Question: Can you reach up with both your arms without difficulty and pain?

Your answer

Question: Can you reach clothes, for example, on a shelf or in a cupboard?

Your answer

Question: Can you do all of these using one or both arms and without difficulty and pain: Put something in the top pocket of a coat you are wearing, put on a hat, reach something above your head?

Your answer

Question: Can you put something in the top pocket of a coat or jacket you are wearing without difficulty and pain?

Your answer

Question: Can you put on a hat without difficulty and pain?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up and move things without any difficulty?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up and move a half litre (1 pint) carton of liquid?

Your answer

Question: Could you lift a kettle or a bottle of milk if you wanted to make yourself a hot drink?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up and move a litre (2 pint) carton of liquid?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up and move a light but bulky object such as an empty cardboard box?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up or move a pillow on your bed?

Your answer

Question: Can you make a mark on a piece of paper using a pen or pencil?

Your answer

Question: Can you use one hand to operate a computer keyboard or mouse (it does not matter whether or not it has been specially adapted for you or you know how to use a computer)?

Your answer

Question: Can you pick up a pound coin (or something similar) with one hand?

Your answer

Question: Can you turn the pages of a book with one or both of your hands?

Your answer

Question: Can you use one hand to press a button for example on a telephone keypad?

Your answer

Question: You said it varies whether or not you can turn the pages of a book, when could you do this?

Your answer

Question: Can you use your hands to pay by cash in a shop?

Your answer

Question: Can you use a keypad at a cash machine?

Your answer

Question: How well do you cope with any change?

Your answer

Question: If you are due to meet someone but a few days before they change the date or time, how would you cope with this small, planned change?

Your answer

Question: If you are asked to attend an appointment, but on the day you are contacted to say the time has been changed, how well would you cope with this small unplanned change?

Your answer

Question: How do you find social situations?

Your answer

Question: Do you ever talk to your neighbours or friends?

Your answer

Question: Which of these best describes how you relate to other people in social situations?

Your answer

Question: Which of these best describes how you feel when you meet someone you do not know?

Your answer

Question: Can you plan, start and finish daily tasks without any difficulty?

Your answer

Question: Thinking about your mental health, which of these best describes how often you could start and finish at least two personal actions (such as getting up, washing and dressing, cooking a meal or going shopping) one after the other:

Your answer

Question: How often does it vary?

Your answer

Question: Do you have mental health or learning difficulties which affect how you behave towards other people?

Your answer

Question: How often do you behave in an uncontrolled aggressive way towards other people?

Your answer

Question: Can you stand and sit without difficulty?

Your answer

Question: If 2 seats are placed next to each other could you move from one to the other without help from someone else?

Your answer

Question: How long could you either sit or stand, or both, at a workstation without help from someone else before it caused you significant discomfort or exhaustion and you had to move away?

Your answer

Question: What is the longest you can sit in a seat at home, for example when watching television or eating a meal?

Your answer

Question: Can you move around and use steps without difficulty?

Your answer

Question: What is the furthest you can move safely on level ground without needing to stop?

Your answer

Question: After moving once, how far can you move again within a short time without it causing you significant discomfort or exhaustion?

Your answer

Question: Can you go up or down 2 steps without being helped by another person, even with the support of a handrail?

Your answer

Question: You said it varies whether you can go up or down 2 steps. Which of the following best describes this?

Your answer

Question: Can you go out on your own?

Your answer

Question: Can you leave home and go out to places you know?

Your answer

Question: Do you ever go to the doctor or the hospital?

Your answer

Question: Can you leave home and go to places you don't know?

Your answer

Question: You said it varies whether you can go to places you don't know. Does it depend on the place?

Your answer

Question: Can / Could you travel to your face-to-face assessment?

Your answer

Question: Can you move around a familiar place without help from someone else, whether or not you need a guide dog or other aid.

Your answer

Question: Can you move around an unfamiliar place without help from someone else, whether or not you need a guide dog or other aid.

Your answer

Question: Can you cross the road on your own without help from anyone, whether or not you need a guide dog or other aid.

Your answer

Question: Can you stay safe when doing everyday tasks such as boiling water or using sharp objects?

Your answer

Question: Could you say why it varies?

Your answer

Question: How often do you need someone with you for you to stay safe because you are not aware how everyday hazards (such as boiling water or sharp objects) can injure people or cause damage to property?

Your answer

Question: Are you at significant risk of harm or injury to yourself or others because of a learning impairment or mental disorder?

Your answer

Question: Does someone need to be with you most of the time to prevent the risk of damage to property or possessions due to a learning impairment or mental disorder?

Your answer

Question: Can you learn to do everyday tasks without difficulty?

Your answer

Question: Can you learn to do something complicated such as how to programme a TV?

Your answer

Question: Can you learn to do something a bit complicated such as how to use a washing machine?

Your answer

Question: Which of these best describes if you can learn to do a simple task such as setting an alarm clock?

Your answer

Question: Could you play CDs or use a radio if you had one?

Your answer

Question: Can you communicate with other people without any difficulty?

Your answer

Question: Can you make yourself understood through speaking, writing, typing, or any other means you normally use, without help from another person?

Your answer

Question: Can you give a message to someone, such as about how dangerous something is?

Your answer

Question: You said it varies whether or not you could give a message to someone about how dangerous something is. Is this because:

Your answer

Question: How hard would you find it to give a simple message to a stranger?

Your answer

Question: You said it varies whether or not you can give a message to a stranger. Is this because:

Your answer

Question: Can you understand other people without any difficulty when they speak to you?

Your answer

Question: You said you can't understand other people without difficulty (or that it varies). Is this because:

Your answer

Question: Which of these best describes how well you can understand a simple message, such as where a fire escape is

Your answer

Question: Can you control your bowels and bladder without difficulty?

Your answer

Question: How often do you have to wash yourself or change your clothes because of difficulty controlling your bladder, bowels or using a collecting device?

Your answer

Question: Do you have any problems staying conscious?

Your answer

Question: How often do you faint, have fits or blackouts when you are awake?

Your answer

Question: Can you get food to and from your mouth without physical help from someone else?

Your answer

Question: Can you get food to and from your own mouth without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort?

Your answer

Question: Can you get food to and from your own mouth without someone regularly telling you to do it?

Your answer

Question: Do you have a severe mood or behavioural disorder which means you can't get food or drink to your own mouth without physical help from someone else?

Your answer

Question: Do you have a severe mood or behavioural disorder which means you need someone with you to tell you to get food or drink to your own mouth?

Your answer

Question: Can you chew or swallow food or drink?

Your answer

Question: Can you chew or swallow food and drink without repeatedly stopping, experiencing breathlessness or severe discomfort?

Your answer

Question: Do you need someone with you to help you repeatedly swallow food or drink?

Your answer

Question: Do you have a severe mood or behavioural disorder which means you can't chew or swallow food?

Your answer

Question: Do you have a severe mood or behavioural disorder which means you need someone with you regularly to tell you to chew or swallow food or drink?

Your answer

You may qualify for the
Support Group

Your answer to that question shows you may qualify for the Support Group.

Have a look at some more questions to see what else you might be asked in your assessment, and if there are other things you should make sure you mention.

You may qualify for the
Work Related Activity Group

Your answer to that question shows you may qualify for the Work Related Activity Group.

Try some more questions to see if you qualify for the Support Group.

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Read the video transcript

Screen 1: This is a guide covering what you need to know when applying for Employment and Support Allowance, that's ESA for short, for you or someone you care for.

Captions

Caption: A Guide to Applying for Employment and Support Allowance

Screen 2: ESA is for people who can't work because of illness or disability.

Captions

Caption: About ESA

Graphic: Heart

Graphic: Wheelchair user

Screen 3: To get ESA you have to pass through the Work Capability Assessment.

The first part of the assessment involves filling in a medical questionnaire called the ESA 50 form. Most people then have a face-to-face assessment.

A medical professional carries out the assessment, but the final decision on your claim is made by a decision maker at the Department for Work and Pensions, DWP for short, based on recommendations by the assessor.

Captions

Caption: How Your Claim is Assessed

Graphic: Application form with ESA 50 written on it

Graphic: Assessment - Two heads in profile facing each other

Screen 4: When making their recommendation, the assessor will consider:

Captions

Graphic: Answers being written on an application form

Graphic: A letter being put into an envelope

Graphic: Assessment - Two heads in profile facing each other

Screen 5: The assessor looks at different activities that you might be asked to carry out if you were in a job or undertaking a work related activity.

Captions

Caption: At the Assessment

Graphic: Physical activities - head with arms coming up

Graphic: Mental activities - head with thought cloud

Screen 6: These are divided into physical and mental activities.

The physical activities are:

Captions

Graphic: Physical activities graphic - corner of screen = rolling credit or scaled up on physical activity in focus

  • Moving around and using steps.
  • Your comfort sitting and standing.
  • Reaching.
  • Picking up and moving things.
  • Using your hands.
  • Making yourself understood, by speaking, writing or typing.
  • Understanding verbal communication.
  • Navigating safely.
  • Managing continence.
  • Staying conscious whilst awake.

Screen 7: The mental activities are:

Captions

Graphic: Mental activities graphic in corner = rolling credit or scaled up on mental activity in focus

  • Learning tasks.
  • Awareness of hazards or danger.
  • Starting or finishing tasks.
  • Coping with change.
  • Getting about.
  • Coping with social engagement.
  • Behaving appropriately

Screen 8: The assessor will also look at whether you are have any difficulties feeding yourself, and any difficulties you experience in chewing or swallowing.

Captions

Graphic: Eating - plate with knife and fork

Screen 9: You will be given a score from 0 to 15 for each of these physical and mental activities.

For example, for the physical activity of ‘using your hands’, if you can't press a button like a telephone keypad or turn the pages of a book, you will score 15 points. If you have full use of your hands you will score 0 points. If you can't write with a pen or pencil, or have problems using a keyboard, your score will be in between.

Captions

Caption: How the assessment will be scored 0-15

Graphic: Scoring - a graph with a zig zagging line

Screen 10: Some tips for you to bear in mind.

When filling out the form:

Captions

Caption: Filling in the form

Graphic: Form

  • Don't worry!
  • Give details
  • Ask for help

Screen 11: Throughout the assessment:

Don't put on a brave face when talking about your disability or health condition; be clear about how much it affects you.

Your condition may change from day to day, be clear about how it impacts on you on your worst day.

Equally, don't pretend things are worse than they really are. Knowingly giving false answers as part of a benefit application is benefit fraud, which is a criminal offence.

Captions

Captions: Make sure you answer honestly and accurately

How does your condition affect you on your worst day?

Screen 12: Don't forget that you should keep copies of your initial application, your ESA 50 form, and all the written evidence that you send in or give to the assessor.

Captions

Caption: Keep copies of your documents

Graphic: Form

Screen 13: Before the face-to-face assessment:

Captions

Caption: Before you go to your face-to-face assessment

Screen 14: Make a list of your health conditions and disabilities, so that you don't forget to mention them at the assessment. Think about the ways they impact upon the activities looked at by the assessment. Try taking the test on our website first, where you can save and print off your most important answers!

Captions

Caption: Prepare for the questions

Graphic: Making a list - an application for with 1,2,3

Website address

Screen 15: Plan your journey to the assessment centre in advance. Don't be late!

Captions

Plan your journey to the assessment centre in advance. Don't be late!

Graphic: stop watch turned into an alarm clock - second hand moving

Screen 16: You have rights at the face to face assessment:

Captions

Captions: Your rights

Claim expenses

Graphic: Money - pound symbol with dots around to denote coin

Caption: You have a right to be accompanied

Graphic: the two heads in profile

Caption:You have a right to complain

Graphic: pencil or pen in a circle

Screen 17: Once the decision is made you will receive a letter from the DWP telling you the outcome of your application. The letter will let you know the decision and give you an explanation. It will explain how the decision was reached, include the points you scored in your test, and the amount you will be paid.

If you get fewer than 15 points you will not receive ESA, and will be expected to be available for work.

If you get 15 points, you will receive ESA, and you will be placed in the Work Related Activity Group OR the Support Group.

Captions

Caption: The Outcome

Graphic: NO Graphic X in a box in a circle

Graphic: YES graphic tick in a box in a circle

Screen 18: If you are unhappy with the decision, you can request a mandatory reconsideration. If you are still unhappy, you can appeal against it. We recommend that you get some support with this from a local Citizen's Advice Bureau or advice centre.

Captions

Caption: If you are unhappy with the decision

Screen 19: To start your claim for ESA:

Graphic: Telephone

Captions

Caption: Getting Started

Graphic: Phone graphic 0800 055 6688

Caption: Textphone 0800 023 4888

www.gov.uk

Screen 20: www.esa-assessment.support

Captions

Caption: www.esa-assessment.support

You can get more information about the work capability assessment for ESA and practise some of the questions yourself at our independent website www.esa-assessment.support

Essential guide to ESA

Once you've looked at the guide or the video, you can get more prepared by trying out some questions →

ESA stands for Employment And Support Allowance. It is a benefit for people who can't work because of illness or disability.

A Guide to Applying for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

About This Guide

Welcome to this Guide to applying for Employment and Support Allowance - ‘ESA’ for short.

We've brought together all the information you need to get you through the application process, whether it's you going through it, or a relative or someone else that you are supporting or care for.

We've included some basic information in the guide on ESA itself, but our main focus is on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), that everyone who applies for ESA must pass through.

Basic Information about ESA

Who is ESA For?

ESA is for people who:

ESA is for people of working age, which means it's for people between 16 and their retirement age.

More basic information about eligibility for ESA can be found on the Government's ESA Eligibility page.

Different Forms of ESA

ESA comes in 2 forms:

The type of ESA you get will depend on a range of factors that we cover at the end of this guide.

The Application Process

Your application will involve the following stages:

The Outcomes of the Application Process

There are 3 possible outcomes at the end of the application and assessment process.

The first outcome is that you are found fit for work and fit to look for and apply for work. This means that you will not be claiming ESA but perhaps another benefit instead.

If you are found to be not fit for work, you will be claiming ESA. There are then 2 possible further outcomes:

Starting Your Application

You can start your application for ESA in 1 of 2 ways:

The DWP say that the quickest way that you can make a claim is by phone.

Whether you apply over the phone, or via the form, you will be asked a number of questions relating to:

You will need to have the following ready with you when starting a claim over the phone:

Help When Calling

You can get someone to call on your behalf, but you should be with them when the call is made, so that the DWP know that they are genuinely helping you, unless you have completed and returned a mandate form to allow them to speak on your behalf.

You can also get someone to complete the written form on your behalf, though you must sign it.

Checking the Details

If you make your claim by phone, the DWP will send you details of the information you provided to them.

If any details are wrong you must contact the DWP straightaway.

Rate of Pay

Whilst your claim is being assessed, you will be paid at what is called the ‘Basic Rate of ESA’.

Assessment Process Basics

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process involves 3 stages:

The ESA 50 Form

The WCA process starts when the DWP sends you the ESA 50 form, which asks about the impact of your health/condition on your ability to carry out a range of activities.

Face-to-face Assessment

Not everyone has to go through a face-to-face assessment. You will not be asked to attend a face-to-face assessment if the fact that you are not fit for work or work-related activity can be clearly established from your medical questionnaire alone.

This may be because you have a particular condition or disability, or you are undergoing certain treatments whose impact the DWP understands will mean that you are fit neither for work nor for work-related activity.

You will not be found to be fit for work without at least being offered a face-to-face assessment.

The whole WCA process should be completed within 13 weeks of you starting the claim.

There have been delays in the time taken to carry out the face-to-face assessment for some people, but the DWP is working with its healthcare provider to speed up the process.

How Your Claim is Assessed

Before you start filling in your medical questionnaire, or thinking about your face-to-face assessment, it is important that you understand how your claim is assessed.

The assessment is carried out by a medical professional employed by Maximus, a company that has been contracted by the Government to deliver assessments.

He or she does not make the final decision on your claim, but makes recommendations to a decision maker employed directly by the DWP.

Each bit of the process is important to the final result. When making their recommendation, the assessor will consider:

Activities, Descriptors and Scores

17 Activities

When making their assessment, the assessor looks at 17 different ‘activities’ that you might be asked to carry out, or issues that you might face, if you were in a job or undertaking work-related activity.

These look at physical issues connected with your disability or condition, and at mental, cognitive and intellectual function.

In plain language, the physical activities are:

The mental, cognitive and intellectual activities are:

Descriptors and Scores

For each of these activities, the assessor looks at which of a number of ‘descriptors’ best describes your situation. Each of these descriptors has a score attached, between 0 and 15. You can see what this means in more detail by looking at the descriptors which relate to the physical activity ‘using your hands’, and to the mental, cognitive and intellectual activity ‘coping with change’.

Using Your Hands (Manual Dexterity)

Coping with Change

The Total Score

At the conclusion of the assessment, the assessor will have a score, on which they base their recommendation to award you ESA or not:

The score is worked out by adding together the highest score under each of the activities.

You can get to a score of 15 points by having a disability or health condition which has a significant impact on a number of aspects of your life, or by having a disability or health condition which has a very limiting impact on one aspect of your life.

Once you've been found to have limited capability for work, the assessor considers whether you have limited capability for work-related activity, in which case you are placed in the Support Group.

This is done by considering whether any of a particular set of the 15 point descriptors apply to you. For example:

The amount of ESA you will receive depends on whether you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group, or the Support Group.

Extra Questions for Placement in the Support Group

The assessment process also looks at 3 further areas relating to your daily life: ‘maintaining personal hygiene’, ‘eating and drinking’, and finally, ‘communicating’.

People who face severe difficulties in respect of any of these activities are placed in the Support Group, with an example of a relevant severe difficulty for each of these 3 categories given below:

Key Things to Think About Throughout the Assessment

Understand the Meaning of the Questions Asked

Whether on the medical questionnaire, or in the face-to-face assessment, never answer a question before thinking carefully about what it actually means.

In a face-to-face assessment, if you don't understand the question, ask the assessor to repeat or explain it.

Think About How It Feels When You Carry Out an Activity

When someone asks you if you can do something, giving an answer isn't always easy.

You may say that you can, because at one level that's true, and you will get the task/activity done if you have to.

However, you might find the task:

The assessor has to look at how you carry out a specific task, not just if you can do it. If you can't do it without considerable pain, stress, or if doing it tires you out, you need to make that clear. To be assessed as being capable of doing something, you need to be able to carry out it out safely, to a reasonable standard, repeatedly and within a reasonable length of time.

The Work Capability Assessment is about work. It assesses whether you are capable of holding down a job, essentially whether you are capable of working a 24 hour week. You need to think about whether you could manage to carry out certain activities across the whole of a working week, or whether carrying out an activity repeatedly on 1 or 2 days might leave you too exhausted to do it again later in the week.

Think About How Your Condition Affects You

You may find that your condition varies over time, even during a single day. On some days, perhaps for days on end, you may find yourself able to carry out certain tasks. When your condition is at its worst, you may find those tasks impossible. Those difficult times may last a day, or for days on end.

Because your condition varies, more than one descriptor attached to an activity might apply to you over time.

The assessor must take into account how your condition affects you for the majority of the time.

That means that the good or bad luck of how you feel on the day of the assessment should not determine the result that you get.

In practical terms:

You may find it useful to keep a diary of the way your condition/disability affects you. This help you identify the impact on you of carrying out a task, for example if you do a lot of an activity one day, does that leave you exhausted the next or next few days? It may also help you identify the impact of treatment on one day over the days that follow. This could include being left exhausted by the effort of being engaged in counselling.

Think About How Your Treatment Affects You

You may be receiving a variety of different treatments for your health condition, and / or taking a variety of different medication to help you cope with it.

Treatment programmes and medication may have side effects. You should be clear at all times in the assessment process about how any side effects impact on you.

Think About How Your Mental Health Affects You

At first sight, some of the ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ activities on which people are assessed might seem most relevant to people who have learning disabilities, neurological conditions or brain injuries.

However, the impact of mental health problems, may be relevant to all these activities on which you will be assessed. Depression, for example, can affect the way you remember things, your concentration, and your motivation to complete tasks.

Mental health problems may vary in their impact over time. You need to describe that variation and what it means in concrete terms on your good days and bad days.

Give Enough Detail and Use Real Life Examples

You should give enough detail and use examples from real life in all your answers on the medical questionnaire and at the assessment.

For example:

There are also specific things that you should make clear, for example:

Answer Honestly and Accurately

You may be used to hiding the full impact of your disability and health conditions from other people. When people ask you how you are, you may often say ‘Not so bad’. You might find it difficult to admit to yourself and others that things are as difficult as they actually are.

When you apply for ESA you should not put on a brave face, but should be honest about the impact of your disability and health conditions on your life. The information that you provide is confidential and will only be used to assess your entitlement to ESA.

In the same way as you shouldn't hide the impact of your condition/disability on your daily life, you should also not pretend that things are worse than they really are. Knowingly submitting false information as part of a benefit application in order to access benefits is benefit fraud, which is a criminal offence.

Some of the questions in the face-to-face assessment, and the observations of your behaviour will seek to identify if there any inconsistencies between your answers and the actual situation (see the point below about how you get to the assessment).

Keep Copies

You should keep copies of:

Completing the Medical Questionnaire - The ESA 50 Form

Getting the ESA 50 form completed properly is the first step to being able to claim Employment and Support Allowance.

The form is quite long, 27 pages, but you should not be intimidated by it. The questions in the form are simple, but you must think carefully about how you answer them.

Your answers are the starting point for the assessor if you have a face-to-face assessment. If you do end up appealing against a decision on your claim, the ESA 50 form will be a key part of that appeal.

You must complete the form and return it to the DWP by the date on the letter. If you do not return the form on time, your ESA payments will stop.

The first sections of the form ask you some basic questions about your contact details. Later on you are asked for contact details for your GP and anyone else who is giving your treatment.

The form also allows you to:

You are also asked to give basic information about the condition(s) that affect you. If you have suffered an event that has damaged your health, such as a stroke or heart attack, the form asks you to indicate the date on which it occurred.

The form asks you to:

The form than goes on to ask you a set of questions about how your health condition or disability affects your ability to carry out different activities.

The list of activities about which you will be asked is very similar, though not identical, to the 17 activities set out above.

Most of the questions ask you to answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘It Varies’ to a statement about what you are able to do. You also get the opportunity to provide more information about how your condition affects you in respect of specific activities. You should use this opportunity to give as much detailed and accurate information as you can about the impact of your health condition.

There is also a section in the end in which you can provide further information.

If you aren't sure about how to complete the form, it is a good idea to seek help. You may be able to get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (‘CAB’), another local advice centre, or from your local council.

Information about where to get help is available from the CAB and Advice UK websites. If you're getting support with your disability/health condition from a charity, a health worker or a social worker, they will also be able to point you towards help.

If you don't want face-to-face advice, but could do with a steer about what to say in your form, our website has some specific tips relating to each question on the form.

Please remember that you cannot delay completing and submitting the ESA form simply because you need advice to do so.

Collecting Evidence

You are encouraged to submit any medical reports that you may have along with your ESA50.

Bear in mind that:

What Happens Next

The medical questionnaire and your supporting information will be reviewed by the assessor, who will decide whether or not they have enough information to place you in the Support Group without you having to undergo a face-to-face assessment. Most people are in fact called for a face-to-face assessment.

A few weeks after you have sent the medical questionnaire back, you will be informed by letter that you are being called to a face-to-face assessment. You will then be called and offered a date, which you can change if it isn't suitable for you. The date and venue will be confirmed by letter.

It is important to realise that the face-to-face assessment is a standard part of the process. Being called for a face-to-face assessment does not mean that the information that you have submitted has not been believed, nor that you are unlikely to get ESA.

The Face-to-Face Assessment

The face-to-face assessment is not like a normal appointment with a GP, a physio or another health professional.

The assessor is not trying to diagnose your condition, or work out how best to treat it. He or she is simply interested in the impact that your condition has on you. This means that they will ask you a different type of questions to those you would expect if you were seeing your GP or other health worker.

Sometimes the face-to-face assessment will involve a physical examination. Often, however, the assessor will just want to ask you questions. The assessor cannot ask you to complete a task as part of a physical assessment that will cause you pain.

You also have the chance to give your assessor any further supporting information at this point, for example reports from health professionals, which he or she will take into consideration.

It is important to realise that the assessor also uses observations of your behaviour, from the time at which you arrive in the assessment centre onwards, in making their recommendation.

For example, they will observe if you respond when your name is called to go to the assessment room, whether you have help getting up from the chair in the waiting room, and how you walk to the room where the assessment is held.

Some of the questions may focus on how you have prepared for coming to the assessment, and how you have got here. Travel to the assessment is particularly important, because the assessor will be interested in how well you can get around. If you have walked some distance from a bus stop or car park to the place where the assessment is taking place, it is unlikely that you will score highly on the mobility activity.

Practicalities

Venue

The face-to-face assessment will usually take place in a one of Maximus' assessment centres, which are situated in most major towns and cities across the country.

You can request a home visit, rather than to attend an assessment centre, if:

Travel and Expenses

You will be able to claim back reasonable expenses in relation to attending the face-to-face assessment. These can include:

If you need someone with you, you can claim for their travelling costs. No other costs can be claimed back, for example for meals or loss of earnings.

If you do not have one, you should ask for a travel reimbursement claim form at the assessment, and make sure you keep bus / train tickets / receipts or parking tickets / receipts for both yourself and anyone who accompanies you.

Planning Your Travel

Plan your journey to the place where the assessment is being held in advance. Your appointment letter should contain a map.

Also:

It is very important that you do not arrive late for your assessment.

If you can't make it to the appointment you must let the DWP know. If you do not, and you do not go, your benefit will be affected and may be stopped until you do attend an assessment. You will not usually be able to cancel more than one appointment without it affecting your benefit.

Your Rights

Your Right to Be Accompanied

You have the right to be accompanied at your assessment. You can ask a relative, friend, carer or a paid advocate or other professional working with you to attend.

They can simply be present to give you reassurance, or can speak on your behalf in the assessment, or take part in some other way, if you wish them to do so.

Your Right to Interpretation Support

You have the right to interpretation support if:

You should contact Maximus' customer service centre on the number given on the appointment letter if you wish to have interpretation support.

Your Right to Record the Assessment

The assessment isn't recorded by the assessor. You can audio record the assessment, but you must inform the assessor before you attend the appointment that you will be doing this. If you try to record the assessment secretly, you may have your claim turned down automatically.

Unless you are able to provide a full and accurate copy of the recording to the health professional at the end of the session, either on CD or audio cassette, your request to record it will be refused.

You cannot video record the assessment.

Your Right to Complain About the Assessment

Maximus have strict customer service standards that they must stick to under their contract with the DWP.

If you are unhappy about the way in which your assessment has been carried out, you have the right to make a complaint. Details of how to make a complaint are found on the letter confirming your appointment.

Preparing for the Face-to-face Assessment Itself

Documents

It is a good idea to have taken a photocopy of the initial application form that you submitted, and of any written evidence that you have from your doctor or other health or support worker.

You should re-read these before the assessment. They are the background information that the assessor will be using.

It is possible that your condition has changed since you submitted your application, in particular, it may have worsened. If you can, ask your doctor, or other health worker to write a letter about that change, which you should then bring with you to the assessment.

If you feel that there was more supporting evidence that you could have provided in your application, bring the relevant documents with you. The assessor will take a copy of these, and consider them as part of the process.

This information might include:

Being Ready for the Questions

So that you don't forget to mention them, make a list of:

You might find it helpful to use the ESA assessment tool on this website to help you think through the things that you want to communicate to the assessor.

You can save the key points that you want to get across and print them off, or take them with you on your mobile phone or tablet device. You may also find it useful to look at the full list of activities and descriptors from the Government.

The assessor will ask you a number of questions about the impact of your disabilities/condition on your life. The questions you are asked won't generally be straightforward repeats of the descriptors and activities.

They are more likely to be open questions about how you cope with undertaking activities. You may be asked something simple such as whether you can make a cup of tea, this would be asked to see if you are able to pick up things like a carton of milk. These are not trick questions, the assessor is just trying to find out how your condition affects you.

Some activities are often not well covered in questions. Questions on appropriate behaviour often focus on aggression, but appropriate behaviour is also about control over emotions, levels of friendliness and inhibition, or issues such as panic attacks.

If you are not sure what a question means, ask the assessor to explain, and take your time answering.

The Decision

Once you have been assessed, the assessor will look at your application, all the additional information submitted, and review the answers you have given in the assessment.

They will then write a report, which will be sent to a decision maker at the DWP, who will check that everything has been done correctly.

The decision maker will then decide your application in 1 of 3 ways:

The DWP will write to you to tell you what decision they have made on your application, and the amount that you will be paid. They will give you an explanation of why they have come to that decision. This will include setting out the points that you received in the assessment as a whole and under each activity.

Work Related Activity Group v Support Group

There are four areas in which the difference between being placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and the Support Group is particularly important:

Work Focused Interviews / Work Related Activity

If you are placed in the WRAG, you will be called to attend a work focused interview.

The aim of this interview is to identify the steps you could take to prepare yourself to apply for or take up a job in the future. You may be asked to take part in a number of work focused interviews over the time that you are claiming ESA.

Based on the work focused interview, you may be asked to take part in a variety of work related activities. These may include taking part in voluntary work, work trials or a training programme. You will not have to apply for jobs, or undergo any type of treatment.

If you are placed in the Support Group, you do not have to take part in work focused interviews, or any work related activity.

Sanctions

Benefit sanctions are intended to make sure that you undertake any work focused/work related activity that is required of you as a condition of claiming ESA. A sanction stops or reduces the amount of benefit that you receive.

If you are placed in the Support Group, you cannot be sanctioned as no such work related activity is required of you.

If you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group, failure to attend a work focused interview, or to undertake a work related activity that you have been asked to do will mean that you will be sanctioned.

You may have good cause for not attending/not undertaking an activity; if this is the case, then you must make the Job Centre aware of it as soon as possible to avoid having a sanction applied.

Sanctions are applied until you attend another work focused interview, plus a period of 1, 2, or 4 weeks, dependent on whether this is the first, second, third or indeed an even further time that you have been sanctioned.

You can appeal against a sanction (see relevant section below for more information about appeals).

Contribution-based and Income-related ESA

Contribution-based ESA is paid to ESA claimants who have paid enough National Insurance contributions.

If you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group, your claim for contribution-based ESA is limited to 365 days. If you are placed in the Support Group, that time limit does not apply.

Income-related ESA is paid to people whose income (looking at their income and their partners') and level of savings is low enough. What you receive is decided by the Government working out how much you need to live on, and paying you ESA to make up your income to that amount. In some circumstances income-related ESA may also be used to top up your contribution-based ESA.

You cannot claim income-related ESA if you have savings of over £16,000, or your partner works more than 24 hours per week.

You can claim income-related ESA without time limit, although you may of course have your entitlement to ESA reassessed at some point.

Payment Rates

Working out how much ESA you are entitled to claim can be complicated, particularly if you are claiming income based ESA. What follows is the most basic information that we can provide.

Whilst you are in the assessment process you will be claiming the assessment or basic rate of ESA. This is usually paid at £57.90 per week if you are under 25, £73.90 per week if you are over 25.

Once you have your decision, if you are being paid contribution-based ESA, you will be paid an additional £29.05 on top of the assessment rate if you are in the work related activity group, and £36.20 if you are in the Support Group.

If you're in the support group and on income-related ESA, you're also entitled to the Enhanced Disability Premium at £15.75 a week.

The calculation of how much income-related ESA you should receive is more complex, and depends on your household income, whether you live with a partner, how old you (and your partner are), and whether you are a single parent.

Reassessment

The assessor will include within their report a recommendation about when they think it is possible that you will be once more fit for work/to apply for a job, or when you may be able to engage in work related activity.

You may be called for reassessment in the future based on this recommendation, or if the decision maker believes that your circumstances may have changed.

Unhappy with the Decision?

First Steps

You may be unhappy with the decision that you get from the DWP. Your next step is to request what is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

This means formally asking the DWP to look again at their decision. The quickest way to do this is by phoning the DWP. If you do not want to call them, you must write to the address on your decision notice. You need to explain to them why you do not agree with the decision, you can also include further supporting information.

If you are unhappy with the decision that you have received, you need to take action quite quickly. You only have one month from the date of the decision letter to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

During the reconsideration process, the DWP will attempt to phone you to ask about your request. They may ask for further information and they will explain their decision.

If they can't get hold of you by phone, the DWP will then review its decision, and write to you to tell you what that decision is, and to explain why they have reached it. They will send you 2 copies of their decision in a mandatory reconsideration notice.

Appeal

If you are still unhappy with the decision you have received, you can appeal against it.

Again, you need to act quickly. You must make your appeal in writing or on form SSCS1 within one month of the date of the letter telling you the result of your mandatory reconsideration.

You send the appeal to HM Courts and Tribunal Service not the DWP. You must include a copy of the DWP's mandatory reconsideration notice with your appeal form/letter.

We recommend that you get support from a CAB or other advice agency when asking for a mandatory reconsideration. We even more strongly recommend that you seek such support if you are appealing against a decision.

Details of how to find advice services are available from the CAB and Advice UK websites. Your support worker, health worker or social worker may be able to refer or point you to local support.

Appealing Sanctions

The process for appealing sanctions involves the same mandatory reconsideration and appeal stages.

Your Responsibilities

You have the responsibility to report to the DWP if something changes in your circumstances that affects your entitlement to ESA. That includes things like your condition changing, for better or worse. You should also inform the DWP if you move house.

You can report changes by contacting the DWP ESA helpline:

If you do not report changes to the DWP which cause your ESA to be overpaid, you will have to repay the benefit overpaid, and may be liable to a civil penalty.

Deliberately concealing changes from the DWP, or deliberately submitting false information at any point in the assessment process is benefit fraud, a criminal offence, with criminal penalties attached.

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Travel

Letters from the DWP

Preparing your answers

At the assessment

If you can’t attend