An enquiry from one of our members caused advice to be sought from Wordshop, the service to advise on state benefits that NARPO has a contract with, and the query and reply are shown below in order to assist members who may have a similar query.


ESA – Support Group Roll over from Incapacity Benefit

In 2001 the DWP changed the rules of Incapacity Benefit to take account of occupational and personal pensions – in effect a form of ‘means testing.’ Anyone on the Benefit prior to the change stayed on it whatever the size of their pension, provided that they continued to satisfy the medical conditions (Descriptors etc.) These claimants are currently being reassessed for ESA & a decision is made as to whether they qualify to be included in the Work-related Activity Group or the Support Group. I have heard that even if one is put onto a Support Group after 12 months the form of ‘means testing’ described above will apply even to those who have received Incapacity Benefit continuously prior to the change in 2001. I would be obliged if you will clarify the situation for me, please



I've highlighted (in italics) the part of your query which needs clarification. Although there is a rule that applies to those who claimed Incapacity Benefit before 6 April 2001, this isn't connected in any way to whether a claimant is placed in the Support Group or the Work Related Activity Group – the income rule and the group placement are two separate issues which impact on each other.  Contribution based ESA in the Work-Related Activity Group is always time limited to 365 days. After 365 days, the claimant is tested to see if they could be moved on to Income related ESA (which is not time limited, but is means-tested). In most cases where NARPO members are concerned, their Police pension rules them out of the means test, so after 365 days they won't receive any payment of ESA if they were in the Work Related Activity Group. If they were in the Support Group and receiving Contributory ESA, the payment of ESA continues for as long as they meet the assessment criteria.  With regards to pension income, as a general rule, if the member had their pension income disregarded in full before the date they were transferred to ESA from Incapacity Benefit, it will continue to be disregarded. The main reason it was disregarded in the first place is that they were receiving IB before 6 April 2001, when a rule change introduced the reduction for those receiving pension income.  So if, for example, you were receiving Incapacity Benefit since 1998 (and your Police pension was disregarded), then you were moved onto Contribution based ESA and were placed in the Work Related Activity Group, your Police pension would continue to be ignored, but you would only be able to receive up to 365 days' payment of ESA, as you were placed in the Work Related Activity Group. Once the 365 days are over, the DWP applies a means test to you, but because your Police pension is above a set amount, the means test disqualifies you from receiving any further ESA and your benefit stops.  Alternatively – the above applies, with the exception that you are placed in the Support Group. This means that both your income is ignored and you are not time-limited for ESA (although periodic assessments will still be carried out to check you still meet the health criteria for the Support Group).  Now, if you had been getting Incapacity Benefit since 2007, and having a reduction applied to the IB for your pension income, the reduction would still apply under Contribution based ESA – regardless of whether you are in the Support Group or Work Related Activity Group. The time limit would also still apply in the usual way.  I hope this explanation helps – it is, unfortunately, very confusing! Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any further questions. 


[Members are reminded that Wordshop can be contacted by e-mail or traditional letter for advice on state benefits and contact details are always shown in the current issue of NARPO News.  (We are not giving them here as they may change or be enhanced to iclude telephone calls.)  They will require your Membership No. in the letter or e-mail.]