ESA Support Group (Length Of Award)

In this brief guide, we will look at the topic ESA support group length of award, and other aspects of the ESA support group category, like what it means and what it entails for the person receiving the ESA. We will also discuss other topics that come under the broad category of ESA.

ESA Support Group: Length Of Award 

ESA support groups tend to have either an indefinite length of award or a limit of 3 years for the ESA support group that does not have work-related activity, and 1 year for the ESA support group that involves work-related activity.

The key distinction between the 2 ESA support groups mentioned above is directly linked to the length of award for both of them as well, because the length of award varies depending on how severe the condition of the person is, which is the same thing that also affects whether someone gets placed in the work-related activity ESA support group or the one without.

After the person has filed their ESA claim and sent out their ESA50 questionnaire and any other necessary documents, they will have a work capability assessment, which essentially involves the assessment of their disability of mental and physical health condition.

These assessments are usually done by Atos healthcare, which is a private contractor that usually does health assessments for those receiving work benefits of any kind from the DWP.

After this assessment, the person is assigned to the group that fits their needs the most, like work-related activity group or support groups, and their length of award is thus decided based on whichever group they are a part of.

The reason that the length of award for ESA support groups without work-related activity tend to be longer is because these groups consist of the people with the most severe disabilities, and those that have a lower chance of being able to work any time soon, in which case reviewing the case too often is unnecessary.

On the other hand, the reason that the length of award for the ESA support groups with work-related activity or for the work related activity group itself tend to be shorter is because frequent reviews help the DWP determine if the person is going towards success or whether they need help in a different manner.

These reviews also help the decision makers figure out what the person needs still and sometimes they also help them figure out if their ESA needs to be reduced or increased for any reason, like a change in circumstance or a deterioration of their condition.

Difference between ESA Support Group and ESA Work-Related Activity Group

There are differences between ESA support groups and ESA work related activity groups that determine who is put in which category, and these distinctions depend on the condition of the person and their personal needs.

Some of the primary differences between the ESA support group and the work-related activity group are that:

  • ESA support group members do not have to attend work-focused interviews or undertake work-related activities, such as training or condition management programs;
  • ESA support group member get more money because the support component is paid at a higher rate than the work-related activity group, because of the activity component;
  • There is a one-year limit on claiming contributory ESA, which does not apply to members of the support group.

These differences are based in how severe the condition of the person is, and what they need from the ESA benefits, which in turn will affect how they deal with the future work circumstances they may have.

Eligibility for ESA

To be eligible for ESA, the person needs to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Being under State Pension age
  • Having a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

Even though one can work while they are on ESA, there are some conditions on what work one can do while receiving ESA, and these conditions need to be considered carefully before one claims ESA.

Furthermore, a person cannot claim ESA if they are also receiving the following benefits:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

You can however claim ESA with other benefits like Universal Credit or Personal Independence payment (PIP).

New Style ESA

Most new claims that are made for ESA tend to be those of the “New Style ESA”, and even though this is a more refined version of the process there are only a few changes to it.

The eligibility criteria for New Style ESA says that to receive this benefit, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Should have worked as an employee or been self-employed
  • Should have paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years and National Insurance credits also count in this case.
  • National Insurance record should not have any gaps.

On the other hand, there are conditions that also mean that you will not be able to claim new style ESA, which are:

If you get the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it.

If you got or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you’re still eligible for it

If you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer. 

However, as for the last point, someone may be able to apply for ‘new style’ ESA up to 3 months before their ends and people usually start getting their ‘new style’ ESA as soon as their SSP ends.

There are also very helpful conditions for new style ESA in the face of the COVID -19 pandemic, and the eligibility criteria for ESA due to coronavirus are as follows:

  • You should not be on the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • You’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • You have been advised to shield, which means to take extra precautions to reduce contact with You or your child might have coronavirus or you’re recovering from it
  • others) because you’re at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
  • You or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus

Income Related ESA/Universal Credit

The other condition in which there is no time limit on the length of award for ESA benefits is when someone is receiving income related ESA.

Even though most people know that the ESA support group length of award tends to be either indefinite or at the very least long term, many may not have as much information about the income related ESA.

Income related ESA has recently been replaced by Universal Credit, which is meant to provide the person with the ability to take care of housing or childcare issues, but some people might still  be able to claim it.

You must be 16 or above to claim Income related ESA, and it refers to the type of benefit that is dependent on what your income is and how much lower it is compared to your needs and your situation.

This benefit is awarded to anyone who is of working age but is not able to work in circumstances that they could be working in, causing issues with the income they are receiving.

As mentioned above, income related ESA has been replaced by Universal Credit which is a means-tested benefit for people of working-age who are on a low income.

Means tested benefits are a class of benefits that depend on the amount of income and capital the person has and they may be available to those who are able to demonstrate that their income and capital are below a certain level.

Universal credit has taken the place of six existing means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit.
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

These six benefits are also known as legacy benefits.

Universal Credit is paid on a monthly basis and in Scotland it may be paid twice-monthly.

The amount of money the person gets in Universal credit is worked out in two steps: Firstly, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) works out what it thinks the person might need to live on, based on their household’s circumstances. Secondly, they may take away some of the income you have coming in.

The person claiming Universal Credit doesn’t need to do anything if they are already claiming existing legacy benefits because then their situation stays the same. 


In this brief guide, we look at the topic ESA support group length of award, and other aspects of the ESA support group category, like what it means and what it entails for the person receiving the ESA. We also discussed other topics that come under the broad category of ESA.

ESA support groups are, in essence, quite similar to the kind of group therapy that tends to help people who are suffering from mental or physical health issues, and it can be quite liberating to be around people who are suffering from similar problems as you.

Things become easier and more empowering still in an ESA support group for the work-related activity category, because that involves people who are actively working towards their future career together, and that sense of kinship can often do wonders for recovery.

If you have any more questions or comments about the ESA support group and length of award of ESA, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): ESA Support Group Length of Award

How often is ESA support group reviewed?

ESA support groups may be reviewed every three years, in most cases, but there have been instances where there has been a backlog of cases at the DWP, and therefore someone who was supposed to have their ESA reviewed in three years did not get the review done.

ESA Support Group customers are people who are so severely ill or disabled it is unreasonable to require them to engage in work-related activity which is often a condition for receiving ESA benefits, under which people are given training in the kind of skills they need to be an active member of the workforce.

Most ESA Support Group customers have periodical medical assessment reviews, which happen every 3 years, because these determine if there has been any change in the working capability of the individual and if they still need to be in an ESA support group.

Does the ESA support group get backdated?

Yes, ESA support groups can get backdated in certain circumstances, like when it takes longer than 13 weeks to assess someone’s claim, they may continue getting the ‘assessment rate’ until they get a decision. A person’s ESA can also be backdated if they are owed any money after 13 weeks.

How long after sending in your esa50 do you hear back?

You may get a response about 20 days after sending your ESA50, but bear in mind that this includes 20 working days, so if there are days in that period which are national or regional holidays, the process may be slightly longer.


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