assessment phase' and from week 14 it is called the 'main phase'. Income-related ESA does not include amounts for children. 

Personal allowance

Your personal allowance is paid at either the single, lone parent or couple rate depending on your situation. The amount depends on your age and whether you are in the assessment phase or the main phase.  



Weekly rate Assessment phase (weeks 1–13)
Main phase (week 14 onwards)
Under 25 57.90 73.10
25 or over 73.10 73.10
Lone parent
Under 18 57.90 73.10
18 or over 73.10 73.10
Both under 18 (higher rate) 87.50 114.85
Both under 18 (if not eligible for higher rate) 57.90 73.10
One under 18, one 18 or over (higher rate) 114.85 114.85
One under 18, one 18–24 (if not eligible for higher rate) 57.90 73.10
One under 18, one 25 or over (if not eligible for higher rate) 73.10 73.10
Both 18 or over 114.85 114.85

If you are both under 18, you get the higher rate if: one of you is responsible for a child; or both you and your partner would be eligible to claim income-related ESA if you were single; or your partner would qualify for IS if s/he were single; or your partner would qualify for income-based JSA or severe hardship payments of JSA.

If one of you is under 18 and the other is 18 or over, you get the higher rate if the younger person would: qualify for IS or income-related ESA if s/he were single; or qualify for income-based JSA or severe hardship payments of JSA.


Whether or not you qualify for premiums depends on your circumstances. You qualify for: pensioner premium if you or your partner have reached the qualifying age for PC (see Cross reference). If you are single, you get £89.90; if you are in a couple, you get £133.95. In the main phase, these amounts are reduced by the amount of the work-related activity component or support component for which you qualify; carer premium of £36.00 in the same way as you would for IS (see Cross reference); enhanced disability premium if you or your partner get the highest rate disability living allowance (DLA) care component or you get the ESA support component. It is not included if either partner is over PC age. It is £16.40 if you are single and £23.55 for a couple; severe disability premium of £64.30 in the same way as you would for IS (see Cross reference).

Housing costs

If you own your own home, income-related ESA can help with certain service charges. Normally, help only starts once you have been getting ESA for 39 weeks.


In the main phase, which usually starts 14 weeks after you claim, you are placed in either the 'work-related activity' group or the 'support' group depending on your ability to undertake work-focused interviews and other work-related activity. If you are in the support group, you get a support component of £37.65 a week. For claims that started before 3 April 2017, or are linked to a claim which existed before that date, if you are in the work-related activity group you get a work-related activity component of £29.05 a week. New claims made from 3 April 2017 do not include the work-related activity component. For more detail about these rules, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

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