If your disability or chronic illness means that you can’t work, you need to make sure you get enough national insurance (NI) credits. If you don’t, you might not qualify for a full state pension. How do you get them? Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or ‘new-style’ ESA.
How do you get national insurance credits?
By applying for Employment support allowance (ESA), ‘new style’ ESA, or Universal Credit (UC).
“but I’m above the income threshold!”
It doesn’t matter. Even if your income is above a certain threshold, you will still (and must!) qualify for national insurance credits.
Employment support allowance(ESA), universal credit(UC) and ‘new-style ESA’ aren’t just about getting a monthly income if your disability or chronic illness means that you can’t work. It’s about ensuring you will get your state pension!
Why do you need NI credits if you can’t work?
National Insurance credits cover your national insurance contributions in the event that you are either unable to work completely, or unable to work over a certain number hours.
If you can’t work because you are disabled or chronically ill, you must claim ESA, UC or ‘new-style’ ESA to get these credits and protect your state pension, even if you don’t qualify for the income part of ESA or UC.
But I don’t want to go through another assessment!
The very mention of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) can cause people to turn away but this fact is so important.
You’ve gone through the process of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and come out of it bruised and battered.
Why apply for another benefit, maybe having to go through the pain of another application, and maybe being turned down and having to fight, all over again?
You also might think, wrongly, that you’re not eligible:
“I’m over the income threshold for payments, so what’s the point?”
“I can do some work during the week, so I don’t think I’m eligible”
But did you know that,
- if you cannot work due to your ill health or disability, you are eligible for the NI credits part of ESA and UC even if your income is too high for the monthly payments?
- even if you do manage some work in the week, you’re still potentially eligible for financial support as well as NI credits?
- Without enough NI credits, you won’t get your full state pension that you’re entitled to?
What is ESA? and what is UC?
ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, is a benefit for those who cannot work at all or cannot hold down a job for over a certain number of hours a week due to disability or a health condition. It replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support in 2008.
Universal Credit (UC) replaces several benefits, including ESA, and is in the process (as of 2017) of being rolled out to all parts of England, Scotland and Wales. UC is for people who are out of work or on a low income.
new-style ESA replaces ESA and can be claimed on it’s own, or as part of UC.
It depends on where you live and your individual circumstances as to which benefit you apply for, but they all broadly do the same thing, which is:
- provide an income if you are below a certain income
- provide you with (NI) contributions.
Are you eligible for these benefits even if you do some work?
Eligibility for ESA or ‘new-style ESA’ or UC is based on the effect your disability has on your ability to hold down certain types of job for over a set number of hours or income a week. So you can do some work and still claim these benefits!
For example, you can earn up to £120 a week for work lasting less than 16 hours a week and still qualify for ESA
Or, you can do work for people with disabilities for as many hours as you like, earning up to £120 per week, if that work was found for you by a local authority or voluntary group and still qualify for ESA.
The rules are slightly different for the Limited Capability for Work element of UC which replaces ESA, but a Work Allowance still exists and is definitely worth looking into.
Thousands of people could be losing out on their state pension
A survey by the MS Society has indicated that there are far fewer people with MS who are on ESA than PIP (Personal Independence Payment) or DLA (Disability Living Allowance).
PIP and DLA are paid to help with costs associated with living with a disability. There are about 60,000 people with MS claiming either PIP or DLA, but there are only around 24,500 claiming ESA.
Sounds good right? Perhaps more than half of those claiming PIP or DLA are able to work the majority of hours a week despite their disabilities?
But what if this massive difference in numbers is because:
- you often apply for PIP first, and are put off by the process?
- you don’t know ESA exists?
- you don’t believe there’s any point applying if you don’t need the money?
- you can’t face applying for ESA because of the trauma of it all?
- you don’t realise that you can do a certain number of hours of ‘permitted work‘ (including paid employment, self employment and voluntary) and still claim ESA?
I am concerned that the MS Society’s statistic on lower ESA claims than PIP or DLA could actually be bad news.
Is the lack of update for ESA because we have a great work culture and market in this country that is inclusive?
OR is it because ESA is unclaimed by people who are out of work and eligible?
Are thousands of people with disabilities and chronic illness going to have big holes in their state pension pots when they reach their mid-60’s?
Please share this message far and wide with your communities.
If you are not on ESA or the ‘new -style’ ESA and do not have enough NI contributions for a full state pension, please reconsider applying.
Work out if you’d qualify under ESA’s permitted work or the Work Allowance of UC.
If you have gone through the ESA or Universal Credit process and believe you were wrongly denied the benefit, I’d urge you to take the decision to tribunal.
Look after your future.
For more information about ESA, how to claim, and resources, see Disability Rights UK and the MS Society’s Claiming ESA handbook. For more information about the disability elements of Universal Credit, see entitledto.co.uk and turn2us.
For information about applying for PIP, see my 7 tips for starting your PIP application and advice on how to take your coping mechanisms into account.
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