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Challenging an Employment and Support Allowance Decision - Ask for an explanation

This guide takes you through your options if you think an Employment and Support Allowance decision is wrong

Ask for an explanation

You don’t have to ask for an explanation of the decision. However, you may want to if the reasons were not provided with the decision letter and you are unsure whether the decision is right, or you want more information to help you challenge the decision.

Some of the reasons why you may be refused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA):

  • You did not attend a medical assessment when asked to do so (without good cause)

  • You did not return a completed ‘Limited Capability for Work questionnaire’ (ESA50) in time (without good cause)

  • You have not passed the Limited Capability for Work Assessment.

If you have not passed the Limited Capability for Work Assessment, you can ask for a copy of the medical assessment report providing details of the points you were awarded.


Contact the benefit office using the contact details on your decision letter and ask for a written explanation for the decision.

You should also tell them why you think the decision is wrong as they may be able to change it without needing to go any further.

If your first language isn't English, the benefit office should provide an interpreter to explain the decision.


If you telephone the benefit office, make a note of:

  • the date and time you call

  • who you speak to

  • what is said.

This may come in useful if you want to try to get the decision changed.

Time limits

You should ask for an explanation of the decision as soon as possible as there are strict time limits if you want to go on to challenge the decision.


If you request a written explanation of the reasons for the decision within one month of the date on the decision letter, the time limit to challenge the decision will be extended. The new limit will be:

  • One month and 14 days from the decision date (if the written reasons are provided within one month of the decision date); otherwise

  • 14 days from the date the written reasons are provided.

This only applies if the reasons were not provided in the decision letter you received. If you are in any doubt, stick to the usual time limits.

Possible outcomes

An explanation will usually be provided by telephone but must be in writing if you requested a written explanation.

If you ask for a written explanation for the decision, you will usually receive this within 14 days.

After hearing or receiving the explanation, you may think the decision is wrong, for example, because it was based on information that was wrong or they did not have all the information. If this happens you should tell them. They may be able to change the decision and send you a new decision letter without you needing to go any further, or they can explain what you can do next.

If you still think the decision is wrong

You can ask for the decision to be looked at again. In some cases, you can go straight to appeal without asking for the decision to be looked at again.


Reviewed: April 2022

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