ESA stopped without notice. What can I do? 

In this article, we discuss one’s options when ESA stopped without notice. 

Can ESA be stopped without notice?

Yes, the DWP can stop all payments until a claimant can provide more information and evidence to support their case.

Sometimes this happens without the DWP notifying the claimant as to what information is needed.

When the claimant does provide the information, while the DWP is processing this information, the claimant remains without any financial support for long lengths of time.

The DWP must treat all ESA claimants as innocent until proven guilty just as our legal process works and is deemed to be fair.

ESA stopped without notice. What can I do?

If your ESA has been stopped because you failed a medical assessment you will either need to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance or make an appeal. 

Before you can appeal you must ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You will not get any ESA while you are waiting for the mandatory reconsideration decision, you can claim JSA instead. 

After the DWP makes a decision on the mandatory reconsideration –  if they do not change their decision you can appeal.

Your ESA can be started again while waiting for the appeal to be heard and payments will be backdated to the date your ESA stopped, but if you have been claiming JSA while waiting for the mandatory reconsideration this will have to stop before your ESA can restart.

If you are an EEA national, seek further advice before trying to claim JSA while waiting for an ESA appeal.

Benefits might also be stopped because of a sanction.

A sanction normally means Jobcentre Plus stops your JSA for a certain period, although in some cases they can reduce it instead. 

You may have a sanction applied to your claim, this is a reduction (or nil payment) in your benefit if you:

  • left your job voluntarily (but not in the case of voluntary redundancy)
  • lost your job due to misconduct
  • fail to apply for or accept a job that is offered to you 
  • fail to show that you are available for, and actively seeking work
  • fail to attend a compulsory training or employment scheme
  • fail to carry out a direction from a Jobcentre Plus adviser

There are three different types of JSA sanctions:

There are three levels of sanctions that last for set periods of time depending on what you may have failed to do.

  • Lower level
  • Intermediate level
  • Higher-level

Lower level

The lower level of sanction applies if you are asked to do something that will improve your chances of finding or preparing for work and you don’t do it.

This includes things like:

  • Losing a place on a training scheme through misconduct
  • Failing to attend or giving up a place on a training scheme
  • Failing to attend an interview at Jobcentre Plus
  • Failing to carry out part of your jobseeker’s agreement.

A lower level sanction will last for:

  • Four weeks for the first failure
  • 13 weeks for any further failures within 52 weeks of the last failure. 

Intermediate level

The intermediate level of sanction may apply if you reclaim JSA after your previous JSA award has been disallowed.

A JSA award can be disallowed if you (or your joint-claim partner) are found not to be available for, or actively seeking work.

If you go on to make another claim for JSA, it will only be allowed if you can show that you (or your joint-claim partner) are now available for and actively seeking work. 

An intermediate level sanction will last for:

  • Four weeks for a first failure
  • 13 weeks for any further failures within 52 weeks of the last failure.

Example from decision maker’s guidance

“Johnny was entitled to JSA but his award came to an end when the decision-maker (DM) decided that he was not available for employment and could not be treated as available. This was Johnny’s first-ever claim for JSA… The DM decides that a four-week reduction will need to be considered with any new award of JSA.”

Higher-level

The higher level sanction may apply if, for example, you:

  • Leave a job voluntarily
  • Lose a job through misconduct
  • Fail to take up a job or mandatory work activity without a good reason.

A higher level sanction will last for:

  • 13 weeks for a first failure
  • 26 weeks for a second failure.

Employment Support Allowance can also be sanctioned, which means the Jobcentre Plus reduces your ESA.

You can only be sanctioned if you are placed in the work-related activity group and you are required to go to work-focused interviews or do work-related activity. 

What to do if you’ve been sanctioned while on ESA

What you can be sanctioned for

You can’t be sanctioned if you’re in the ESA support group.

Only people in the work-related activity group can be sanctioned.

While you’re in the work-related activity group, the DWP can sanction you if:

  • you don’t go to a work-focused interview
  • you go, but don’t take part in your interview
  • you don’t take part in a compulsory work-related activity that you’ve been asked to do

If you did do the tasks that the DWP says you didn’t, you should ask the DWP to reconsider the decision to sanction you.

You’ll have to give them evidence that you did the tasks.

For example, a letter from a company confirming you attended training or work experience.

If you’ve been sanctioned for not doing something that you hadn’t agreed to do, you should challenge their decision and argue that you didn’t have to carry out that activity.

If you’re not sure what you’ve been sanctioned for, check your ‘sanction notification’ letter from DWP.

This should tell you what you’ve been sanctioned for, eg not attending an interview or missing a training course.

If you had a good reason for not doing the activity

If you had a good reason for missing an interview or work-related activity, you shouldn’t be sanctioned.

There’s no set definition of what counts as a good reason – the DWP will use their own judgment about whether you have one. 

Examples of good reasons are:

  • a medical appointment that you couldn’t rearrange
  • a death in the family
  • your health or disability stopped you from going

If you think you have a good reason for missing an interview or work-related activity, you must tell your adviser this within 5 working days of the date you’re notified that you had failed to take part in the appointment or activity you missed, otherwise you could still get sanctioned.

How to avoid another sanction

Keeping appointments

If you need to miss an interview or activity for a good reason (for example, you’re very sick or are in hospital) tell your adviser as soon as you can.

Keep a note of the date and time of the call, who you speak to and what was said.

If you need help with the cost of traveling to appointments, ask the Jobcentre what support is available.

Evidence of work-related activities

Keep a diary each week of what interviews or work-related activities you’ve done.

For example, the date you went on a training course and where the course was held.

If there’s something you haven’t been able to do, be prepared to explain why.

If there’s a reason, try and get evidence of it to show your adviser. For example, if you were ill, get a note from the doctor.

Reporting changes in circumstances

Make sure you tell the ESA helpline of any changes in your personal circumstances straight away.

For example, if your health or condition gets worse or you get pregnant or have a child.

This could mean you get switched to the Support Group or you’ll be expected to do fewer work-related activities.

Ask for adjustments to your work-related requirements if you have a long-term physical disability or mental health problem

If you have a long-term physical disability, illness or mental health problem, the activities you could be expected to do should be adjusted to account for this – these are called ‘reasonable adjustments’. 

Talk to your personal adviser about what is manageable for you in your circumstances, eg if you’re a wheelchair user you might only be able to attend training venues that have wheelchair access.

This should make your work-related activities more manageable for you and reduce the chance of you being sanctioned.

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Conclusions

As we highlighted in this article, there a few reasons why your ESA stopped without notice, amongst the most common of them are: you failed a medical assessment, or your ESA stopped because of a sanction.

Also, if you’re facing any problem during ESA, you can learn how to file for a complaint so you don’t face any in the future.

In any case, you should contact the DWP for more information and explanation for their judgment.

If you need support and advice regarding the ESA benefits award, contact your local Citizens’ advice office. 

Feel free to leave any comments and questions in the comments section below!

FAQ about ESA stopped without notice

Can ESA stop your money?

Yes, the DWP can stop your ESA money, for various reasons.

After one year, your new-style ESA payment will be stopped automatically.

You’ll usually have to undergo another Work Capability Assessment to see if you’re still eligible for help because of your illness or disability.

How long can you be on ESA for?

You can receive contributory/new style ESA for up to 12 months if you are put in the Work-Related Activity Group.

If you are put in the Support Group there is no limit on how long you can receive it for.

How many ESA appeals are successful?

Overall, 73% of ESA appeals are successful.

The Tribunals Service statistics show that claimants are winning PIP and ESA appeals at the highest rate ever recorded. 

How often are ESA assessments?

ESA assessments are happening as ofter as 1,2 or 3 years.

However, if you’re in the support group or getting income-related ESA, your claim will be ongoing. 

How do I contact ESA by phone?

In order to contact ESA by phone, you’ll need your National Insurance number when you call the following number: 0800 169 0310.

This is the contact number for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Does ESA automatically stop at 65?

Yes, ESA will automatically stop at 65, since ESA is a “Working Age” benefit. 

Once you reach your applicable retirement age you should receive your State Pension/any Pension Credit that you are entitled to.

Recommendations

  1. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  2. Positive Behavior Supports for Adults with Disabilities in Employment, Community, and Residential Settings
  3. Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits
  4. Insider’s Guide to Government Benefits
  5. Investigation into errors in Employment and Support Allowance
  6. Limited Capability – The Support Group (Social Insecurity Book 5)

References

Citizensadvice.org.uk

turn2us.org.uk

Cahf.org.uk

Community.scope.org.uk

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