What is the ESA support group for mental health?

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In this blog, we will discuss what is the ESA support group for mental health. We will also explore what is ESA, how to claim it, and who is eligible to claim ESA support.

What is the ESA support group for mental health?

ESA support group for mental health is a support group that you are assigned to if you have been deemed eligible for Employment and support allowance. 

If you are eligible for ESA by being either someone who is at an age for pension and has difficulties to work due to health and other disabilities including mental health illnesses. 

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) uses an ESA work capability assessment to assess an employee’s claim for ESA after which they assign the person to two groups:

  • A work-related activity group: This is to prepare employees who with some support are able to return to work.
  • A support group: This group is for people who are unable to return to work due to their illness of disability.

In the Work-Related Activity Group, you will have to go to at least one work-focused interview, you may have to take part in the Work Programme to help you prepare to get back into the workforce.

In the ESA support group for mental health, you will not be required to go to these workshops or programs and interviews. If you have been put in this group it means that you are not capable of taking on the responsibility of your role due to the illness and disability. 

A majority of ESA claims are for stress, anxiety and depression and other mental health disorders that cause disability in the lives of employees. 

You will be required to take a medical certificate from your doctor to confirm your diagnosis and state of your mental health after which you can apply for a claim of ESA with the DWP.

In the ESA support group you are given slightly more money on top of the basic ESA rate and you can decide if you want to take part in the work related activities without being mandated to do so. 

What are the Eligibility criteria to join the ESA Support Group?

The eligibility criteria for availing ESA includes the following. These criteria have been referred from the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Gov.UK website.

  • You can apply for ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re under State Pension age and you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
  • You also need to have both:
  • worked as an employee or have been self-employed
  • paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years – National Insurance credits also count
  • You are eligible if you get Universal Credit, you could get ‘new style’ ESA at the same time however, you get both benefits, your Universal Credit payment is reduced by the amount you get for ‘new style’ ESA.
  • If your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is due to end

You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA up to 3 months before your SSP ends. You’ll start getting ‘new style’ ESA as soon as your SSP ends.

  • If you’re working

You can apply whether you’re in or out of work. There are conditions to working while claiming ESA.

  • If you’ve been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’re unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay and one of the following applies:

  • you or your child might have COVID-19 or you’re recovering from it
  • you or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have COVID-19
  • you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • you’re quarantining due to rules about returning from abroad
  • If you’re claiming ESA because of COVID-19, you’ll need to give evidence to support your claim.

Note that You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA or is not eligible if you:

  • claim Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • claim Statutory Sick Pay

What is the process of  applying for ESA?

The process of applying for ESA follows the following steps:

You need to check for eligibility.

If you are eligible, you can start your claim by applying online via this link.

You will need the following documents:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • Bank account number and sort code
  • Name, address and phone number of your doctor
  • Details of income if working
  • The date your Statutory Sick Pay ends if you are claiming it

Next, you have to Attend the appointment with your work coach where you must form what is called the Claimant Commitment which details the actions you need to take to get payment. 

The Department of Work and Pensions include a medical assessment in the process of checking for the eligibility for ESA applicants. 

Some ESA assessment of mental health questions that are generally asked in the assessment interview include questions related to your medical condition such as:

  • What are your medical conditions?
  • How long have you had these conditions?
  • How do these conditions affect you?

Based on your assessment you will be assigned to two groups- 

  • A work-related activity group: This is to prepare employees who with some support are able to return to work.
  • A support group: This group is for people who are unable to return to work due to their illness of disability.

At times the DWP also do at-home assessments if the claimant’s illnesses or disability make it difficult for them to travel and move; however, they will ask individuals to provide information from a medical professional supporting their request for a home visit.

If you fail to attend an appointment for a medical assessment, they will investigate your reasons for not attending. If the reason is not a good cause, ESA will be disallowed and benefits stopped.

Then, you will get a letter telling you if you’ll get ‘new style’ ESA and how much.

Once you start getting your ESA, you will have to Give updates about your health and circumstances. 

What happens at an ESA group for mental health?

In the ESA support group for mental health, people with disabling mental health conditions that are never enough that they are in no condition to work are present. 

In this ESA support group for mental health there will be no interviews or activities as it will be unreasonable to require people in this ESA support group for mental health to work whilst they claim ESA.

People in this ESA support group for mental health will have periodic medical assessment reviews which are usually every three years at a maximum. This is done to see if their condition has improved and they can now resume work. 

Depending on the outcome of your medical assessment you could then be removed from the  ESA support group for mental health which required you to not attend any interviews or meetings and be placed in the work-related  ESA support group.

If you have been put in the work-related ESA support group after your assessment finds that you are capable of working, you will have to engage in a work-related activity.

The DWP will usually let you know if there are any suitable work-related activities within the region you are in which you can join.


In this blog, we have discussed what is the ESA support group for mental health. We will also explore what is ESA, how to claim it, and who is eligible to claim ESA support.


Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Gov.UK. Retrieved on 3rd dec 2021. https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/print

What is an ESA assessment? Healthassured. Retrieved on 3rd dec 2021. 


ESA Support Group: Eligibility and rates.homecare uk. Retrieved on 3rd dec 2021.https://www.homecare.co.uk/advice/esa-support-group-eligibility-and-rates

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ESA support group mental health

How long does the ESA support group last?

If you are in the ESA support group or getting income-related ESA, your claim will be ongoing.

The DWP will assess your ability to work again every 1, 2 or 3 years to make sure you are still not fit to work.

How many points do you need to be in the support group for ESA?

You don’t need points to go to the support group for ESA. However, there are two parts to the work capability assessment.

The first part scores points and 15 points will get you WRAG. The second part is 16 questions and if you answer “yes” to any of the questions then you will be awarded a support group.

What does an ESA support group mean?

ESA support group is for those who the DWP consider have a severe health condition that will prevent them from being able to undertake a job or work-related activities.

What are the benefits of a support group?

Some of the benefits of participating in the support group include feeling less lonely, isolated or judged, gaining a sense of empowerment and control, improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment, talking openly and honestly about your feelings and reducing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue (medium.com). 

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