Page created: 22 April 2021

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (NSESA)

If you have an illness, disability or health condition that impacts upon your ability to work, you may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance. This is important if you have scleroderma, as your condition may affect your ability to keep on working.

With the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) to the UK welfare benefits system, new claims for income-related benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), are no longer allowed. Claimants can now apply for what is known as ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance (NSESA), instead.

Initial eligibility

NSESA is paid based on your previous class 1 or 2 National Insurance contributions over the last two - three years. Therefore, you will need to have been previously employed or self-employed and paid (or been credited with) enough National Insurance contributions to be eligible.

To check if you have made enough contributions, please click here.

Because NSESA is contributions-based, your (or your partner's), savings, earnings, and capitals will not be taken into account for eligibility. As Universal Credit (UC) is not available on a contribution-basis, NSESA will be more suitable.

NB: You can claim NSESA and UC at the same time, but your NSESA award will be deducted from your UC monthly payment, pound for pound.


New applications can be made by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644, or alternatively to apply online, please click here.

You will need to supply a fit note from your GP signing you off from work.

NESA is awarded at a basic rate of £74.35 per week (paid fortnightly).

NB:  during the Coronavirus pandemic, NSESA is being paid from the first day of an application.

Within four weeks of your first payment, you should receive an ESA50 questionnaire form in the post. This is a work capability questionnaire designed to help you explain your current conditions and how they affect you day-to-day. You will need to fill out the form to the best of your ability, supplying as much medical evidence as you can. You will need to return the form by the date given in the accompanying letter.

NB: It is strongly advisable to return your ESA50 form via Royal Mail recorded delivery.

Work Capability Assessment

Every applicant who applies for NSESA will need to undertake a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Once your ESA50 questionnaire form has been submitted, the DWP will pass on your details to a delegated independent Assessment Provider (AP) (Maximus), who will arrange a time, date, and location for your WCA to be undertaken.

NB: during the Coronavirus period, assessments are being carried out over the telephone, via video call or on a paper-basis. It is unlikely at this time that you will be asked to attend a face-to-face assessment.

Assessments are undertaken by the AP's employed Healthcare Professionals (HCPs). During the assessment, the HCP will discuss your conditions with you and ask you how these affect your day-to-day ability to undertake certain activities.

The work-related activities you may be assessed on come under two specific categories – physical disabilities and mental, cognitive & intellectual functioning.

Physical disabilities

  • Mobilising – moving around safely without an aid, on level ground.
  • Standing and sitting – the ability to move safely from one place to another (workstation).
  • Reaching – the evaluation power and co-ordination of joint mobility in the upper limbs.
  • Picking up items and moving them with your arms.
  • Manual dexterity – the ability of the hands and wrists to manipulate objects to carry out work.
  • Making yourself understood – speaking, writing, typing, or other means which are normally or could reasonably be used, unaided by another person.
  • Understanding communication – difficulties in understanding a simple spoken or written message because of sensory impairment.
  • Navigating and maintaining safety – navigation and maintaining safety using a guide dog or other aid if either or both are normally used or could reasonably be used.
  • Evacuation of the bowel and/or bladder – the ability to maintain continence of the bladder or bowel or prevent leakage from a collecting device.
  • Consciousness during waking moments – safety of consciousness during waking moments.

Mental, cognitive & intellectual function

  • Learning tasks – the ability to learn and retain information in order to be able to carry out a task.
  • Awareness of everyday hazards - the ability to recognise risks from common everyday hazards.
  • Initiating and completing personal action - the ability to initiate and successfully complete personal tasks.
  • Coping with change - the ability to cope with changes in everyday normal routine.
  • Getting about - the ability to travel without support from another person.
  • Coping with social engagement - the ability to interact with people due to a cognitive impairment or mental disorder.
  • Appropriateness of behaviour - the ability of a person to control their behaviour in an average workplace due to a cognitive impairment or mental disorder.

Each one of the activities mentioned above has several corresponding scoring descriptors. You will need to score at least 15-points from these activities to pass the WCA.

To understand the activities and descriptors in more depth, please click here, where you will find further information on the WCA, definitions of terminologies used, legislation, caselaw and more.

During the WCA, the assessor may ask you to undertake a short physical examination. The HCP will ask for your consent to proceed with the examination. You should not be asked to remove any of your clothing, and you should only do what you feel comfortable with.

Following the consultation, the assessor will complete an Assessment Report (ESA85) recommending to the DWP which activities and descriptors should be applied in your case and then send the report to the DWP immediately.

If you receive at least 15-points from the assessment you will be given a Limited Capability for Work (LCW). You will then be placed into one of two groups:

  1. The Work-related Activity Group (WRAG).
  2. The Support Group (SG).

If you are placed into the Support Group, you will also receive an extra payment in your fortnightly award of £39.20.

Reasonable adjustments

Assessments can be an incredibly difficult experience to undergo, especially if this is your first time. You should be aware that you can request reasonable adjustments from the Assessment Providers when having to undertake an assessment.

Reasonable adjustments can be requested under section 20 of the Equality Act and Assessment Providers have a public duty to consider any adjustment that has been requested.

For further information on reasonable adjustments, please see this useful weblink from Citizens Advice

Useful links:

Universal Credit

Employment Support Allowance

New Style Employment Support Allowance

Helpful information for the WCA –

Check NI contributions