Important News for ESA Claimants

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued a new guidance allowing appeals against decisions to end Employment and Support Allowance after 365 days.

I recently came across this new guidance, and it struck me as being a hugely important tool that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Claimants may wish to consider if they are in receipt of contribution-based ESA, and their entitlement will end after 365 days.

The DWP issued new guidance following a recent Upper Tribunal decision that held that a Tribunal could consider whether Claimants should be in the Support Group, rather than the work-related activity group. Bearing in mind that Claimants in receipt of contribution-based ESA (Support Group) are not subject to the 365 days time-limitation, this new judgement will have a major impact on many thousands of Claimants, and help them maintain their benefit income.

Judge Rowland held that: There was a right of appeal against a decision terminating contributory ESA after 365 days (prior to this, there was no right of appeal); Claimants are entitled to argue on appeal that the award should be extended on the grounds that, on the effective date of that decision, they had limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA), which would subsequently place them in the Support Group, and not fall foul of the 365-day time-limitation.

So what does this mean for Claimants? Well, for the first time, a Claimant has the right to argue that they should be placed in the Support Group. If a Tribunal agrees with them, then ESA entitlement will continue after 365 days, with the added bonus of an extra £5 per week on top of their main-phase ESA.

The DWP must now consider its position and decide what action to take. It may, in some instances, decide to reconsider decisions prior to appeal, or hope that the Tribunal decides in its favour. The important thing as far as the Claimant is concerned is that there is an opportunity for the first time for Claimants to challenge the ending of much needed benefit for the first time.