Employment and Support Allowance Changes

Employment and Support Allowance claims process – new elements - information thanks to Gaynor Ripley, Partner Support Manager, Department for Work and Pensions:

Included in the Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper is the introduction of two new elements to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims process:

•A mandatory health and work conversation, which is a type of work focused interview, specifically designed for ESA claimants to take place before their Work Capability Assessment at around week four of their claim. Incremental rollout of the health and work conversation commenced in March 2017 and is expected to be completed by September 2017

•An ESA Claimant Commitment is  a condition of entitlement to ESA for new claims to existing benefits and will set out the expectations and legal requirements that claimants will be required to accept in order to receive ESA.  The mandatory ESA Claimant Commitment element, is expected to be in place nationally from summer 2017

Employment and Support Allowance – Health and Work Conversation (HWC)

  • Health and work conversations will be mandatory for the majority of claimants – subject to exemptions.  The health and work conversation will support claimants with health conditions at an early stage in their ESA claim, with conversations being held at around week-4
  • During the health and work conversation the work coach will work through a Health and Work Conversation booklet with the claimant to agree an action plan.  All actions agreed between the work coach and the claimant will be voluntary
  • To protect vulnerable claimants, operational instructions will be issued explaining that it is not mandatory for claimants to attend the health and work conversation, if their circumstances deem that it would not be appropriate
  • Work coaches will have the flexibility to defer the health and work conversation if the claimant cannot attend due to their circumstances.  If a claimant fails to attend the health and work conversation or fails to participate without good cause, a sanction will be applied and their ESA may be reduced

Employment and Support Allowance – Claimant  Commitment

  • Claimant Commitments are already used for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimants. An ESA Claimant Commitment will align the ESA new claims process with the Universal Credit model
  • Actions agreed will be recorded in the Claimant Commitment and will be voluntary in the period before the Work Capability Assessment
  • The ESA Claimant Commitment will mirror the current ESA claimant declaration.  As a condition of benefit entitlement, claimants will agree to inform DWP of any change of circumstances that might affect their benefit and confirm the information they have provided is correct. For most claimants, the Claimant Commitment will be personalised and tailored to reflect discussions held between the work coach and the claimant about their goals, barriers and action to overcome challenges
  • For ESA Work Related Activity Group claimants, the ESA Claimant Commitment will be updated at each work focused interview