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Benefits challenges and appeals

If your claim for benefit or tax credits has been refused or if you disagree with a decision about your benefit entitlement, you may be able to challenge this.

In most cases you must do this within one month of the decision. How you do this depends on the type of benefit you have applied for.

Appeals are decided by a tribunal. Before you can appeal to the tribunal, you must ask for the decision about your benefits to be looked at again - this is called mandatory reconsideration.

The Welfare Support Team may be able to help with your appeal. This guide provides some information about how to challenge a benefit decision and how our service may be able to help.

Mandatory reconsideration

Before you can lodge an appeal against a decision that the Department for Work and Pensions or HM Revenue and Customs have made, you will usually have to ask them to look at the decision again. This is called mandatory reconsideration and applies to most benefits but does not include Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support.

If you are challenging a Department for Work and Pensions decision that says you don't have limited capability for work, you should check your decision letter. If it says you don't have to apply for a mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal directly to the tribunal instead.

Otherwise, if you are not happy with a decision, you must ask them to reconsider it within one month. You can do this by phoning the office who made the decision or by putting the request in writing. In Universal Credit cases, you can also do this via your online journal. If the request is late, you will need to give the reasons for this. You may want to provide any further information that you have which you feel supports your case.

Stockton District Advice and Information Service can help you with your mandatory reconsideration. Visit their website for more information or call 01642 633877.

Support evidence

If your claim is about a benefit related to your health, it may be useful to get evidence from relevant health professionals involved in your care to support your case, for example a GP, nurse, physiotherapist or carer.

You can request a copy of your medical record and medications free of charge from your GP practice. This could include:

  • your Patient Summary (record of treatments and consultations)
  • up to date hospital reports or letters about your condition

You could ask for copies of these to send in to support your case.

Health professionals, including GPs, will sometimes provide a separate letter for you. Such evidence can be very helpful but you might have to pay for it. You will need to discuss this with the person you ask. It might be a good idea to speak to them first to ensure that they have up to date information about how your medical conditions affect you. 

If they do prepare such a letter for you this would need to outline:

  • your medical conditions
  • what treatment or care you are receiving
  • how these medical conditions affect you

The focus needs to be on the criteria for the benefit you are appealing about, for example how well you can manage the activities included in the points system for Personal Independence Payment or the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit. This could be in respect of your physical or mental health.

It is not only medical evidence that could help your case. Letters or information from a care worker, support worker or family member may also be useful. It can also be helpful to keep and send in a diary of your difficulties.

Send your evidence to the Department for Work and Pensions as soon as you can and try to keep a copy of anything you send.

How to appeal

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration or you are challenging a decision where the reconsideration process is not required, you can then appeal within one month.

You can either appeal online at GOV.UK or complete a paper appeal form, available from GOV.UK or the Department for Work and Pensions.

You will normally need to include one copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice and return the form to the address at the bottom of the form.

If you try to appeal without going through the reconsideration process, unless you are challenging a decision where the reconsideration process is not required, your appeal will be returned to you and you will be told to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

Completing the appeal form

On the appeal form we would advise you to tick the box "I want to take part in the hearing". Otherwise your appeal will be decided using only the paperwork and you will not get an opportunity to put your case before a tribunal.

We would also advise you not to agree to accept less than 14 days notice of a hearing, or it may be difficult for you to prepare for the hearing or make arrangements for someone to go with you.

Appeal papers

On receipt of the appeal form the Tribunal Service, will notify the Department for Work and Pensions that you have appealed. The Deparment for Work and Pensions will then send out an appeal submission, which includes copies of all the forms you have completed in connection with your claim and other information, including medical evidence where relevant, which relate to your case.

Providing evidence

If you have not already done so, consider sending in evidence to support your case. You'll be told where to send your evidence after you submit your appeal.

You do not need to re-send any evidence you already sent in at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, unless you sent it too late to be considered or you know the Deparment for Work and Pensions did not receive it. All the evidence sent in so far should be included in your appeal papers.

Send your evidence to the Tribunal Service as soon as you can. It is not a good idea to give it to the tribunal on the day, unless you have no choice. It may not be accepted or the tribunal may not have time to read it properly. Try to keep a copy of anything you send.

How the Welfare Support Team can help

The Council's Welfare Support Team can support you in your appeal if you have completed mandatory reconsideration and would like to request support with a social security appeal tribunal, for example on decisions about Universal Credit, Attendance Allowance or Income Support.

Request support with a Social Security appeal tribunal

We can represent at some appeals but please be aware that representation may not always include attending the appeal hearing with you. Often this may not be possible due to workload or your appeal may be listed for a date when we are not available.

We may still be able to help to prepare you for the hearing which could include:

  • explaining how to argue your case
  • advising on supporting evidence
  • preparing a written submission
  • a face to face or telephone appointment to go over the tribunal procedure a few days before the hearing
  • applying for a postponement or adjournment if necessary

We will not receive information about your case unless we have been appointed as your representative. It is important that you respond to any letters or forms that you get.

If you want help with your appeal, you should complete the form only after you receive the mandatory reconsideration notice or your appeal papers.

If you contact us when you already have a date for your Tribunal we may not be able to help due to the short notice, or may only be able to give verbal advice.