As part of the assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will be asked to complete the ‘capability for work questionnaire’ which is also known as the ESA50. Here is some information about filling in the ESA50.

This information is intended to be used along side our information about ESA criteria and the ESA assessment process. The page numbers on this page refer to the electronic version of the ESA50 form, which was updated in April 2015.

Here we use the term ‘autism’ to include all of the autism spectrum, including Asperger syndrome

General tips for filling in the ESA50

  1. Understand the criteria. The ESA50 is part of the assessment called the ‘work capability assessment’. This assessment is points based. You have to score 15 points to pass and be entitled to ESA. Start by looking at the criteria and identifying which points you should score. This helps you to understand what information is relevant to include in the ESA50.
  2. Complete the ESA50 as if the person reading it has never heard of autism or Asperger syndrome. Unfortunately you cannot assume that they will have an understanding.  
  3. Complete the ESA50 as if the person reading has no previous knowledge of you. For example, they do not generally have access to the information that you may have provided for previous benefit claims or assessments such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, or the information provided for a previous ESA assessment or Incapacity Benefit claim. 
  4. Get help. Get advice from a welfare rights adviser if possible. Advice centres, law centres, local authority welfare rights teams or Citizens Advice Bureaux are often able to provider welfare rights advice. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to help with the form. Without help it is very difficult for anyone to have enough insight into their own condition to complete the form well. 
  5. Provide as much detail and as many examples as you can. 
  6. Be honest about the difficulties that you have. Filling in these forms can be a difficult and negative process but it is important to explain your difficulties and the help that you need as accurately as possible.


The questions

Page 3

This page asks for details of your GP and any other professionals who support you. Despite asking for this information it is rare for ESA to contact these professionals. If you want ESA to have information from these professionals you would need to obtain the information and send it to the ESA office yourself.

Page 5

On this page, list all of your conditions and health problems. As well as autism, tell them if you also have other difficulties, for example anxiety or depression. Also tell them about any other health problems that you have.

If you do not yet have a formal diagnosis of autism, then explain what stage in the diagnosis process you are at. You do not have to have a formal diagnosis to claim ESA.

Pages 7-12

The questions numbered 1 through to 10 on pages 7 to 12 are about physical disability, hearing and visual impairments and fits and blackouts. Many people with autism who do not also have another condition will not score any points under these physical descriptors, so do not worry if none of these questions are relevant to you. It is absolutely possible to score enough points under the non-physical descriptors. If you have epilepsy or fits, seizures or absences of any kind you should explain these in question 10.

Pages 12- 16

The questions numbered 11-17 on pages 12 to 16 are the ones that are likely to be relevant for a person with autism. These are the ones you should focus on. You will see that the numbers of the questions correspond to the numbers in our information about ESA criteria (because both use the numbering from the law). Look back at the scores you gave yourself when you looked at the criteria: this should show you which questions you should score points under. These are the ones to focus on.

Remember that the questions are asking about your ability to do the activity in question safely, reliably and without help or supervision. For example if you do travel to unfamiliar places, but this often results in you getting lost or getting into trouble, you are not doing it safely or reliably. For each question explain the difficulty you have in that area and the help you need. Prompting, reminding and supervising count as help. Don’t just tick the boxes, try to explain and give examples of your difficulties.  

Page 16

This page asks for a phone number. If you cannot cope with people ringing you, you do not have to provide a phone number. Explain that you do not use the phone that they will need to write to you instead.

Page 17 – Face to face assessment

This page asks about what help you would need if you had to go to a face-to-face assessment. Try to explain what help you need and what difficulty you would have trying to explain how you are affected by autism to a stranger. For example:

  • Would you be able to travel to the assessment centre?
  • Are you likely to be able to organise yourself to attend the assessment centre on time for the appointment?
  • Would you be able to talk to the assessor to answer their questions?
  • Would you need someone with you to help you to understand?
  • Would you need assistance to explain yourself to the assessor?
  • Do you need extra time to process the questions?
  • Do you take things literally and misunderstand things?
  • Do you struggle to understand what people mean?
  • Do you lack insight or understanding of your condition?
  • Do you sometimes say what you think the person wants to hear just so you can get out of the situation as quickly as possible?
  • Do you have some difficulties that you are too embarrassed or worried about to talk about with a stranger?
  • Do you have any sensory sensitivity issues that might affect you at the assessment?
  • Do you need a home visit because you cannot attend an assessment centre?


These are just examples and will not apply to everyone with ASD. Explain anything you can think of that applies to you.

Page 17 - Other information

There is a rule that says a person can be entitled to ESA, even if they do not score 15 points, if there would be a 'substantial risk' to their health (or anyone else’s health) if they were found not to be entitled to ESA.

If you think it would be dangerous for your health if you were refused ESA, explain that here. For example, have you had to stop work in the past because it was making you ill? Would the process of claiming Jobseekers' Allowance be very stressful or bad for your health? 'Health' includes mental and physical health.

Also explain here if attending compulsory 'work-related activity’ would be bad for your mental or physical health. Work-related activity can be things like attending classes or groups where the purpose is to support you to work in the future.

Page 18

If you are claiming ESA on someone else’s behalf as their appointee, you should sign the declaration on this page. An appointee is someone who has been appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions to manage another person’s benefit claims, because that person lacks the capacity to do so themselves.

If you are not the appointee and are just helping someone unofficially then the claimant should sign the declaration, but you can enter your details at the bottom of page 18.

If you are filling the form in for a person with autism because they would not be able to do so themselves, it is OK to complete the form in the third person (for example 'He needs help to...'). There is no need to complete the form in the first person (for example 'I need help to...') if the person is not really filling it in themselves. This might create a false picture of the insight that they have into their condition.


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Last reviewed: 21 December 2015

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