Employment and Support Allowance rules have changed – new evidence is needed for claims

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Universal Credit has had several updates and boosts in recent months as coronavirus continued to impact the economy. The benefits system at large has had to dramatically alter its processes and today, new guidance has been issued on how to claim ESA.

Some people may end up claiming ESA because of coronavirus and today, the government detailed that evidence will need to be provided to support the claim.

Once the claimant has applied, they’ll then be contacted by phone and will be told where to send said evidence.

The government details if the claimant or their child are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus, they will be able to get an “isolation note” from NHS 111 if they’ve been off work for a week or more.

The claimant will not need to go to a doctor or hospital for this and if they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus, their notification will also count as proof.

Additionally, if the claimant has been advised by their doctor to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery, the letter confirming the date of the procedure will also count as proof.

A person should get a letter from a doctor or health authority if both of the following apply:

  • they live in an area with local restrictions that include advice to shield
  • they or their child need to ‘shield’ (take extra precautions to reduce contact with others) because they’re at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus

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Where a person or claimant feels they should have a letter but do not, they should contact their doctor.

The letters will detail the period the claimant or their child should shield for, with the eligibility for ESA being based on those days.

If a person works but does not live in an area with local restrictions, they may be able to apply for a shielding note.

They’ll be able to apply for a shielding note if they cannot work from home or anywhere else outside of this area, if they’ve been advised to shield previously and they live in England.

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A shielding note will be valid for three weeks from the date they apply.

If it expires and the claimant still needs to shield, they’ll have to apply for another note.

A shield note will automatically become invalid if the local restrictions are lifted.

As it stands, ESA claimants do not need to attend physical meetings with a work coach or DWP, they will be contacted and informed of the next steps.

To be eligible for ESA a person will usually need to have been working within the last two to three years and have made or been credited with class one or two National Insurance contributions.

ESA payments can range between £58.90 and £113.55 per week which comes through fortnightly which can be received the same time as Universal Credit.

To make an initial claim for ESA, a claimant will need to head online and have the following ready:

  • their National Insurance number
  • their bank or building society account number and sort code
  • their doctor’s name, address and telephone number
  • details of their income if they’re working
  • the date their Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ends if they’re claiming it

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