ESA complaints procedure (Guide)

In this article, you can find a short guide on ESA complaints.

How to make an ESA complain, what should you expect and what are the most common issues to be included in ESA complaints. 

What is the ESA complaints procedure

A complaint is defined as any expression of dissatisfaction about the service provided which is not resolved by operational staff as normal business, according to gov.uk

How to complain

If you feel that any part of the process of claiming ESA was badly managed or discriminatory, including the opportunity to request or the provision of reasonable adjustments, you can make an ESA complaint.  

You can make ESA complaints by phone, in person or in writing at the Jobcentre Plus office you’ve been dealing with.

You should have the following information at hand:

  • your National Insurance number – unless you are an employer
  • your full name, address and contact numbers
  • what happened, when it happened and how it affected you
  • what you want to happen to put things right

Jobcentre Plus will try to resolve the issue over the phone or deal with the complaint within 15 working days.

You will be asked if you want your complaint sent to the Director-General of Operations for the Department for Work and Pensions.

They aim to deal with complaints within 15 working days.

What happens next

If there was made a mistake, if you’ve experienced unfair treatment or suffered financially, you will receive an official apology and in some cases, they may even consider making a special payment to you.

If you’re not satisfied with the initial response, or if there is a need to investigate further, you can ask for your complaint to go to a Complaint Resolution Manager.

They will contact you, usually by phone, to talk about your complaint and agree how to investigate it.

They will contact you again within 15 working days to tell you the outcome or when you can expect a response if it will take longer.

If the Complaint Resolution Manager doesn’t resolve your complaint, you will be asked if you want your complaint to go to a senior manager.

If you agree, the senior manager will ask for an independent internal review of your complaint.

They will contact you within 15 working days to tell you the outcome or when you can expect a response – if it will take longer.

If you’re not satisfied

If you’ve been through all our complaints stages, received a final response and still aren’t satisfied, you can ask the Independent Case Examiner to look at your complaint.

You must contact them within 6 months of getting a final response and send them a copy of it.

The Independent Case Examiner can’t look at matters of law or government policy.

They won’t look at benefits or maintenance decisions, for example, because you can appeal against these.

The Independent CAse Examired will act as an impartial referee and you will not be charged for their service.

If you don’t agree with the response from the Independent Case Examiner, you can ask your MP (or any other MP) to send your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Contact details for ESA complaints

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), including ‘new style’ ESA

Telephone: 0800 169 0310

Textphone: 0800 169 0314

NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310

Welsh language telephone: 0800 328 1744

Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm.

Common issues you may want to consider including in ESA complaints

  • You were provided with information in an inaccessible format 

The DWP is responsible for ensuring that claimants are provided with accessible information about ESA eligibility and the process for claiming.

They should ensure that information provided at all stages of the process, including communication of decision and further options, is available in a number of formats and, where it has been requested in a specific format by claimants, is consistently provided in such a format. 

  • You should not have been required to attend a face-to-face WCA 

If you met thresholds for exceptional circumstances or have provided evidence of a severe disability then the assessment would be both inappropriate and unnecessary. 

  • You were not provided with notice/details to attend and/or are being unreasonably penalized for non-attendance 

The DWP will treat the claimant as Fit for Work if they fail to attend their WCA AND:  were sent written notice of the date, time and place of the medical at least seven days in advance; or agreed to accept a shorter period of notice, whether in writing or some other form. 

If you did not receive notice of your appointment from the DWP; or you received a letter dated or postmarked within 7 days of your appointment – you are entitled to complain.

If your non-attendance as a result of this delay results in a fit for work decision or a sanction, you are likely to benefit from launching a formal complaint. 

  • You were not made aware that you were entitled to reasonable adjustments or given the option to request them

Reasonable adjustments are not only a legal right but are a vital method of ensuring that all claimants can effectively participate in the WCA process.

If you were not informed of the opportunity to request such adjustments and feel disadvantaged by this omission you should draw this to the attention of Atos and DWP. 

  • The WCA venue was an unreasonable distance from your home or was in other ways inaccessible 

Claimants have the right to receive a face to face WCA at a venue less than 90 minutes of travel from their home.

If they have difficulty traveling they should be offered an appointment at a closer venue or in their own home. 

Clients with physical impairments should be offered an accessible method of entering and moving around the building, with additional reasonable adjustments (such as ramps) provided as required.

Clients with mental impairments should be offered clear guidance as to reaching and accessing the building and may require reasonable adjustments such as ‘easy words and pictures’ materials of communication in Makaton.

  • You were kept in the waiting room for an unreasonable length of time

Being kept waiting for extended periods not only runs counter to Atos’ customer charter, but it can also present problems for many claimants who find it difficult to sit for long intervals. 

You should let Atos know if a prolonged wait has caused discomfort or pain. 

  • There was not enough time to complete an accurate assessment 

Atos assessors must allow sufficient time for the assessment to be carried out so that the report can be completed to the required standard.

If you required an interpreter, you had difficulty processing information or expressing yourself verbally, then additional time should have been built into the assessment. 

  • Your companion was excluded 

Claimants are allowed to bring a companion with them to the assessment, and where appropriate any relevant information they may have should be considered by the assessor. 

  • The assessor/assessment discriminated against you by fact of your medical condition 

If you feel that you were treated inappropriately or received an inadequate examination due to the precise nature of your illness or disability this is discrimination.

This might include an assessor failing to consider mental health issues or providing a substandard service to a claimant with a learning disability.

  • The assessor/assessment discriminated against the client due to them exhibiting a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 

As in every other sphere of life, claimants have the right to be treated equally and with respect, regardless of race, gender, belief or affiliation.

If you feel that you were discriminated against for a reason unrelated to your illness or disability this is still covered by the Equality Act and should be challenged. 

  • The assessor was rude, confrontational or unhelpful 

The interview should be carried out in a friendly, professional and nonconfrontational way. 

  • The assessor drew misleading conclusions about everyday tasks

The assessor will ask questions about your ‘typical day’.

This is to establish how you cope with ordinary everyday tasks.

This should be your own account of your abilities – the assessor must not put their own interpretation on your responses. 

  • Further Medical Evidence was not considered 

Atos assessors must-read documents that have been submitted and all evidence should be considered.

This includes any evidence brought by the claimant to the assessment – this should be copied and passed on to the decision-maker.

The report should make reference to the evidence that has been considered and justification should be given if there is a conflict between the opinion of the assessor and the other medical evidence. 

These are just some examples of the most common ESA complaints. Go here to read more useful examples and further advice. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusions

In this article, you can find a short guide on ESA complaints.

How to make an ESA complain, what should you expect and what are the most common issues to be included in ESA complaints. 

A complaint is defined as any expression of dissatisfaction about the service provided which is not resolved by operational staff as normal business.

It can take any time from 15 working days to a few months to deal with an ESA complaint. 

FAQ about ESA complaints

How do I complain about ESA?

If you want to make a complaint about ESA, you can call the ESA telephone complaints line on 0844 409 8262. 

How do I contact ESA by email?

The email address where you can contact the Department for Work & Pensions which ESA falls under is Contact-us@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

Response times for a reply to this email address can be over 7 working days.

How do I get in touch with DWP?

If you want to get in touch with the DWP, you can call the DWP customer service number 0800 055 6688 free number.

If you have hearing difficulties and are using a textphone, dial 0800 023 4888 free number. 

What does the Department for Work and Pensions do?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy.

The DWP is the UK’s biggest public service department.

Is the DWP part of HMRC?

The DWP is not part of HMRC, but the functions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and those of HMRC often depend on a common interest in the same information.

How do I complain about the Job Centre?

If you want to complain about the Job Centre you should: Write down your complaint in an email and send it to correspondence@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

Recommendations

  1. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  2. Providing Employment Support for People With Long-Term Mental Illness: Choices, Resources, and Practical Strategies
  3. Positive Behavior Supports for Adults with Disabilities in Employment, Community, and Residential Settings
  4. Investigation into errors in Employment and Support Allowance
  5. Guide to Government Benefits: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, Disability

References 

Gov.uk

Citizensadvice.org.uk

communities-ni.gov.uk/

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