Will I qualify for ESA?

Good morning all. This is my very first post; I've been a lurker for a few months now but really could do with some important advice. Apologies in advance if it is a bit long-winded or if I waffle on!

I was given my official diagnosis of fibromyalgia in July this year and have been off work since 4th June 2015 (I am employed as a Support Secretary for the NHS). As a result of this illness, my life has changed immensely and because I haven't been able to go out with friends socially, I seem to have been dropped like a hot potato, most hurtfully by my "best friend". This has led to resentment and upset and plunged me into a deep depression. It's bad enough as it is to have to cope with everything fibro throws at you, but to be deserted by your friends has left me in a place of despair. All my family live in Manchester and I'm here alone in Sheffield. I don't go out of my flat for days on end because of fatigue, pain and depression. I am also due to be summoned to work for my first formal meeting next week, and I am shaking with anxiety. My quandary is that I want to hand my notice in on health grounds as I cannot give them an answer when I'll be better enough to return to work. It is also for their benefit that I resign so that they can advertise for a new Support Secretary and because they are currently swamped with work without me, the guilt makes my depression worse. I phoned up the DWP last week to ask them if I were to resign from my job on health grounds, would I qualify for ESA or would I be refused because I resigned from a job willingly. I was told that if I resign on health grounds I would qualify for ESA but not for Job Seekers. I'm tempted to phone them back again to get a second opinion because I am terrified that if I resign and apply for ESA, I'll be told I cannot get any money because I gave my job up willingly. Can anyone please help me if you have had a similar experience and if the information I have been given by the DWP is correct. I don't want to see a future on benefits at all, but I know that for the foreseeable future, I won't be returning to employment soon. Thank you.

22 Replies

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  • Hi there Jaycee, and welcome to the forum from out of the shadows - I too lurked before joining in, I think many do, which is quite a good idea so you can get an idea of how the forum is going to work for you 😀

    If I was in your position I would go along with what the DWP have already told you, I know for a fact that you wouldn't qualify immediately for job seekers allowance, but that would kick in after (I think, I may be wrong) six weeks. Yes you can apply for ESA, but it will take some time for that to be processed and whether you get into the support group or put into the work and related activity group, I feel it may be some time before you actually get financial support though I know there is something called the "Hardship Fund" which one can apply for.

    Could I suggest that you take a look at our mother site fmauk.org where you will be able to access some more Information on benefits or speak to your local CAB who are completely up to speed with all the benefit information.

    Wishing you the very best and sending lots of positive vibes😀

    Foggy x

  • Hi Foggy, thank you for the welcome and for your reply. I joined the site you suggested and hope to get some further help from there. It would seem that the CAB is my best route right now so I'll have to see if I can get in to see them or perhaps get the info I need over the phone.

    Thanks again,

    Jan x

  • I think that's a very good move Jan, they really do have all the information you will need to help you. 👍🏻👍🏻

    Lots of positive vibes coming your way 😀

    Foggy x

  • Hi Jaycee and welcome to the site. I was paid off work through sickness in 2010. I was struggling to do my job but did not have a diagnoses then. On the day I was paid off they told me that if I would come back to work within 2 weeks that they would keep me on. ( I was a damn good worker and they knew that). However, I felt I was being badgered into coming back even though I told them I was struggling with my health both physically and mentally and had a lot of family problems ie, my marriage was falling apart and my daughter was suicidal etc, so I stood my ground because there was no way i could return. I refused to commit to a return to work and so they paid me off. I felt so alone and very intimidated by them as i wasnt told that i should have had a union rep with me. In the end they did acknowledge my long and complaint free working history and told me I could re-apply again in the future. After that I applied for contribution based ESA and it took quite a while to get payments off them. When i t came to the medical assessment I got zero points and had to start a new claim etc and so the ESA cycle continued. You really do need to see a CAB advisor before you do anything else. I wish you the very best of luck x

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post and for your honesty in your experience. I wish now that I had joined the union when I was made permanent in March this year, but I didn't. When I attended my informal meeting and occupational health appointments recently, I had no one to accompany me and that will be the case when I have my first formal stage one next week. The CAB route does sound like the best option though, thanks again x

  • Hi sorry to hear about y our predicament. I will tell you my situation and hope you can glean some info from this. I was diagnosed with ME in 2010 and recently fibro this year. I also worked as a midwife for the NHS for 8 years but had a lot of sick leave since 2010 because of my conditions. I went down the formal route of informal meetings, then first formal etc. because of the nature of these illnesses I battled on with some improvement at times but eventually it all became too much. I went off sick on 6/3/2014 and ended up having a formal again then proceeded to second formal. I took a union rep with me who was great. I had a lot of medical evidence and went to see the occ health doctor who agreed the work was too stressful and physical and recommended I apply for Ill health retirement. I went down this route first starting the paperwork in Dec 2014 and in Feb this year I was awarded a tier 2 on health grounds. When my sick pay ran out last September I applied for ESA and was awarded it initially on National Insurance contributions for 1 year. Then in July I went for a medical and have just been put in support group but I have had a lot of hassle to get it (see my posts last week) As you live on your own, I presume you may well qualify on income levels. The point I want to make is I would not hand your notice in. This is what the NHS want. They should refer you to occ health. Take any medical evidence with you. Have you been given a copy of the sickenss policy, your manager should do this. Keep all correspondance you have. Everymeeting you have should be documented.As you have a debilitating condition which fluctuates daily, you may wish to explore the IHR option. Can you get a union rep? YOu are only at first formal stage so you have some time to think this over. I totally understand about the guilt thing, I beat myself up all the time feeling I was letting people down but believe me at the end of the day you have to look after yourself and your financial situation.

    Please don't make any rash decisions, I do understand how stressful it is, but you have to be selfish and think of yourself in this situation. Do you have a supportive GP?

    Sorry to waffle . If I can help further please let me know.

    Hugs

    Jo x

  • Jaycee, sorry I meant to also say I understand about the hurt you feel regarding your friends. Could you try talking to your best friend and explaining the situation? I have found our the hard way through all this that those you thought were real friends were not in fact. My social circle has dwindled a lot, but I don't beat myself up any more. The way I try to look at it is that it is their loss!

    Hugs

    JO x

  • Thanks for all your advice Jo, I appreciate the effort you went through to give your experience. It is the hardest thing to do to keep yourself employed but having to hand in further sick notes and it would be far easier, to me and my mental health, to just resign. It's a vicious cycle; the anxiety of my work situation has me in frequent flares and my depression at its worst which then makes it even harder to focus on getting better to return to work. If I'm honest, I want to resign too as I'm so alone in Sheffield and want to return home to Manchester where all my family are. I feel I've dug myself a huge mental crater and can only see a way out of it by way of resignation. My "best friend" has already had the heart to heart chat a couple of months ago and I explained to her how reclusive I become when I'm depressed and I had hoped she would take that on board and touch base with me frequently or offer to help me in any way, knowing I'm on my own, however, it's like that chat went in one ear and out the other....I just give up. Before I became ill I was by her side, caring and helpful any way I could and now I need someone there for me, she couldn't care less. So I'm bitter, so angry in fact that I cannot bring myself to tell her how I feel.

    Sorry for my negativity, I'm attending my first counseling appointment tomorrow in the hope I can get some help with my negative mood. But thank you for your help.

    Jan x

  • Oh Jan I can hear your pain and I wish I could offer some hope. I understand your thoughts truly. Could you get your gp to sign you off for a longer period so you could spend some time with your family? Is it worth speaking to a union rep?

    Jo x

  • Hi I went off work jan 30 last year for 2 weeks complete rest and never went back ,I worked for a national retailer ,the advise I got from here was at least the time do not resign ,do not be intimidated to resign ,you won't get benefits for 16 weeks if you do ,the NHS has procedures like any company ,they have to follow ,let them follow them if you have union rep get in touch with them this is important you need represtation

    Do not let them put you on a guilt trip ,your not well they can get a temp in ,they do it with nurses they can do it for your job to, now they can out and visit you at home tell them that's what you need you are not well , please don't resign that is important.

    Your friends most of us have been where you have been ,you will really find out who are true friends and believe me you will make new ones , I hardly saw anybody for the first 4 months I was off how I survived I don't know but I had my youngest in uni who would come home to check on me ,and by Easter one of her friends parents found out how ill I was and got on to social services they will come out and asses you and put you in touch with agency's to help local to you befriend as who help with things like shopping and bed changing etc ,so can I suggest

    1. Ring Union

    2 . Ring social services ask for adult section and self refer

    3. See GP ask if you can go to a pain and fatigue clinic .

    The latter will help you to pace ,and except it will also let you meet other suffers and you will get support that way to ,

    4. You may have a fibro group in your area ,this to might help ,

    5. Disability advocate .they can help with support and agency's to help you to

    6. CAB can also offer support .

    7. There is us lot , there is always someone about here ,people pop in and out all the time ,I slept for most of 2014 ,and have been awake for most of 2015 , so you will find during the day there's lots here from UK and after midnight you find lovely people from the states ,you'll make new friend , can I also ask if you have a pet ,I have 2 dogs they give me reason to get up every day , I can't walk them anymore but I now have two dog walkers ,that was organised by our local community support group .

    Good luck I hope I have helped I expect our Emma will be on to you soon with advise about benifts ,she's really helpful ,

    Take things slowly you need to put you first now go slowly don't stress ,just except you can't and try not to get to upset about your friends some will come back ,but some won't ,just feel sorry for them .

    Ps ex husband works for NHS so I do know what they are like as an employer .

    Take things easy rest and try not to worry be kind and gentle with yourself

    Take care

    Shadow xx

  • Just read your reply about not in Union you should still Be a able to take representative suggested you ring ACAS . They will give you employment law ,check your employment manuel. Should say you can take in a member of staff with you , then have a think who you know from work that would be beneficial to help and see if you can leave message asking if they can ring you Asap ,good luck.

    Shadow x

  • Ps I followed procedures I let them let me go due to ill health , and I get ESA with disability ,you can apply for blue badge , if you rent social services can help with equipment to help in home at no cost to you ,

    You will need help to claime PIP get CAB to help with that or disability advocate ,don't fill it out yourself and make a copy of any forms you fill out , remember you don't have good days you only have worse and really worse when you get form but get cab or advocate first that was my mistake and it has cost me with my stress levels big time .

    I take it if you do go out you get tired very quickly do you use a stick for balance if you do make sure you include that in any statements you make I forgot that to ,

    Shadow.

  • Sorry me again just bit about your family being in Manchester ,my daughter the eldest works in a big city and is off work with stress she has decided to come home to stay with me until she feels better to cut short a long story, she has seen my GP and he's now done her a sick note and she is moving home she is doing a redirect on mail and letting her flat go and not informing her employers yet until she decides what she is going to do she may leave her job eventually or they may let her go but she is not well enough to work ,she has somewhere else to live when she's ready to return to work I might add ,she was assaulted by a male in her company and although he was cautioned he has been harassing her and company has no domestic abuse policy so she is not in a good place and needs her mum . I am not suggesting you follow suit but could you not go home in between sick notes for support from your family ?

    Shadow.

  • Welcome to the forum and it is wonderful to make your acquaintance. I am so sorry to read of what you are going through and I sincerely hope that you qualify for ESA. I can see that you have been given some wonderful advice so I will just wish you all the best of luck.

    All my hopes and dreams for you

    Ken

  • Sorry Ken was on a roll , have you been star gazing ,been outside on sun lounger for an hour but toes got cold ,tea blanket and torch and very bemused dogs ,will remember socks tomorrow night 😜

  • You gave a fantastic reply to this post my friend.

    I have been having a little look but I have had visitors earlier x

  • Thank you kind sir ,I suppose as I have not long gone through all this and still in middle of pip it's still fresh ,and I don't won't friends here to make my mistakes so if we learn from each other that's good .

    I have had a go at propegating some plants yesterday abbi's bedroom sill is like a mini green house . Wonderful use for sandwich bags.

    There is a down side to planting so many plants though I am spending hours dead heading and I only have a little garden 😳

  • Dead heading is a real chore as I find getting down to them a real issue, albeit an enjoyable chore.

    I always genuinely hope that every member on here can achieve their benefits, as we are all genuinely ill x

  • I was in a very similar situation as you 3 months ago when I decided that I had to quit my job because of my health reasons (my mobility got really bad)

    You do qualify for ESA if you leave for health reasons.

    It was scary leaving my job and not knowing when my first benefits would arrive into my bank account but I have been pleasantly surprised by the benefit system. My first payment of basic contribution based ESA arrived after just 2 weeks after applying (still waiting for the assessment), housing benefit arrived after 4 weeks and I had my PIP assessment after 6 weeks and the money including backpay a few days later. It was a lot of paperwork to fill in but it was worth it.

    I wish you lots of wisdom making the right decision for you. Look after youself

  • I suggest you get some professional advice be that CAB or if you have the money an employment lawyer and find out exactly what you options are rather than just accept the situation on your own and then later find yourself in an alley with no easy way out !

  • Bit of a minefield all this ESA stuff. I'm on contribution based ESA and am in the Support group. I applied for this when SSP stopped after 26 weeks. During that time I successfully achieved ill health retirement at Tier 1. Unfortunately with ESA, this is reduced if in receipt of occupational pension and of course contributions based is taxable - a double whammy! With the Tories now given free reign to dismantle welfare I don't doubt they'll try to take me off ESA if they can. It's enough just coping with worsening health without worrying about financial security. This site is wonderfully supportive and informative, also thankfully the Internet provides loads of info. I research and check benefit issues and health issues all the time. Need to be aware and informed. I read that 'sick notes' are not required when in Support group but this wasn't mentioned in my ESA letters. My GP issues them for 13 weeks each time, I decided I would send them to Jobseekers Plus until categorically told otherwise. Plus, this evidences my ongoing health difficulties.

  • Hi,

    On employment please do not be intimidated into resigning your rights come first. You need to get expert employment advice on this. I was on the sick for 8 months, before being laid off and part of that process was that I slid into ESA before employment ended, being paid part wage, part ESA, and then continued without a break into full payment ESA. If I were not working for this particular position, and had a proper diagnosis I could have been allocated medical retirement. The other thing is that there are disability laws protecting employees.

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