If your application to starting claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has been turned down, or you have recently been told that you will no longer be able to receive payments through the ESA scheme, you have the right to appeal the decision. However, much like every aspect of the welfare system in the UK, the process is highly regulated and must be followed almost to the letter, otherwise your case will not be considered.
Thankfully, the government is forced to be incredibly transparent about the procedures around the appeals process. This includes the time frames involved, as well as the reasoning behind their decisions and what kind of details you will need to provide in order for your appeal to be considered.
Making an ESA appeal
The first step in the reversal of any ESA decision is to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. If this step is not followed, it makes the chances of your appeal being successful incredibly slim – and in most cases, the departments responsible will not consider an appeal that has not asked for a mandatory reconsideration.
To ask for a mandatory reconsideration, all you need to do is send a letter back to the department detailed on your decision letter stating that you would like to decision to be reconsidered, as well as supporting arguments about why you feel that they came to the wrong decision. Any supporting documents should also be included with this letter, in order for the team to accurately assess the situation.
If you have left it more than a month before asking for a mandatory reconsideration, you will need to call the ESA contact number in order to raise the issue with their helpline staff first – they will be able to direct you further on this matter.
Once your appeal has been received, it should be quickly assessed and sent a letter detailing whether you have been successful in your claim. This is referred to either as a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice or as a Written Statement of Reasons, and should outline exactly how the team have come to their decision.
In most cases, this is the final step – but if you still feel as though your case has not been fairly judged, you can attempt to take the matter to tribunal. This decision must be made within one month of your receiving your mandatory reconsideration reply. It is important to note that this ESA tribunal is independent of the UK government, and should be able to fairly assess whether the decision was correct.
This escalation to appeal should normally be done on an SSCS1 form, along with a photocopy of your mandatory reconsideration notice. You should also note whether you would like the matter to be solved in a meeting, or done through an assessment of all the available documentation without outside intervention.
If you do choose to go to a hearing with your ESA appeal, you must state whether you need any special arrangements made – such as needing an interpreter, a representative, whether you need special arrangements due to health or disability or whether there are certain days that you will be unable to make.
Late tribunal appeals
Although you are normally unable to appeal a decision through tribunal unless you have raised the matter within a month, there are extenuating circumstances through which the panel will consider things up to 13 months after the original decision date. In most cases, this will only be if you fit within the following criteria:
- If you were ill or in hospital during that month, and therefore unable to raise the matter to tribunal
- If you were coping with a loss or bereavement
- If there were outside circumstances, such as a postal strike, which made it impossible for you to send in documentation
In these cases, the ESA will be contacted in order to contend the late appeal – with the tribunal team then deciding whether to hear the appeal.
ESA appeal tribunal
Once you have logged your wish for a tribunal to assess your appeal, the ESA team will be alerted and given the chance to respond directly to you – and this documentation should be brought to the hearing. You will be sent information about the hearing date at around the same time, as well as the location of the tribunal (normally the nearest suitable venue to your registered address). You will then be required to send all necessary documentation and evidence to the tribunal team as soon as possible in order for them to assess matters.
During the appeal (if done in person), anyone that you have brought with you in order to support your case may be asked questions pertaining to your circumstances or the appeal itself. This will generally be asked by the necessary legal representatives, the ESA team themselves, the expert panel who will judge the case or the judge themselves.
You should be given your decision both on the day and later, through the post. If you are still unhappy, there are two separate courses of action which you may be able to take – getting the decision ‘set aside’ or ask for it to referred to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber.
Having an appeal ‘set aside’
A decision can only be ‘set aside’ if there has been a mistake made by the ESA team or the tribunal during the process that makes their findings nul and void. This must be done through the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who can advise on the entire scheme and walk you through this aspect of the appeal.
Escalating your appeal to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber
If you think that the decision was reached incorrectly due to legal reasons, you are entitled to escalate the matter to the Upper Tribunal (also know as the Administrative Appeals Chamber). This is only applicable in very specific cases, such as if the expert panel didn’t give accurate or proper reasons for their decision, or provide factual evidence to support their claims – as well as for cases where the law was applied incorrectly.
Again, this process can be aided by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, but will require you to undergo certain steps. The first is to make sure that you have the written reasons for the decision from the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal on why you were not allowed to claim ESA – this can be done by writing to them. In this letter, you need to ask for permission to speak to the Upper Tribunal team. If this is rejected, you can go directly to the Upper Tribunal team for them to allow you to appeal the decision themselves.
Claiming expenses for an ESA appeal
In most cases, you should be able to claim back money spent on travel, food, loss of earnings and care expenses for issues arising during your appeal. Receipts must be kept, and will be documented by a member of staff at the day of the tribunal. You will either be told on the day or via post if your application for repayment of expenses has been successful.