Challenging an ESA decision
You can challenge most decisions made by DWP about your ESA including:
- not getting ESA
- being put in the work-related activity group and not the support group
- getting a sanction
There are 2 steps to challenging a decision.
1. You must ask DWP to look at the decision again. This is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’.
2. If you still disagree after the mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. You can’t appeal to a tribunal until you have the result of a mandatory reconsideration in writing from the DWP.
How to ask for mandatory reconsideration
You don’t have to use any particular government form to ask for mandatory reconsideration - you can just call or write a letter, using the contact details on your decision letter.
It’s better to ask in writing because then you can keep a copy of your letter for yourself. However, if you're getting close to the deadline, it's best to phone first and then confirm your phone call in writing.
The deadline to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of any decision from the DWP is one month from the date on their decision letter. You can only send a late request if you can show that you have a good reason for it being late, eg you were in hospital.
You might feel that you’ve already given DWP all the information about your disability or illness, and be surprised or angry with their decision.
Don’t be put off by this – if you believe you really can’t work because of your illness or disability, you should ask for a reconsideration. If you don't pass the assessment initially it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t succeed with your case further down the line.
What to say in your letter
In your letter, explain why you disagree with the decision.
Your decision letter from the DWP should have included a written statement explaining the reasons for the DWP’s decision.
Go through the statement of reasons and try to:
- give DWP more information about those specific points where you disagree with them
- get more medical evidence that covers these points
Your decision letter might say you scored no points for difficulty with mobilising, but your written statement of reasons will probably give more detail. For example it could say that they accept you can’t walk more than 200 metres, but that they don’t accept you can’t walk more than 50 metres. You should get more medical evidence on this point to show you can't walk more than 50 metres.
You should also ask for a copy of your medical assessment report in your letter, if you haven’t asked already.
You could get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice, but you’ll need to do this straight away because some Citizens Advice have long waiting times for appointments.
Post your letter by recorded delivery or ask for a proof of postage at the Post Office and keep the receipt. This can help you later if the DWP says you haven’t met the deadline or if the letter gets lost.
If you didn’t get a statement of reasons
If your letter says you can ask for a statement of reasons, then you should ask for it - phone the number on the decision letter to do this. You'll have one month to make this request but you should do it as soon as possible.
If you ask the DWP for a written statement of reasons, you should get some extra time to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Your letter with the statement of reasons should tell you your new deadline.
Because you usually have to ask for your written statement of reasons over the phone, make sure you make a note of who you spoke to and when.
Getting more medical evidence
It’s important to get more medical evidence to support your case. This will help the DWP understand more about how your condition affects you.
Your GP or a consultant may have already written a simple letter about you, but this might not have been enough information about your condition. You can ask them to send more detailed evidence about you now, including information on how your condition affects your ability to work.
Your doctor might charge you to provide extra evidence.
If you can’t get this evidence within your one month deadline, don’t worry - you can always send it in later. But you must make sure you at least send your request for a mandatory reconsideration on time.
If you’re running out of time
If you think you might miss the deadline for asking for a mandatory reconsideration, you can ask for it over the phone. The number to call will be in your decision letter. Make a note of date and time and the person you’ve spoken to, and send a letter to confirm this as soon as you can.
If you miss the deadline
If you disagree with the DWP decision, but you didn’t ask for mandatory reconsideration within one month of the decision, you can sometimes ask to be given extra time.
You need to have a really good reason for why you missed the deadline, for example if you were seriously ill or in hospital, coping with a bereavement or had an emergency at home.
Write to the DWP explaining why you didn’t meet the original deadline. They will decide whether or not they’ll accept your late request for a reconsideration.
The longest you could have is 12 months from the end of your first deadline. The DWP are very unlikely to accept any later requests. The longer the delay, the more difficult it is to justify it to the DWP. If you need to make a late request, it might be best to get advice from your local Citizens Advice.
How the decision is reconsidered and how long it takes
It will usually be a person at DWP (called a decision-maker) who reconsiders the decision. They might call you to see if you have anything further to add, or if you can give more evidence.
You’ll have one month from when they call to send in this additional evidence. If you don’t, they’ll go ahead and make their decision based on what they already have.
The DWP say they take as long as necessary to complete a mandatory reconsideration. This could be as little as 14 days in simple cases, but it can also take much longer.
Getting the result of your reconsideration
The DWP will write to you and tell you whether they’ve changed their decision, or whether the original decision still stands. The letter they send you is known as a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
If they’ve changed the original decision, you’ll get a backdated payment of ESA, going back to the date of the original decision.
If you’re still not happy with their decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. Your decision letter will include information about how to appeal.
You could get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice, but you’ll need to do this straight away as some Citizens Advice have long waiting times for appointments.