One of the ME Association's most sought-after guides – the one that helps you complete the complicated application for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – is back on sale after a complete re-write.
It now takes into account all the changes introduced in April by the Department for Work and Pensions in what they call their “ESA50 04/17” form, which is the only way people can claim this benefit for people of working age.
You'll never get rich claiming ESA but it’s a payment you could get every two weeks to help with living costs. To qualify, you must have an illness, health conditions or disability that makes it difficult or impossible to work.
“So far, very few charities have produced their own guide to claiming this benefit. We're now one of the few that has managed to catch up with the changes to the wording and guidance on the DWP's own form”, said Tony Britton, who finished the rewrite after retiring as the MEA's PR and communication's executive at the end of May.
“For many people with M.E, the challenge of just facing up to this DWP form can be hugely daunting and scary. But you've got to be prepared to get stuck in and do a little bit every day to have any chance of success”, said Tony.
“Even if you've done a great job, your application can go pear-shaped if you have an unhelpful or – let's be blunt about it – a botch up of a medical assessment. So be prepared for the long haul to an appeal, where there's a high probability of success, but hope it never has to get to that.”
The MEA Guide should be read even before you request an application from the DWP or from Jobcentre Plus. This will help you get in the right frame of mind to fill in the form when it arrives.
Tony added: “One big improvement to the ESA50 04/17 form is that, for the first time, the following statement appears on every page when people are being questioned about their abilities: ‘Only answer yes to the following questions if you can do the activity safely, to an acceptable standard as often as you need to and in a reasonable length of time.'
“The MEA was one of several organisations that pressured DWP working parties for many years for prominence to be given to such a statement. It's hugely important as it recognises that people with fluctuating conditions such as ME/CFS need special consideration.”
“Our guide shows how claimants can approach this new opportunity. Please make the most of it.”