Appealing against a benefit decision

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you want to appeal a benefit decision you must ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to look at their decision again first. This is called asking for mandatory reconsideration.

The DWP will reconsider the decision - they'll usually give you a response called a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’. If you still disagree with the decision, check the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice - it will say if you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

If HMRC has refused to extend your deadline to challenge a tax credits decision, you don’t need a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.

You can't appeal against some things including:

  • when and how your benefit is paid to you

  • the DWP or HMRC suspending your claim while they check if you’re eligible for benefits

If you want to appeal a Housing Benefit decision, there are different rules. Check how to challenge a Housing Benefit decision.

If you want to appeal an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) decision, you might not have to ask for mandatory reconsideration. Check how to challenge an ESA decision.

Check how long you have to appeal

You should appeal within 1 month of the date on the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.

If you don’t appeal within 1 month

The tribunal will usually accept your appeal up to 13 months after the decision.

You should explain on your appeal form:

  • why your application is late - for example because you were ill or you didn’t get the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice because of a problem with your post

  • why the decision you’re challenging is important, for example because the money will make a big difference to you each week or month

The tribunal will ask the DWP or HMRC if they object to the appeal being accepted late. If they object, the tribunal will decide whether to accept the appeal before they look at the facts of your case.

If you got the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice more than 13 months ago

The tribunal won’t usually accept your appeal.

You can ask the DWP or HMRC to change the original decision if you can show they made it because of a mistake.

Appealing for someone else

If you're not the person who claimed the benefit you can appeal if:

  • you’re their parent or guardian

  • you’ve been appointed by the DWP or HMRC to act for them because they can’t deal with their claim, for example because of their mental or physical health

  • they’re terminally ill and you claimed Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance for them

  • they’ve died and you’ve been given permission by the DWP or HMRC to act for them

  • the DWP or HMRC have decided to recover an overpayment, an advance or a hardship payment from you

Starting your appeal

You need to apply to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to start your appeal.

If you’re appealing a decision made by the DWP

You can appeal on GOV.UK. You’ll need the date on your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. If you’ve lost your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice, contact the DWP and ask for a copy as soon as possible.

If you can’t apply online, you should fill in and send a form called form SSCS1. You can find form SSCS1 on GOV.UK. Send the form to HMCTS - the address is on the form.

You’ll need to send a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice with form SSCS1. If you’re appealing a decision about Universal Credit, the DWP will send the notice to your online account and you’ll need to print it out.

For more help with your appeal, check the ‘How to appeal’ guide on GOV.UK.

If you’re appealing a decision made by HMRC

You should fill in and send a form called form SSCS5. You can find form SSCS5 on GOV.UK. Send the form to HMCTS - the address is on the form.

You’ll need to send a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice with form SSCS5. If you’ve lost your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice, contact HMRC and ask for a copy as soon as possible.

For more help with your appeal, check the ‘How to appeal’ guide (SSCS5A) on GOV.UK.

When you appeal you’ll be asked if you want a hearing. If you have a hearing the tribunal can ask you questions about your situation before they make a decision.

It’s worth asking for a hearing if you’re happy to answer questions - you’re more likely to win your case.

If you choose to have a hearing, say if you can attend it:

  • by phone

  • by online video call 

  • in person

The DWP or HMRC should send any evidence you’ve already given them to HMCTS. You don’t need to send it again when you appeal.

If you have new evidence when you fill in the appeal form you can either:

  • upload it if you’re applying online

  • post it to HMCTS with your form

If you’re waiting for new evidence, you should still fill in the appeal form and submit it online or post it. When HMCTS respond to your appeal form, they'll tell you where to send the evidence. Try to send it within 1 month of them contacting you.

If you want to keep your address confidential

If you're appealing against a joint claim you made with your partner or ex-partner, HMCTS will usually send them details of your appeal. If you don’t want them to know your address, ask HMCTS to keep it confidential when you send in your appeal.

Check what happens after you appeal

HMCTS will check your form and ask the DWP or HMRC to respond to your appeal within 28 days. Once the DWP or HMRC respond, HMCTS will send you:

  • a copy of the response

  • details of what happens next, including when and where the hearing will be

  • all the evidence HMCTS have received from the DWP or HMRC - this is called the ‘appeal bundle’

It’s important to check through the bundle because this is one of the main things the tribunal will use to make its decision. If any evidence is missing, send it to HMCTS and explain that the DWP or HMRC didn’t send it.

You can send evidence to HMCTS up to 1 month after you get the appeal bundle. You should still send the evidence even if you miss the deadline, but explain why you’re sending it late.

If you get some evidence just before the tribunal and there’s no time to post it, take it with you. The tribunal panel might consider it or they might reschedule the hearing if they need more time to read it.

If there will be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference. You can check how to prepare if the tribunal arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

Making a new claim during your appeal

If you’re appealing because your benefit was refused or stopped, you might be able to start a new claim while you’re waiting for your appeal decision.

You can do this if:

  • your circumstances have changed - for example, your income has reduced

  • you claimed a disability benefit and your condition has got worse or you’ve developed a new one

It’s worth making a new claim if the changes mean you’re now likely to be accepted for the benefit.

Your appeal will still continue. If it’s successful, you'll be paid any money you’re owed up to the date of your new claim.

If your new claim is refused you can ask for mandatory reconsideration and appeal it if you need to.

If you’re thinking of claiming Universal Credit

Universal Credit has replaced some types of older benefits. You might not be able to go back onto your old benefit if you make a new claim for Universal Credit, even if your appeal is successful.

You should talk to an adviser before claiming Universal Credit if your appeal is for:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Housing Benefit

  • tax credits

Going to the appeal hearing

The hearing is your chance to explain in your own words why you think the decision is wrong. The tribunal might want to ask you questions.

You can claim back expenses to cover the cost of travelling to the hearing, or to cover pay you might miss out on. Find out how to claim expenses on GOV.UK.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to ask if they can represent you at the hearing. Not all local Citizens Advice offer this service but if they do it will be free. 

You can also take a friend or a family member for support.

If you don’t go to the hearing, the decision will be made using the information on your appeal form and any evidence you’ve given.

You’ll usually get an answer on the day of the hearing. You’ll get the tribunal’s decision through the post if you’re not at the hearing or if they need longer to decide.

Challenging a tribunal decision

You might be able to appeal a tribunal’s decision if you can show that it made an ‘error of law’.

First you have to ask the tribunal for a ‘statement of reasons’ if they haven’t sent you one. You must ask within a month of the decision - the letter from the tribunal tells you how.

It’s complicated to show that the tribunal made an error of law. You should get help from an adviser to get help as soon as possible.

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Page last reviewed on 27 September 2019