Challenging an Attendance Allowance decision - appealing the decision
Before you can appeal, you must have already asked the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to look at the decision again - this is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You can read our guide on how to ask for mandatory reconsideration.
If the DWP didn’t change their decision when you asked for mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to an independent panel called a tribunal.
Coronavirus – appealing to the tribunal
If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents. Send any evidence you have to the tribunal as soon as possible – for example medical evidence.
If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead. You can find the contact details of your tribunal on GOV.UK.
If there has to 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.
If you go to the tribunal in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.
The tribunal will look at your evidence and hear what you have to say, then will make a decision. The tribunal is independent - it’s not part of the DWP.
Challenging an Attendance Allowance decision could mean you end up with less AA than you were originally awarded, or nothing at all. Get help from your your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re about to challenge a decision.
When you can appeal to a tribunal
You can appeal against any decision made about your AA claim. Some of the most common reasons are:
- you didn’t get awarded AA
- you got a lower rate of AA than you expected
To appeal to a tribunal, you’ll need:
- your letter from the DWP with the words ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’ at the top - if you’ve lost it, ask them for a new one
- to send your appeal form in within 1 month of the date shown on the mandatory reconsideration notice, the form must get to the tribunal within the 1 month
It’s worth appealing to a tribunal if you think their decision is wrong. The process can be draining but it’s worth remembering that many AA decisions are overturned by the tribunal.
Change of circumstances while appealing
The tribunal can’t consider whether your condition has got worse since the decision you’re challenging was made. If you were told you can’t get Attendance Allowance and your condition changes and you need more care or supervision, then you’ll have to make a new claim (you can still continue with your appeal as well).
Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice if your circumstances change while you're appealing.
Getting help with your appeal
You might be able to get someone to act as your representative during the appeal - they don’t have to be a lawyer or a professional. They can help you with the paperwork and might speak on your behalf. You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they can help you find a representative.
Fill in the appeal form
Fill in an appeal form, called SSCS1. You can get the SSCS1 form and guidance notes from GOV.UK. Make sure you complete the whole appeal form or your appeal could be rejected.
Explain why you’re appealing
The most important part of the form is ‘Section 5: Grounds for appeal’. In this box you need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.
Use your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice to list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts, examples and medical evidence (if you have any) to support what you’re saying.
You might have done this already when you wrote your mandatory reconsideration letter - if so, you can use the same examples and pieces of evidence again.
You can include all this information on a separate sheet if you’d prefer, just write ‘See enclosed information’ in the Section 5 box and attach any papers securely to the form.
Example of a Section 5 response
The DWP decision letter says I’m not entitled to AA because I don’t need continual supervision to avoid substantial damage to myself or others. This is incorrect. When I’m at home I need other people to be with me at all times because I can fall and hurt myself when no one is there to watch me. In the past I have knocked heavy things off shelves and hit my head on furniture when I have fallen. This situation could cause me substantial damage. I need continual supervision to avoid damage to myself.
If you’ve missed the appeal deadline
If you have missed the deadline, you can still send in the SSCS1 form up to 13 months after the date of the original decision. In Section 5 you’ll need to explain why it’s late (for example, if you were in hospital, you should explain that personal circumstances made it impossible to return the form in time).
Ask for a hearing in person
It’s always better to ask to attend the hearing in person (called an ‘oral hearing’). This may sound daunting but you can get someone to go with you for moral support. Having an oral hearing gives you more opportunities to put your case forward and a better chance of winning. You’ll be able to take your representative if you have one.
In Section 6, tick the box that says ‘I want to attend a hearing of my appeal’.
If you ask for the hearing to be done without you (called a ‘paper hearing’), you’ll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your condition in person. You have a much better chance of success if you go to a hearing in person.
Ask for what you need
In Section 7 of the form you can list the dates you’re not available, as well as anything you need for the hearing. It’s really important to think about anything that might stop you being able to go to the hearing and to write it down.
For example, you:
- can only attend a hearing in the morning because your illness makes you tired in the afternoon
- have holidays you’ve booked
- have an important medical appointment
If you don’t mention these circumstances, and the hearing is booked for a date you’re not available, you might not be able to change it.
Write down details of any aids or help you’ll need, such as a sign language interpreter. Most tribunals will have wheelchair access, but it’s best to include all your access needs anyway.
Send the form
Send your documents to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not to the DWP. The address is on the form. You should include the following:
- the completed SSCS1 form
- a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice
- any further evidence you have, although you can send this later if you need to
Post your appeal documents by recorded delivery if you can. Otherwise ask for proof of postage when posting the documents. This can help you later if the tribunal service says you didn’t meet the deadline or if the letter gets lost in the post.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service will check your form and then ask the DWP to give a written response within another 28 days.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service will then send you:
- a copy of the DWP’s response and any evidence they’ve made their decision on (this is sometimes called the ‘bundle’) - it's important to read through the response to understand the case that the DWP are making.
- information about what happens next
- details of when and where the hearing will be (if you’ve asked for an oral hearing, rather than a paper one)