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Employment and Support Allowance

Country of implementation
United Kingdom
General short description of the innovation
With the introduction of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in 2008, IB and IS benefit for sick and disabled were gradually replaced, and the old Personal Capability Assessment was replaced by the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to better assess claimant's ability to undertake some form of work. Since then, and until the national roll-out of the ?Universal Credit? planned for 2016/2017, ESA is the principal sickness benefit for persons unable to work because of either short-term or long-term illness. For accessing ESA, claimants must have limited capability for work resulting from a health condition or disability, usually determined by a medical certificate supplied by the claimant?s doctor and a WCA conducted by a healthcare professional contracted by the government. If applicants do not satisfy the limited WCA, they will not qualify for ESA but might apply for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) instead. / / In May 2010, Work-Related-Activity regulations were introduced to make sure that in parallel to the WCA a limited capability for work-related activity assessment is carried out. As a consequence of the latter, applicants are either classified in the ESA ?support group? where they can receive income-related ESA indefinitely or in the ?work-related activity group? (WRAG) where they can claim the benefit on a contributory basis for up to one year before being re-assessed. In the WRAG claimants have to attend meetings with a personal adviser to discuss and prepare for an eventual return to work. The WRAG provides an extra amount in the ESA payment for work-related activity and limits the payment for up to 365 days. Where claimants meet both sets of conditions, they can get contributory ESA topped up with income-related ESA. The currently piloted ?Universal Credit? is planned to unify several means-tested welfare benefits including ESA, IB and IS to have a single benefit that consists of a basic allowance with additional elements for children, disability, housing and caring. / / ESA can be either contributory or income-related. If claimants satisfy national insurance conditions they can claim contributory ESA for up to 12 months (if they get the work-related activity component) or indefinitely (if they get the support component). Income-related ESA is subject to a means test and certain other conditions. If claimants meet both sets of conditions, they can get contributory ESA topped up with income-related ESA.
Target group
Policy Field
  • employment
  • social
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
2008 until its replacement by the currently piloted Universal Credit
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: structural
  • Spatial coverage: national
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
The policy aims to give more help to those who might, with support, be able to work, and seeks to decrease the inflow into disability-related benefits schemes. With this in mind, a stricter work capability assessment has been introduced. This will open up ESA benefits only to those who are found to have a limited work capability and refers those ?fit for work? to the Jobseeker Allowance. In a second step, another assessment seeks to differentiate between those who can undertake any work-related activity as a condition of entitlement and those who will receive the benefit without such conditionality.
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • liberalisation
Type of innovation
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • benefit duration
  • benefit eligibility
Intended target group
Sick and disabled people
Working age population
  • employment situation (unemployed)
  • main source of income: social protection (ESA (disability benefits))
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • central state
  • private not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Third Sector organisation or NGO) (Atos Healthcare has been contracted as prime contractor to undertake medical assessments. )
Intended output
  • benefit duration (indirectly)
  • benefit eligibility
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