What is the length of award for an ESA support group?

In this article, we are answering a frequent question: “ESA support group – what is the length of the award?”

Read on to find out what is the rate for ESA and whether it is indefinite. 

ESA support group

If you’ve been put in the support group, it means the DWP has decided that you can’t work and that it doesn’t expect you to do anything to improve your chances of finding work.

They consider you severely limited by your disability regarding how much you can work. 

The criteria for ESA support group

In order for someone to be put in the ESA support group, there are few conditions that need to be met.

  1. The presence of the “functional descriptors” due to either a physical or mental health condition.

The functional descriptors are:

  • Mobilizing 50m
  • Transfer independently
  • Reaching
  • Picking up and/or moving
  • Manual dexterity
  • Making yourself understood
  • Understanding communication
  • Weekly incontinence
  • Learning tasks
  • Awareness of hazards
  • Personal actions
  • Coping with change
  • Engaging socially
  • Appropriateness of behavior
  • Unable to eat / drink / chew / swallow / convey food or drink
  1. Claimants will also need to show that all of the following apply:
  • Their condition will last for the rest of their lives.
  • The effect of their condition means that they will always meet at least one of the support group descriptors above. The DWP says that conditions that might qualify, include: “Motor Neurone Disease (MND), severe and progressive forms of MS, Parkinson’s, all dementias, all chromosomal conditions, Huntington’s, severe irreversible cardiorespiratory failure, severe acquired brain injury …this list is not exhaustive”. The DWP also says that conditions that might not meet the criteria include “recently diagnosed relapsing non-progressive forms of MS or some people with less severe mental health conditions with periods of reasonable function”.
  • There is no realistic prospect of recovery, such as a transplant.
  • They have been diagnosed with an unambiguous medically recognized condition. This can include conditions such as ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.

How much money will you get from the ESA support group?

After your ESA assessment, someone from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will look at the recommendation made by the healthcare assessor and use it to decide if you are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.

It can take several weeks or months for the DWP to make a decision. So if you haven’t heard from them, don’t worry too much.

You could always call them and ask how much more time is it going to take, but don’t expect an exact answer.  

If you get the ESA award and you are placed in the Support group, you will get a higher rate of employment and support allowance (ESA) than claimants who are put in the work-related activity group.

You could receive up to £111.65 a week if you’re in the support group.

You’ll get paid ESA every 2 weeks. All benefits are paid into your bank, building society or credit union account.

What is the ESA support group length of award?

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

This means you don’t have to reapply for the award as long as you still qualify for ESA.

However, the DWP will usually re-assess your ability to work every 1, 2 or 3 years to make sure you’re still not fit to work.


The maximum length of award before re-assessment in the ESA Support Group is three years. 

The DWP does not put the exact dates for the ESA support group length of the award, so the claimant has to telephone the ESA department and ask when is he or she due to be re-tested at the next face-to-face assessment.

Each award can either go overtime or be under that time until your next re-assessment.

Which means we never really do know what that ESA50 form will come through our door.

The DWP sets a review date in between a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 3 years for the claimants in the Support group. 

The only exception is made if the claimant is deemed under the new severe condition category, in which case a much longer date is entered (a special fixed date is used) to avoid an automatic review from happening.

Is ESA Support Group really indefinite?

Yes, ESA is ongoing, meaning awarded for an indefinite period of time. However, all the claimants have to be reassessed every few years.

When the time for a reassessment comes, the DWP could:

  1. Do the reassessment based on the paperwork they already have.
  1. OR ask you to fill in a new ESA50 and do it from that.
  2. OR ask you for a new ESA50 and then a face-to-face medical assessment.
  3. OR just ask for a face-to-face medical assessment. 

During the reassessment, you continue to get paid. There is no “ESA support group length if award” – ESA does not run out, unlike PIP which is awarded for a set time.

With the partial exception that if you are on Contribution Based ESA in WRAG then this only lasts for 52 weeks, at which time you have to change it to Income Related ESA if you qualify by low income.

Support Group is not affected by this. Your ESA payments will not stop unless/until you are found fit-for-work at a face-to-face assessment.

Although the ESA award for the support group is ongoing, the award letters the DWP sends you, don’t tell you that.

The dates they give are just when you are due to be re-assessed. The date of the re-assessment is known as a “Prognosis Date”.

Will my ESA payments be stopped or suspended during the re-assessments?

There is only limited circumstance in which your ESA payments can be stopped.

  1. If you are found fit-for-work, which can only be done at a face to face Work Capability Assessment.
  2. If you fail to attend a Work Capability Assessment without ‘good reason’.
  3. If you (or your partner if IR ESA) start working, except for permitted work.
  4. If you have committed Benefit Fraud.
  5. If you are sent to prison for any reason.

There are also a few circumstances where your benefit can be ‘suspended’ for a while.

  1. A sanction where payments are suspended until you comply with whatever rule you fell foul off, (usually missing a mandatory appointment).
  2. A query on your claim can suspend payments until it is clarified, but you get these back if it is clarified.

As long as none of the above apply then your payments will continue to be made.

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The ESA support group length of the award is an ongoing payment.

This means you don’t have to reapply for the award as long as you still qualify for ESA.

However, the DWP will usually re-assess your ability to work every 1, 2 or 3 years to make sure you’re still not fit to work.

The DWP sets a review date in between a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 3 years for the claimants in the Support group.

If you or somebody you know is part of the ESA support group, let us know in the comments section below how was your experience with the ESA qualification, or any other details about the yearly re-assessment.

We are looking forward to it!

FAQ on ESA support group length of award

How long does support group ESA last?

ESA support group is awarded for an indefinite time.

For people in the Work-Related Activity Group, however, there is a one-year time limit on payment.

How long does it take to get a decision from ESA 2019?

It can take several weeks or months for the DWP to make a decision.

If you haven’t heard anything after 8 weeks, you could contact them to ask why you haven’t had a decision letter yet.

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

You need to score 15 points or more to be entitled to the support group for ESA.

Each activity is scored with 0, 6, 9 or 15 points.  

What is the ESA support group?

The ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP considers to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.

Can I get free dental treatment on the ESA support group?

Yes, you are entitled to free dental treatment if you are included to the Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.


  1. Providing Employment Support for People With Long-Term Mental Illness: Choices, Resources, and Practical Strategies
  2. Limited Capability – The Support Group (Social Insecurity Book 5)
  3. Handbook of Clinical Rating Scales and Assessment in Psychiatry and Mental Health 
  4. Psychosocial Assessment in Mental Health
  5. Mental Health Screening and Assessment in Juvenile Justice 


  1. Employment and Support Allowance time limit – Turn2us
  2. Support Group forum – Benefits and Work
  3. Questions and answers for Employment and Support Allowance advisers – Department for communities

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