Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
ESA: Option 2 Claim New Style ESA & UC

‘New Style’ ESA is the name given to Contributory ESA for anyone who falls under the Universal Credit service. Those who can claim New Style ESA who require a top-up have three options.


Click here for more information on New style ESA.

Option 2 - Claim New Style ESA and a Universal Credit top-up

If New Style ESA is not enough for the claimant / their family to live on, they may choose to claim Universal Credit as well. They may need to claim UC because they do not have an existing award of HB and/or CTC as it is not possible to make a new claims, they have no alternative to UC as their source of top up benefit. Or, if they do have an existing HB and/or CTC claim, it might be that they would be better off by ending these and claiming Universal Credit instead. 

Any New Style ESA will be taken into account £ for £ as income for Universal Credit, so overall the claimant would receive the same amount of benefits.

So, why bother claiming New Style ESA? 

Even though the usual amount of benefit entitlement will be the same, whether the claimant claims UC only, or claims New Style ESA and UC, there are some advantages to claiming New Style ESA:


  • The fortnightly payments of ESA may help the claimant to manage their budget better. 
  • National Insurance ‘credits’ from an ESA claim are Class 1 credits, which can give access to all contributory benefits except Bereavement Support Payment. Without a claim for New Style ESA, any credits from a UC claim are class 3, which only help towards entitlement of a State Pension.
  • If the New Style ESA claimant’s partner finds work and their level of earnings means they are no longer entitled to Universal Credit, the payments of New Style ESA can continue.


Click here for information on situations where it may be best not to claim New Style ESA – if Universal Credit and its ‘passport’ benefits could be lost. 

Claimed New Style ESA and Universal Credit - the Work Capability Assessment 

For the first 13 weeks of their New Style ESA claim the claimant will be in the ‘assessment phase’. During this period, the claimant will be sent a questionnaire to complete and they may also need to attend a face-to-face medical as part of the Work Capability Assessment. 

We are aware of some claimants receiving both an ESA50 and a UC50 questionnaire. These questionnaires are almost identical: they both ask the same questions about how the claimant’s health conditions affect their ability to do certain work-related tasks. Clearly, this appears to be a duplication. The DWP have said that they are looking to streamline the interaction between New Style ESA and UC.

So, if someone receives both an ESA50 and a UC50 what should they do?

We think the best advice (for now) is to complete both forms, to be on the safe side! Our reasoning for this is as follows:

If the claimant decides to only complete the UC50 but not the ESA50, it is highly likely that the New Style ESA claim will be terminated. There are advantages to receiving ESA in addition to UC (as listed above) – including the 13-week ‘assessment phase’ for ESA. So, if the claimant is put in the support group, the support component is paid from week 14 of the claim. If New Style ESA is not claimed and the Work Capability Assessment is applied through the Universal Credit system instead, the claimant may have to wait up to 4 months for limited capability for work related activity element to be included in the UC assessment. (See example (Joe) on this page – 'Claim Universal Credit only').

If the claimant decides to complete the ESA50 but not the UC50, it is not clear what would happen if the claimant is found not to be entitled to New Style ESA because they do not meet the National Insurance contribution conditions. It is possible that the claimant would need to start the process of requesting a Work Capability Assessment again, through their UC claim. The risk is that they would then start the 3-month ‘relevant period’ all over again.

Clearly, the above advice appears to be cumbersome - we are hoping the DWP will provide some guidance on this matter soon. A short-cut (if the claimant receives both forms around the same time) might be to complete one of the forms, photocopy it and attach a note to the copy saying, ‘Please treat this form as a UC50/ESA50’ - (depending on which form has not been completed). 

Claimed New Style ESA and Universal Credit - Conditionality

The Claimant Commitment is a feature of both New Style ESA and Universal Credit. We assume claimants will just have one Claimant Commitment, which will be a Universal Credit Claimant Commitment. 

It appears that claimants who claim both New Style ESA and Universal Credit will have to comply with the ‘conditionality’ for Universal Credit. Regulation 42 of the regulations for New Style ESA (ESA Regulations 2013) states that where there is dual entitlement, the UC regulations for conditionality and sanctions apply instead of the ESA rules.

The UC Regulations do not treat a claimant as having a limited capability for work during the ‘relevant period’. They are in the all work requirements group until they have been found to have a limited capability for work / work related activities after the Work Capability Assessment. During the assessment phase the Work Coach can decide how much or little the claimant is expected to do in terms of work preparation, looking for work and other work-related activity. A Claimant Commitment should be realistic and the claimant’s health conditions should be taken into account when their work-related requirements are decided. Claimants can ask for their Claimant Commitment to be reviewed at any time if they feel it is not appropriate for them. 


Laurie was working as a shop floor manager at a large department store, but after working there for 5 years he has had to finish due to his failing health. He has a 'fit note' from his Dr and has made a claim for 'New Style' ESA. The DWP have checked his NI contributions - and he passes both tests, so he has been awarded 'New Style' ESA in the assessment phase until the outcome of his Work Capability Assessment is known.

Laurie lives in rented accommodation. His only income is the 'New Style' ESA so he claims Universal Credit to top this up and help him pay his rent.

The 'New Style' ESA (paid fortnightly) will count as income for UC and will be taken into account as a monthly amount.

Even though Laurie has provided a 'fit note', until he has been found to have a limited capability for work he will be in the all work requirements conditionality group and will have to negotiate what work search activities his is capable of doing with his work coach.

Following the Work Capability Assessment, if Laurie is found to have a limited capability for work he will be placed in a different conditionality group and if placed in the Support Group, then his UC should include a Limited Capability For Work and Work Related Activities Element (LCWRA Element) from the start of the Monthly Assessment Period following the end of the ESA assessment phase.

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