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Appealing against a Universal Credit decision at a tribunal

This advice applies to England

You can appeal to a tribunal if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) didn’t change their decision when you asked for a mandatory reconsideration.

The tribunal is independent of the DWP and overseen by a judge. The judge will look at your evidence and hear what you have to say. They’ll also look at any evidence from the DWP and then make a decision.

When you should appeal to a tribunal

Read the reasons on your 'mandatory reconsideration notice' - if you still think the decision is wrong, you should appeal to a tribunal. You can appeal if you think:

  • you’ve been paid the wrong amount
  • you’ve been wrongly refused Universal Credit
  • you shouldn’t have been sanctioned - for example, for not going to a work-focused interview

Getting specialist help

You can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser at any point in the appeal process. They can help you:

  • fill in the form to ask for an appeal
  • understand any documents you’re sent
  • reply to any letters from the tribunal or the DWP
  • photocopy and post documents
  • prepare for the appeal hearing and might go with you 

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to book an appointment. Take your mandatory reconsideration notice and original decision letter to your first appointment, if you can.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) must receive your appeal within 1 month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow time for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice.

If you've missed the deadline

You might still be able to appeal if it’s less than 13 months since the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice. You’ll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example:

  • you didn't get the mandatory reconsideration notice
  • you posted your appeal in time, but it got lost in the post
  • someone in your family was seriously ill
  • you were given the wrong facts by the DWP

The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if the DWP agrees you had a good reason. Even if the DWP doesn’t agree, the tribunal will extend the time if they think you should have been given an extension.

Filling in the appeal form

To ask for an appeal you’ll need to fill in the SSCS1 appeal form on the HMCTS website, then print and post it. The form tells you what to include, but contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure about anything. An adviser can help you fill in the form.

You can write to HMCTS to ask for an appeal, but it’s better to use the form as it’s easier to include all the information HMCTS need. 

If you ask for an appeal in writing, write ‘Appeal’ at the top of your letter and include:

  • your full name
  • your National Insurance number
  • the date at the top of your mandatory reconsideration notice
  • why you think the decision is wrong

The DWP should pass on any evidence you’ve given them to HMCTS. You don’t need to send it again with your appeal form or letter.

HMCTS will send you a copy of all the evidence they’ve received - called an ‘appeal bundle’. It’s important to check this has all the evidence you gave the DWP. If anything is missing, send it to HMCTS - explaining that the DWP failed to send it.

You can send evidence to HMCTS up to 1 month after you get the appeal bundle. If you miss the deadline, you should explain why you’re sending the evidence late when you send it. If you take new evidence with you on the day, the tribunal might be rescheduled to give the judge time to read the new evidence.

Before sending any extra evidence, you can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser.

If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal

An appeal can be cancelled - known as ‘struck out’ - if you fail to do something HMCTS asks for, like sending them a certain document.

HMCTS will write to warn you if your appeal is in danger of being struck out so you have chance to stop it.

You can ask for an appeal that was cancelled because you failed to do something to be looked at again - known as getting an appeal ‘reinstated’.

Write to HMCTS and include:

  • your full name and address
  • your National Insurance number
  • the decision you’re appealing
  • the date your appeal was cancelled
  • why you failed to do something HMCTS asked for, if this was the reason your appeal was struck out
  • why you think your appeal should be looked at again

You should write no more than 1 month after HMCTS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1 month deadline.

If your appeal was struck out for any other reason, you should still write to the tribunal and explain why your appeal shouldn’t have been struck out. If the tribunal agree they’ll reopen your appeal.

If the tribunal don’t agree to reopen your appeal, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if there’s anything else you can do.

Explaining why you’re appealing

The most important part of the form is ‘Section 5: About your 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 and examples - and mention the evidence you’ve sent to the DWP to support what you’re saying. You can use the same examples and evidence as for your mandatory reconsideration.

Going to the appeal hearing

Section 6 of the appeals form will ask if you want to be there when the judge considers your appeal - known as an ‘oral hearing’.

It’s always better to go to the hearing if you can. You’ll have more chance to put your case forward and can answer any questions the judge might have.

You can get help with the cost of travelling to the hearing. Find out what expenses you can claim on GOV.UK.

You can take a representative with you, for example someone from Citizens Advice or a solicitor, if you have one. Or you can ask someone to go with you for support.

If you ask for the hearing to go ahead without you - called a ‘paper hearing’ - you won’t be able to tell the tribunal about your case. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you go to the hearing in person.

Sending the appeal form

Send your completed form or letter to HMCTS by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.

HMCTS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203

HMCTS will check the form and then ask the DWP for their response within 28 days. 

HMCTS will send you:

  • a copy of the DWP’s response
  • information about what happens next
  • details of when and where the hearing will be (if you’ve said you want to be there)

You can find out more about what happens at the hearing on GOV.UK.

If the DWP changes the decision before the hearing

The DWP might write to you and HMCTS to say they’ve changed the decision before the appeal hearing.

If the change is in your favour, HMCTS will cancel the hearing. The letter from the DWP will tell you what to do if you’re not happy with the new decision and still want to appeal.

If the change isn't in your favour - for example your Universal Credit has been reduced further - the hearing will go ahead as planned.

Finding out the tribunal’s decision

If you go to the hearing, you’ll usually be told the decision on the day - and be given a written copy. If the judge needs longer to decide, or you’re not at the hearing, they’ll write to tell you their decision.

If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision

You might be able to appeal to an upper tribunal if the first tribunal made a mistake - called an ‘error of law’. An adviser can help you check if they made an error. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get an appointment.

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