For Families and Carers : Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the benefit you claim if you can’t work because you’re sick or disabled, and you are aged between 16 and 64.

It has been replaced by Universal Credit in most areas now. Universal Credit is more problematic to claim for those still in education. Please call the benefit adviser for help.

People with Down’s syndrome get ESA.  The earliest you can claim ESA is at 16.

Is it right for a young person with Down’s syndrome to claim ESA at 16?

If your child claims benefits in their own right at 16, you lose Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for them.  This is because they no longer count as your dependent, or a member of your household for benefit purposes.  In most cases, Employment and Support Allowance will be more than Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.

However, if your whole family is on means-tested benefits CHECK BEFORE YOUR CHILD CLAIMS ESA.  Means-tested benefits include Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, Pension Credit and Working Tax Credit. You may lose out overall if you claim ESA for your child in this situation.  Claiming separately for your son or daughter may mean that the family’s income as a whole is reduced.  CHECK before claiming ESA, if you receive means-tested benefits.

As you all know, the benefits system is complicated, and the most basic advice is always – if in doubt, CHECK YOUR OWN SITUATION.

ESA while at school / college

People often think that a young person with Down’s syndrome cannot claim ESA if they are still at school or college.  They can.

Look at our ESA guide for an explanation of what “full time education” means and why a young person with Down’s syndrome can claim, even if they are still in education.

Does claiming ESA mean my child won’t ever work?

Claiming ESA does not mean that your child can’t work or will never work.  You can work while on ESA, but you have to tell the DWP beforehand, and the hours you can work and how much you can earn are limited.  See our information on ESA and work.

Claiming ESA now does not stop your child coming off benefits and working in the future.

ESA or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)?

Some people, including many young people with Down’s syndrome, could claim either Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Young people with Down’s syndrome should claim Employment and Support Allowance rather than JSA at the age of 16. Once they have been assessed, they will get more money on ESA. They will also get more appropriate help in looking for work, if that’s what they chose to do.



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