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Brits still confused by sickness benefit entitlement

14th December 2012 Print

New research from Zurich shows that the majority of UK adults are unaware of the limited financial support available to them if they become unable to work through illness or disability.

As part of the ICM survey (commissioned by ‘The Syndicate' on behalf of insurers) exploring peoples knowledge of benefits, Zurich asked ‘What constitutes a typical claim period for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?' - a state benefit available to qualifying adults regardless of their employment status.  

Worryingly, over a third of respondents (38%), said they had no idea about how long they were able to claim ESA benefit.  The findings also show that just over a fifth (22%) thought they were entitled to claim for between 4-6 months. Less than a fifth of those surveyed (16%) gave the correct answer of between 9-12 months.  Other responses varied widely, ranging from less than one month to over two years, although only 8% had an expectation of State ESA support beyond 2 years. The report will be launched in full on 23 January 2013.  

Nick Homer, Zurich UK Life's Protection Manager said:  "It's encouraging to see a shift in public opinion with few people now having an expectation of long term State support, however there remains great confusion amongst the public regarding the level of State benefit provision for those who are unable to work as a result of illness or injury. Regrettably, this clouds the important message regarding the need for private provision.

"As an industry we have a role to play encouraging more people to take responsibility for their financial planning.  At Zurich, we remain committed to helping people make provision for themselves and their families - whether through their workplace or through their own private arrangements - should the worst happen.  

Kevin Carr, CEO, Protection Review added: "With ongoing reductions in Government benefits we are seeing a huge transfer of risk from Governments and large corporations onto individuals and it is important for consumers to act themselves to protect the one thing that pays for everything else, which is their income."

ESA was introduced in 2008 and replaces a range of incapacity benefits. Following the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) period the government pays basic ESA allowance for 13 weeks while applicants are assessed.  After the 13 week assessment phase eligible applicants are put into one of two groups.  One is for people who are able to work (Work Related Activity Group) and another for those whose illness or disability severely limits what they can do (Support Group).