ESA Assessment: (How Long For Decision?)

In this brief guide, we will look at ESA assessment and how long for decisions related to ESA assessments, as well as other information about ESA.

ESA Assessment: How Long For Decision?

It usually takes about 12 weeks for the DWP after an ESA assessment to make a decision about whether you are eligible to receive an ESA, and people usually start getting the ESA soon after the decision is made.

An ESA assessment is done to figure out if the person has limited capacity or if they need the benefits because they are not able to work, and in most cases the DWP is likely to make a decision about this soon after the assessment has been done.

Once the work capacity assessment has been completed, the DWp will usually not require any more information, unless they find during the processing of your claim that there is a form missing or there are discrepancies between the circumstances you reported and the ones in the present.

After the ESA assessment has been done, the DWP assesses whether you truly have limited capacity to work, which is the last thing they check before making a decision about paying ESA.

In the context of the department of work and pensions and the Employment and Support Allowance, limited capacity refers to difficulty you face while working because you’re sick or disabled, which are usually the reason ESA is awarded in the first place, and assessment and process exists to ensure that people don’t claim ESA when they don’t need it.

When the DWP gets information that would suggest that you don’t have a limited capacity, they may make the decision to stop the ESA payments, and they may reach out for clarification or further assessment, and should the person fail to respond they may not restart the payment till they get a response.

This is one of the only circumstances in which the DWP does not make a decision about ESA assessment after doing the assessment, because in most cases they will directly inform you of the decision.

One of three things usually happens with regard to the DWP’s decision after ESA assessment, and they will let you know of any of these as they apply to you through a letter:

  • They may decide to keep giving you ESA and put you in the ‘work-related activity group’
  • They may keep giving you ESA and put you in the ‘support group’
  • They may stop your ESA because you don’t have limited capability for work

All three of these decisions have different meanings and consequences, and they are discussed below.

Work-Related Activity Group

The Work-related activity group of ESA benefits is a condition that is introduced to the person so that they may be able to engage in activities which may increase their chances of finding work again and getting off the ESA benefit.

This group is assigned to the person that has limited capacity for work and needs the ESA, but also has the potential to be able to find work again, and therefore needs the extra push and help.

When someone is allotted the work-related activity group they may need to have work-focused interviews and do activities that improve their chances of finding work eventually, so that they may be able to earn their own living and get off the ESA program. 

This process is called ‘work-related activity’ and for those who are on the new style ESA this might be called ‘work preparation’.

People usually have ESA assessments, after which the DWP make their decision, and then they place the person in the work-related activity group so that they may be able to work on their relevant job skills, and for this purpose the person may have a work-focused interview after they have been placed in the work related activities group. 

Most people are then contacted by a work coach from Jobcentre Plus who talks them through what they will have to do and what their situation entails, and they will also talk to them about the kind of work-related activity they should do, and both the coach and the person have to agree on this work-related activity for the ESA process to work.

The interview and assessment for work-related activities in ESA involve discussion of things like:

  • work history and qualifications
  • steps the person can take to eventually help them work
  • any practical support available to the person

There is no rule that the person has to decide everything in one interview, and they may have several work-focused interviews while they are getting ESA payments in the work-related activity group and the DWP informs the person if and when they need to go to work-focused interviews.

Some work-related activity examples are as follows:

  • Basic maths or writing skills
  • Confidence-building sessions
  • Learning how to write a CV effectively 
  • Trying new ways to manage the person’s condition or disability and not let it affect their job or work.

In many ways, the work-related activities group may be likened to the social skills training that is often a part of rehabilitation process for those suffering from disabilities of any kind, and often Occupational therapists are in charge of these types of activities.

That is not to say that an occupational therapist will look after the work-related activities, but the two processes are quite familiar and they may often feel comfortable to those who have gone through social skills training in any way.

So what happens if you ever miss an interview or a session for the work-related activities? The DWP calls the applicants pertaining to the ESA decision for clarification purposes only. In such a situation, you need to contact the DWP as soon as possible, and this time period will be 5 days if you are on the old types of ESA. you can contact the DWP about this on the telephone number on any of your ESA letters.

Your benefit is usually not affected for missing a work-related activity if you have a good reason but if your reason is not good enough or you fail to contact the DWP, your ESA payments might be reduced which is called a ‘sanction’.

ESA Support Group

The other category you may be assigned to after your ESA assessment as part of your ESA benefits are ESA support groups which you may consider to be part of treatment, in a way, as they are meant to help you get to your best possible self so you can get back to work.

ESA support groups generally exist for people suffering from severe or very disabling illnesses of a physical or mental nature, and they serve the purpose of allowing the person some time off because it is “unreasonable” to ask someone to work when they are ill enough to be receiving ESA.

ESA support groups for mental health may be applicable to someone after the submission of a sick note from their mental health professional to the DWP and they have had their ESA assessment accordingly.

Even in the assignment of ESA support groups, the person may be assigned to a support group with work-related activity or without work-related activity, and the time period for which the ESA is provided depends on which group the person is in.

In cases of people who do not belong to the Work Related Activity group, the ESA support group for mental health may last indefinitely, depending on the person’s recovery and ability to get back to work.

However, in case of the individuals who do belong to the Work Related Activity category, ESA support group for mental health there is a one-year time limit on payment.

ESA Support group for mental health is a criteria decided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in which people who are suffering from severe mental health problems are allowed to recuperate and seek help and not work as long as they are receiving ESA.

The process of checking the claim of the person after ESA assessment spans about 13 weeks, as mentioned before, and the assignment of the support group usually happens after that.

If you think that you have been assigned to the wrong group, you can reach out to the DWp on the same number that is on your DWP communication and ask them to reconsider their decision.

If the ESA Assessment shows you don’t have limited capacity

If the DWP comes to the decision that you don’t have limited capacity, there may be different reasons for that:

  • You didn’t send the ESA50 questionnaire on time
  • You failed to go a work capability assessment
  • You went to a work capability assessment but the DWP decided you’re able to work.

If any of these things have happened, they can be challenged or altered.

For example, if your ESA has been stopped because you did not send your ESA50 questionnaire in on time, you can challenge the decision to stop your ESA if you can prove that you had a good reason for not being able to do so, like being ill or having an emergency at home, and this challenge must be started within 1 month of the decision.

If you decide to not challenge the decision, or if you can’t for some reason, you can still try to make a new claim, which involves completing and sending the ESA50 questionnaire with your new claim. This also ensures that you will get the ESA straight away when the new claim starts.

If you have been shown as not having limited capacity because you have missed a Work capability assessment, you can challenge this decision as well, based on the same principle as mentioned above, and as long as you can show why you missed the assessment and if it was for a justifiable reason, you may be able to get the problem resolved.

If for some reason you are not able to get it resolved, you can still start a new claim but if the claim is made less than 6 months after your ESA stopped, the payment of ESA may not happen straight away and you may get the payment only after you go to another work capability assessment which tends to be about 3 months after the claim. 

Lastly, if the ESA has decided that you are able to work and that is why your ESA has not been paid, you can challenge the decision to stop your ESA, and this challenge must also be made within 1 month of the decision.

In case challenging the decision is not an option for any reason, you might be able to make a new claim but you can only make a new claim if these circumstances are applicable to you and have been since the DWP’s decision:

  • Your condition has gotten worse
  • You’ve got a new condition


In this brief guide, we looked at ESA assessment and how long for decisions related to ESA assessments, as well as other information about ESA.

ESA is a great benefit for individuals suffering from physical or mental disabilities of any kind, and this benefit allows them to be able to look for work and pay their bills while they are dealing with their health conditions.

If you have any questions or comments similar to ESA assessments and how long it takes for decisions about ESA assessments, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): ESA Assessment: How Long For Decision?

How long do DWP decision makers take?

DWP decision makers usually take about 12 weeks to decide whether your claim has merit and if you should be getting the benefits you have applied for.

Even though technically the DWP decisions may take about 12 weeks, you can reach out to them after 8 weeks or so to check on the status of your claim and find out if there is any other information you need to give them.

Does ESA get backdated after assessment?

Yes, your ESA may be backdated after 13 weeks, if you still have not received any correspondence about whether your claim has been processed, and in most cases if it’s taking longer than 13 weeks to assess your claim, you’ll continue getting the ‘assessment rate’ until you get a decision. 

How long does it take to process ESA?

It may take up to 12 weeks, or 3 months, to process ESA, but if the DWP processes your claim within the first few weeks itself, you will get your first ESA payment soon after you apply.

You can check how much ESA you’ll get, and the DWP may also pay up to 3 months worth of ESA to cover time when you had limited capability for work before you applied.


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