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If your ESA is stopped or reduced

This advice applies to England

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) might stop or reduce your ESA because:

  • you don’t have limited capability for work - this means difficulty working because you’re sick or disabled
  • you’ve been getting ESA for 1 year – this only applies if you’ve been getting new style or contribution-based ESA
  • they’ve recalculated your ESA – this means they’ve changed how much you get after your circumstances changed
  • they’ve suspended your ESA
  • they’re taking back an advance payment or an overpayment
  • they’ve given you a sanction

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if the DWP say:

  • there’s a third party deduction from your ESA – this means payments straight from your ESA to someone you owe money to
  • you’ve been disqualified from ESA – this means your ESA could be stopped for up to 6 weeks

If the DWP stop or reduce your ESA, you might be able to challenge them or start a new claim.

If you’re not sure why your ESA has been stopped or reduced, you can:

  • check any letters the DWP have sent you – they should explain what has happened
  • call the DWP’s Benefit Enquiry Line and ask them to explain

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If you also get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction

Your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction might stop after your ESA is stopped or reduced.

Contact your local council as soon as possible and tell them you’ve had a change of circumstances. Tell them what happened to your ESA and why. 

Tell the council if you have any income or savings. They will check if you can still get Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

If the DWP say you don’t have limited capability for work

The DWP might have stopped your ESA because you:

  • didn’t send the ESA50 questionnaire on time
  • didn’t go to a work capability assessment
  • went to a work capability assessment and the DWP decided you’re able to work

If your ESA stopped because you didn’t send the ESA50 questionnaire on time

You can challenge the decision to stop your ESA if there was a good reason you didn’t send the ESA50 on time. For example, you might have been ill or had an emergency at home. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you can’t challenge the decision, you might be able to make a new claim. You should complete and send the ESA50 questionnaire with your new claim. This means you’ll get paid ESA straight away when the new claim starts.

You can check what type of ESA you can claim.

If your ESA stopped because you didn’t go to a work capability assessment

You can challenge the decision to stop your ESA if there was a good reason you didn’t go to the work capability assessment. For example, you might have been ill or had an emergency at home. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you can’t challenge the decision, you might be able to make a new claim. If you make a new claim less than 6 months after your ESA stopped, you won’t be paid straight away. You’ll only be paid after you go to another work capability assessment – this is usually about 3 months after your claim.

You can check what type of ESA you can claim.

If your ESA stopped because the DWP decided you’re able to work

If you think the DWP are wrong, you can challenge the decision to stop your ESA. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you can’t challenge the decision, you might be able to make a new claim. You can only make a new claim if since the DWP’s decision:

  • your condition has got worse
  • you’ve got a new condition

You can check what type of ESA you can claim.

If you’ve been getting new style or contribution-based ESA for 1 year

If you’re in the work-related activity group, your new style or contribution-based ESA will stop. You can check what you can do when you reach the 1 year limit.

Your ESA shouldn’t change if you’re in the support group. Your income-related ESA won’t stop if you get any.

If the DWP have recalculated your ESA

If your circumstances change, the DWP might decide you’ll get a different amount of ESA.

You can check if you’re getting the right amount of ESA. If the DWP give you the wrong amount, you can challenge the decision.

If the DWP have suspended your ESA

The DWP might suspend your ESA while they decide how much you should be paid or if you should still get ESA. For example, they might suspend your ESA if:

  • they're not sure you're as sick as you say you are
  • you didn’t give them information or documents they asked for – they should give you 14 days to send anything to them
  • you reported a change of circumstances and the DWP are working out how much ESA you'll get again

You can’t challenge the DWP’s decision to suspend your claim.

If the DWP ask for any information or documents, send them as soon as possible. This should help them make a decision faster. If you don’t hear from the DWP, call them to check what they’re waiting for.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If the DWP are taking back an advance payment or overpayment

If you got an advance payment when you applied for ESA, the DWP can reduce your ESA until you’ve paid it back. You can’t challenge the DWP’s decision to recover your advance payment.

If the DWP says you’ve had an overpayment, it means you’ve been paid too much ESA. If you don’t think you were overpaid, you can challenge the DWP’s decision to reduce your ESA. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you were overpaid, the rules depend on the type of ESA you get.

If you’re not sure what type of ESA you get

You can ask the DWP by:

  • writing to the address on your ESA letters
  • calling the Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Coronavirus – if you’re paying back a benefit overpayment

You don’t have to make any repayments until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.

If money is normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay an overpayment, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.

If you normally repay the overpayment yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.

If you get new style ESA

The DWP can reduce your ESA until you’ve paid back the overpayment. They will reduce your ESA by:

  • up to £29.25 each week if you’re aged 25 or over
  • up to £23.20 each week if you’re aged under 25

The DWP should only reduce your ESA to pay back an overpayment if you:

  • gave wrong information when you first applied or after you started receiving ESA
  • didn’t report a change of circumstances which would have affected your ESA

The DWP can usually reduce your ESA by up to £11.10 each week. If you’ve admitted or been found guilty of benefit fraud, the DWP can reduce your ESA by up to £29.60 each week

If you don’t think the DWP should reduce your ESA, you can challenge the decision to reduce your ESA. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If the DWP have given you a sanction

The DWP give you a sanction if you don’t do something you were supposed to do. The sanction means your ESA is reduced for a fixed amount of time.

If you’ve been given a sanction for benefit fraud

The rules about sanctions for benefit fraud are different. You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

You can’t usually be given a sanction if you’re in the support group or you haven’t been put in a group yet – check what group you’re in.

You might have been given a sanction because:

  • you don’t go to an interview or do something else the DWP said you have to do – this is called 'work-related activity'
  • your partner didn’t go to an interview the DWP said they had to go to

You can challenge the decision to give you a sanction if there was a good reason you didn’t go to the interview or work-related activity. For example, you might have been ill or had an emergency at home. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you don’t think you had to do the work-related activity at all, check what work-related activity you have to do. You can’t be given a sanction just because you didn’t do work experience.

If you’ve been given a sanction, what happens and what you can do depends on the type of ESA you get.

If you’re not sure what type of ESA you get

You can ask the DWP by:

  • writing to the address on your client’s ESA letters
  • calling the Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If you get new style ESA

The DWP will usually reduce your ESA by

  • £72.80 each week if you’re aged 25 or over
  • £57.40 each week if you’re aged under 25

The sanction won’t reduce your ESA to less than 10p each week.

Your ESA will be reduced until you go to the interview or work-related activity you missed.

If you missed an interview, your ESA will start again as soon as you go to an interview.

If you didn’t do work-related activity, your ESA will be reduced for at least 1 week after you do the activity. How long your sanction lasts depends on your situation.

Your situation When your sanction will end
This is the first time you've had a sanction 1 week after you do the activity
You've had a sanction once before in the last year 2 weeks after you do the activity
You've had a sanction more than once in the last year 4 weeks after you do the activity

If you got this sanction less than 2 weeks after your last sanction, this sanction will last for as long as the last one.

You can challenge the DWP’s decision if you think:

  • you shouldn’t have been given a sanction
  • you’ve been given a sanction that is too long

You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

The DWP will reduce your ESA by

  • £74.35 each week if you’re aged 25 or over
  • £58.90 each week if you’re aged under 25

The sanction won’t reduce your ESA to less than 10p each week.

Your ESA will be reduced until you go to the interview or work-related activity you missed.

After you go to the interview or activity, your ESA will be reduced for at least 1 week. How long your sanction lasts depends on your situation.

Your situation When your sanction will end
This is the first time you've had a sanction 1 week after you do the interview or activity
You've had a sanction once before in the last year 2 weeks after you do the interview or activity
You've had a sanction more than once in the last year 4 weeks after you do the interview or activity

If you got this sanction less than 2 weeks after your last sanction, this sanction will last for as long as the last one.

You can challenge the DWP’s decision if you think:

  • you shouldn’t have been given a sanction
  • you’ve been given a sanction that is too long

You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you don’t have enough money to live on

You can check what other help you can get for your living costs.

If you get income-related or contribution-based ESA, you can ask for extra money called 'hardship payments'.

Hardship payments are paid as part of your ESA. They are less than your normal ESA.

You’ll have to show the DWP that without ESA you can’t pay for things you, your partner or your children need. For example, tell the DWP if you can’t afford:

  • food
  • heating
  • a place to live

Call the Jobcentre Plus to ask for hardship payments.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If you can’t call the Jobcentre Plus, write to the address on the letters the DWP sent you.

The DWP will usually send you forms to fill in and send back to them.

If the DWP decide not to give you hardship payments, you can challenge the DWP’s decision. You should start your challenge within 1 month of the decision.

If you get hardship payments, you’ll keep getting them until:

  • your sanction ends
  • your situation changes so you can afford things you need
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