ME Association revised Guide to Filling In the ESA Form now available

May 26, 2011

Our guide to filling in the Employment and Support Allowance application form has been fully revised and is now available from our office in Buckingham price £3 or you can download it from The MEA shop.

It takes account of major changes to the form which were introduced in April 2017

Download the independent review of  ESA work capability assessment, “Making it work for fluctuating conditions” (revised in January 2013), HERE

27 thoughts on “ME Association revised Guide to Filling In the ESA Form now available”

  1. Ordered! 🙂

    Thanks chaps and chapesses.

    You might want to sticky this one Tony? What with IB migrations – it will be very useful over the coming years – though in need of periodical updates too I guess…

    Fluctuating health and fluctuating benefit applications…sigh…

    1. I’m going to do just that, Firestormm! Our office started to be inundated with calls for the guide yesterday and they will be picking up lots of messages on the answering machine when they return to work after the Bank Holiday.

  2. This just in from someone who wants to share an experience of obtaining ESA:

    I wondered if you might be interested in my recent experience of transferring from Incapacity Benefit to the new ESA? If there’s any possibility that it can help another sufferer, I’m glad to share!

    My claim was successful and I was not called to attend the face to face medical; I believe that this was due to the amount of information that I provided with my claim form, carefully describing my condition and how it affects me on a daily basis. Having struggled with the handwritten form, I downloaded the saveable PDF version and used that instead; this allowed me to work on the form over a period of several weeks on my laptop without having to draft and redraft and was a tremendous help.

    Where the questions appeared obtusely designed to prevent me detailing the issuess that prevent me from working, I gave an answer that both addressed the question and included the information that I felt was relevant – again, being able to edit the form over time, and squeeze more text into the boxes than with handwriting, helped me to cover everything. I gave real life examples rather than generalisations, describing how long activities take me, what after effects they have and how these in turn affect my abilities. It was difficult to make room for examples of how things vary and I was forced to generalise somewhat there.

    I used all of the available extra space to add to the picture of my condition, as well as my attitude towards recovery, my most recent experiences trying to cope with work, and the steps I take to keep myself as work-ready as possible. I believe that there have been/are situations where I am a danger both to myself and others, and made this very clear in the context of employment, giving examples. I avoided emotional language.

    In addition, I approached my doctor for a medical report. He was initially reluctant (though very supportive, he was taken aback by the notion that the onus is on the claimant to provide evidence) but kindly arranged an appointment to familiarise himself with my current condition and circumstances. To this end, he asked me to write down details of my problems and what I do to manage them, which in turn helped to bring my records up to date after several years – I am long past the point where regular surgery visits achieve anything helpful, and have only been seeing doctors there for prescriptions and unrelated issues. I asked him to address my prognosis in his report, as I imagine this is something the face to face interviews are aimed at discovering.

    Finally, I kept a diary of a typical day’s activities in fairly meticulous detail, covering pain, comfort and fatigue levels, concentration, mood and so on. This was very hard work, but again, something that the face to face interviewer would need to discover in as much detail as possible. Because I find it difficult to communicate effectively by speaking and knew this would be much worse after travelling to the next city for interview, I wished to give as much detail as possible in writing so that it could not be misunderstood or misrepresented following a face to face interview.

    To my surprise, an interview/medical was not required and I was transferred to the Work Related Activity Group without further hassle. I received a phone call that talked me clearly through the changes, requiring very little talking on my part other thsn to confirm my identity and acknowledge thst i have understood each point. It will also be detailed in writing. I will be apparently assessed again next year if I have not reported a change in circumstances in the meantime.

    Hope some of this might help someone avoid being made more unwell by this process! It took up the best part of a month for me to tackle the form in this way, but now it seems completely worth it.

    All the best,

    1. Hi Nym
      i am new to M.E and this site.
      probably had it for while but only recently diagnosed. I have got to fill out the form and its getting me down
      Local CAB worker told me to put down basics only as he said they take no notice of teh form.
      I struggle to record anything as have another disability as well. so trying to follow your excellent example is beyond me at mo

      any suggestions? Has anyone got a sample page for the most difficult qu’s i could look at as a guide.
      I want to order guide but have just missed getting through to order it!
      I cant get another CAB appt for a while now -close to deadline.. should i tell them to give me a new deadline?

      1. Hi Anita

        Thanks for coming on here.

        If you would like to talk to the MEA in confidence, please give our helpline a try. Details of the number and opening times are in the box in the top righthand corner of the homepage here.

        Or you might prefer using the helpline email – which is

        All best

        Tony, ME Association

    2. Hi Nym
      I am being moved from IB to ESA
      I cant find teh link anywhere for the same form that was sent to me Only the longer one for people who are making a claim from scratch

      Can you send me the link for where you downloaded the saveable version please? It will make it a lot easier.

      My form is due in quite soon
      Thanks very much

    3. Hi I’m in same position as you I need some advice on ESA any suggestions please?

      Many thanks

    4. Can I ask if this was the initial ESA1 form? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of space to add anything much.

    5. Thank you Nym. I am waiting to be asses by fatigue services to see if I have ME. In the mean time I am in the process of transeferring off JSA to ESA. I have had six monthsf job searching and have been ill with all the exertion required. Six weeks off the first time. I couldnt move for the first tow weeks, and it was only the last week of the six that I felt to go back and try again.

      I have lasted one month. First a cold then a recurrence of this condition I have and also the mental exertion of job searches on the internet has ended uo woth me feeling ill and cabbaged.

      Consequently hoping and determined to go back on ESA. This time taking it to tribunal if I have to.

      Which brings me to the point of replying to your post.

      IT IS VERY HELPFUL, and I will be referring back to it when I need to fill in the WCA or whatever the DWP dish out on me. THANK YOU


  3. Good news, Nym! I’m glad you didn’t have to attend a medical and that your claim was successful. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to let others know about your experience.

    1. Thanks, Eleanor! I hope yours goes smoothly too. I can really recommend the downloadable, computer editable version of the form to anyone who has trouble writing by hand or organising their thoughts over a period of time (or both!).

      Waiting to see what the work related activity is like in practice. In theory it sounds potentially helpful!

  4. I’ve just receieved the letter from the DWP to say they are going to reassess me. If they stop my benefit I will fight them as I have done before and cause as much trouble as possible!

  5. Just to highlight if you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group from April 2012 if you have been receiving it for a year it will stop automatically. From that point on new claimants who are successful and are put into this group will receive benefit for a year then it stops. It is only the support group claimants where you are deemed not to be fit for any work that continue to receive the benefit. The criteria for entry into the support group are very hard to meet.

    1. I asked the person on the phone about this, having read about it in the news – she checked with a supervisor and was told that the year limit is still just a proposal that has yet to be approved. I haven’t checked into it further yet, but there’s nothing about a cut-off date in the documents or leaflet I was sent.

    2. The proposal, which has now gone through the Commons, but not the Lords, is to limit the receipt of Contribution Based ESA for members of the the ESA Work Related Activity Group to 365 days, members of the ESA Support Group are unaffected.

      The clause, which is part of the Welfare Reform Bill, will come into affect on 6/4/12 and will be retrospective, meaning that anyone who has already been in the WRAG for a year on that date will immediately lose then ESA(CB).

      Those affected will be eligible for Income Related ESA, providing they meet the associated means test for assets, income, and partners working hours.

      1. I’m torn on this. It’s obviously a serious blow to independence & dignity for anyone with working partners or savings that will make them ineligible for means tested benefit, and a shocker for those of use with lifelong NI contribution records that we thought were insurance against this situation. On the other hand, speaking selfishly, if I’m still unfit to work when this comes in to force, I’ll find myself on means tested benefit & eligible for free prescriptions, dentistry & eye tests etc for the first time since I was 18. I’d be better off while many others suffer 🙁

  6. I Have requested this document and some further information about the ESA. I have been unable to work for over 15 months now, am registered as disabled and have been assessed by my Dr, Consultant, and occ/health as unable to work. I am now being sacked because I’m too ill to work (but the union will appeal that) …now a “nurse” from DWP has passed me as fit to work so I have to claim Job seekers allowance …DER!!!
    I have a job !!

    1. You are entitled to appeal the decision and would receive the ESA Assessment rate while waiting for a Tribunal hearing.

  7. hi just been through it
    have been assesed a and placed in work related activity..
    have various problems.. ME,post polio,hypogonadism,vit d deff,enlarged liver(not thru drink),osteoarthritus in knees and legs,breathing prob..and just issued manual wheelchair to empower me to go out with my wife..
    jobcentres 3 mile down the road doctor said as we left no way can i work..just been retired on ill health grounds in april..
    have dla tribunal next week..not looking good..
    girl i phoned and asked stated i was not in the terminal ill group so it was rules?

    1. I don’t know when your comment was posted, or whether you have had a tribunal yet. However, as of now (3 April 2012) it is NOT the case that only the terminally ill get into the Support Group. I believe that the Support Group is only for those who are not well enough to work now and are not expected to get better at any time in the future.

      I can see how someone ill-informed could translate that into “terminally ill”. I have read several times that DWP staff are being moved from place to place to with no or inadequate training, so that they are giving answers based on a poor understanding of the regulations.

      However, people who are severely mentally handicapped, who have serious sensory impairment (e.g. deaf and blind) or are extremely limited by progressive illness all come within the “will never get any better and will not benefit from adaptation or extra technology” (e.g. getting used to being blind and learning to use screen readers) category. (That’s not the technical definition, by the way, just my summary of same.)

      It is possible to argue that those will severe long-lasting ME come into the same category as those with other serious conditions, such as MS. People have managed to make that case, and get into the Support Group as a result. If your tribunal panel has members who think that CBT and GE would work a cure, then you will be very lucky to get into the Support Group. They may, however, have a better understanding of ME in general, and you may be able to produce a better account of yourself. In that case you might be able to get into the Support Group.

      The Support Group is NOT confined to the terminally ill – yet.

      At your Tribunal don’t come over as whiney and depressed or angry and desperate. Tribunals are immune to emotional appeals. Stick to documented facts and arguments tied to the descriptors – and with it written down in front of you. Exhausted, perhaps even struggling with Brain Fog, but sensible and determined; that’s you.

      Get help if you can – the CAB can be invaluable, if they have the time and the funding to help you.

      Let us know the outcome.

  8. A very useful summary Tony – thank you! I didn’t bother with a doctor’s note with my form (I had always breezed through the medicals and forms in the past and never had supporting information and thought this recent assessment would the same) and just heard that I failed my recent ATOS test so my claim for ESA has been rejected. I’ll now be going to my GP to request she writes a letter and will commence the uphill struggle of the appeal process!! (sigh). I remember reading on here about the high percentage of ME/fluctuating conditions cases who have been rejected but have succeeded in the appeals process but I can’t seem to find the relevant article. Can anyone recall the percentages of the number rejected and who have won appeals? I thought it might be useful for the discussions with my GP.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Chelsea

      About 50% of all appeals are successful. Chapter and verse was published a little while ago by, I believe, either the DwP itself or the House of Commons library. Mmmm…. be worth revisiting that and putting something up here. But it won’t today as I’ve got other work to finish before the weekend.


  9. 4th July 2012


    I’ve just received this comment in my mailbox and have the sender’s permission to quote her:

    A few months ago, I bought your recent ME management files/ESA guide as I was going through the hideous process of IB >ESA.

    After 6 solid weeks of absolute despair & terror

    – 30hours to fill in the ESA form along with many highlighted copies of *relevant* ME sheets & my own 5 pages of good day /bad day /reactions to pressure & stress.

    – Plus two self-made Mind Maps explaining ME Management (pacing & autonomy v no autonomy) and pointing out only the SUPPORT group gives me that autonomy & ME symptoms day to day…

    I repeatedly quoted Hansard on “reliable/repeatedly/without undue fatigue” in EVERY answer & refering to Pretty v UK Article 3 EHRR 1 para 52 (state making natural illness/disability worse)

    I even added Klimas quote on the importance of exercise (for those who CAN & WANT to on “good days”). I did that so as give me *freedom* to do things on good days.

    I was terrified of being called to ATOS & all the hell of interviews knowing how vulnerable the process has affected me so far. I insisted it must be recorded & that a copy would be sent to my attorney brother.

    Anyway, just now I got another dreaded brown envelope.

    To my shock … I’ve been awarded transfer to ESA & put in the support group.

    Basically, by writing what I wanted to write & making my case in as much detail as I could (assuming I’d go to tribunal) … I achieved the rare situation of being migrated, bypassing WCA.

    For now at least.

    I really think people must approach it like a court case – fight for your life at form-filling stage.Do not be restricted by the boxes.

    Thanks so much for being there – your guide to filling in the form & presence as an organisation have literally been a life-saver.

  10. Thanks so much for all of you posting your experiences here – it was a great help to me in my recent experience with the system. I was migrated from IB and have had ME/CFS since 2006.

    I was called to attend a medical with ATOS which went a lot better than I thought as I was lucky that I got a DR who was knowledgeable about the condition – he was really sympathetic and understood the fluctuating nature of the illness.

    Even though he stated that I was not fit to work for at least 2 years I was placed in WRAG – I was very concerned as were my family as I had had recent relapses.

    We decided to appeal the decision. CAB were snowed under with appeals for ESA so we found an excellent website ‘Benefits and Work’ which was well worth the subscription. Along with Tony Britton’s post and all other’s this was great guidance. I had some excellent support from the ME Association too in the form off leaflets and articles and from Charles which was much appreciated.

    We posted off the GL24 appeal form along with the supporting letter stating why I thought the decision was wrong. We waited. Today I have news. The decision has been looked at again and I am now in the Support Group for 2 years.

    To say I am relieved is an understatement. If I would have been forced to do consistent hours of any activity – let alone work – I would have suffered greatly and been at serious risk of a major relapse – something that I haven’t got the strength to pull myself back from. My husband, family and friends are relieved of their worry too.

    A good outcome – the right outcome which I am glad I persued.

  11. hi i’m new to the site.
    i’ve been suffering with ME for 20+ years now after being diagnosed whilst living in Spain.
    i have been back in the UK for 8 years & have to claim ESA which has just been stopped again because i was examined very unprofessionally by a nurse at my work capability assessment, she was not in any nursing uniform & frankly was more interested in not breaking a nail whilst typing than paying full attention to me, the patient.
    she has basically paid me no head when i have hobbled in to her office on my walking stick & my 61 year old Mother’s arm & i am really disgusted & feel livid at how i have been treated by a Government appointed health care professional who clearly did not have any clue about me long term condition & had obviously never done any research on the subject & has awarded me 0 points even though most days i need a walking stick, need somebody with me when i’m having a wobbly day, i’m in constant pain, i am tired out virtually all the time & feel like poop.
    my own GP has never been consulted regarding my condition even though he sees me on a monthly basis.
    i had to write an appeal & go to the jobcentre yesterday to have them fax it to the ESA office to be looked at by some potentially bore decision maker when it should never have even got to this when i have already been diagnosed & am clearly ill.
    i imagine that i am not the only person to be treated this way by ATOS health care & if my appeal does not work to get me the benefit i need seeing a i can not physically do a mainstream job & therefore need Goernment benefits just to pay the rent & bills, can anybody on this site give me some clue as to what i can do to get heard & helped or does anybody know of an organisation or company who are happy to hire people for part time hours in an office environment (sat down) so i can at least support myself, as i hate being DSS & if i could just find work where the boss was understanding i could still wok & rest because i may be seriously sick & unable to get better but i’m not going to just throw my hands up & say ok disease, you win.

  12. I found the guide leaflet (booklet) for filling in the ESA 50 form very helpful.

    I have just been diagonised with ME/CFS . I went to the first group session and it fitted like a hat.

    I have just completed the esa form. Took a long time. Been to the WCA’s before, but I feel more confident this time with all the examples I can give them.

    I did go the job centre and had to look for work in may. But after three months I crashed. I wont go into details, but I am still recovering. So thankful for all the M.E. Association have done. I totally understand my condition and I do know what is happening to me and why.

    Not posting the form until mid week. Then will take it as it comes.


  13. I had my medical on 24 the Feb and still waiting on news while my friend went for a re-assesssment a week after me and got put off today so is this good news for me anyone? The time taken and my friend going after me and hearing before me? I also phoned up and they said the DM is 1/2 way through my file but no result yet so is this good news anyone? Thanks

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