Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in NI

Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance is paid to eligible people who cannot work because of illness or disability.

Please note that from 27th October 2008 Employment and Support Allowance has replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds, for new customers.

For further information please contact the Department for Social Development (Social Security section)  or telephone 0800 085 6318 from the north, or 0044800 085 6318 from the south.

Cross-border issues

Living South, Working North

When a cross border worker becomes ill they usually claim illness benefit in the country of last insured employment (e.g. where they paid PRSI or National Insurance). Therefore workers, living South and working North, requiring illness benefit will apply for ESA from Northern Ireland, based on their National Insurance contributions.

Sometimes mistakes happen and the claim is limited to one year – make sure to appeal if this happens as it is incorrect!

Key things to know:

  • The cross-border claim for ESA is forwarded to England to be processed by the International Pension Centre in Newcastle
  • If the contributions have been paid in Northern Ireland, the ESA claim is paid based on Northern Ireland rules – which does not include a 365 day limit
  • Unfortunately there was no clear system in Newcastle to identify where contributions had been paid, so sometimes the UK limit of 365 days was incorrectly applied. This resulted in workers (incorrectly) receiving letters stating the contributions based ESA was about to stop and that they would instead be means-tested.
  • The International Pension Centre has now put in place new processes to ensure no new cases are treated incorrectly

Please visit – Employment and Support Allowance – eligibility

Moving across the border

If you go to live across the border or elsewhere in Europe you may be entitled to take some of your long term illness benefit with you as long as you continue to fulfil the medical conditions for getting it.

For example: the amount of Employment and Support Allowance you receive depends on your income and also on your social insurance contributions (National Insurance or PRSI).  If you move across the border you can continue to receive the contribution-based portion.  In very exceptional circumstances you may also be permitted to receive the income-based portion e.g. if you need medical treatment abroad.

It is very important to obtain confirmation from the Department for Social Development (Social Security section) before you move.

Please visit – Taking disability benefits to other European countries

See also

Page last checked: March 2016

This webpage is for general information purposes only and while we endeavour to keep it up-to-date, errors may occur.  It is very important that you check with the relevant body to ensure the information is current and is applicable to your situation: – North /  South

If you would like to suggest amendments or highlight new information that could be useful to others please don’t hesitate to get in touch.