Advice column – employment support allowance

Thursday 4 August 2016

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on appealing an Employment and Support Allowance decision.

I have had my application for Employment and Support Allowance turned down by the Department for Work and Pensions. I am very upset about this. What can I do to appeal the decision?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who find it difficult to work because of an illness, health condition or disability. So far this year we have seen a 50% increase in enquiries about ESA.

You can challenge most decisions made by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about your ESA. There are 2 steps to challenging a decision.

  1. You must firstly ask the DWP to look at the decision again. This is called a ‘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.

The deadline to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of any decision from the DWP is one month from the date of their decision letter. If your request is late you will have to show that you have a good reason for it being late, e.g. you were in hospital.

You don’t have to use any particular form to ask for a mandatory reconsideration – you can telephone or write a letter, using the contact details on your decision letter.

It’s better to ask for a mandatory reconsideration in writing because then you can keep a copy of your letter. However, if you’re getting close to the deadline, it’s best to telephone first and then confirm the call in writing.

You might feel that you’ve already given the 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 mandatory 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.

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 the DWP more information about those specific points where you disagree with them
  • get more medical evidence that covers these points

In your letter you should also ask for a copy of your medical assessment, if you haven’t asked already

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.

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.

For more information and advice go to or telephone Citizens Advice Exeter on 03444 111 444.

Look out for our column next week when we focus on the decision to leave the European Union.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date version, please visit the Adviceguide website at