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Appealing against a Universal Credit decision at a tribunal

This advice applies to England

If you’ve already asked for mandatory reconsideration and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) haven’t changed their decision, you can appeal to a tribunal.

The tribunal will look at your reasons and make an independent decision. It’s overseen by a judge and separate from the DWP.

Deciding to challenge a decision

The first thing you should do is look at your ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. This is a letter you’ll get from the DWP - it will include the reason they didn’t change their decision.

You can appeal the decision if you:

  • have been paid the wrong amount
  • have been refused Universal Credit when you should have got it
  • shouldn’t have been sanctioned - for example, if you missed a work-focused interview because you were ill

You have 1 month from the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice to apply to a tribunal.

If you’ve missed the deadline

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

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

The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if they think you have a good reason. It doesn’t matter if the DWP don’t agree with your reason.

If your appeal is cancelled or ‘struck out’

If HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) ask you to do something like send them a document and you take too long, they might cancel your appeal. This is known as having your appeal ‘struck out’.

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.

You’ll get a warning letter first - it’ll tell you what to do to stop your appeal being struck out. If you don’t do what the warning letter says, you’ll get another letter after that explaining why your appeal was struck out.

You'll need to write to HMCTS to ask them to reopen your appeal. You'll need to 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

Send this letter to the same address you sent your appeal form to.

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 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.

Filling in an appeal form

You’ll need to fill in an SSCS1 form on GOV.UK to ask for an appeal. You can fill in the form online before you print it, or print a blank form and fill it in by hand. The form tells you what to send with it. If you’re not sure about anything, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you fill in the form.

The form asks for your:

  • name and contact details
  • National Insurance number
  • reasons for appealing

It’s important to be specific when you explain why you’re appealing. List the reasons in your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice, and why you disagree. You should also refer to any evidence you’ve sent with the mandatory reconsideration notice.

If you’ve got advice from your local Citizens Advice or another organisation, you should also write this on your form.

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.

Sending your appeal form

You need to sign your completed form and send it to HMCTS. You’ll also need to send your mandatory reconsideration notice along with any evidence you’re using.

HMCTS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203
Bradford
BD1 9WP

Ask the Post Office for proof of postage - you might need to show when you sent your mandatory reconsideration notice. You can also send it by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt, but you’ll need to pay for this.

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

  • a copy of the DWP’s response
  • details of what happens next
  • details of when and where the hearing will be

Going to the appeal hearing

It’s a good idea to find out what to expect at the hearing on GOV.UK. It’s always best to go to the hearing if you can - it’s a chance for you to make your case and answer any questions the judge has.

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

You can take someone else to the hearing with you, for example a:

If you don’t go to the hearing

You can ask for the hearing to happen without you on the appeal form. You won’t be able to argue your case or answer questions the judge might have, so you’ll be less likely to succeed.

Getting a decision

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

If they agree to your appeal, you'll have to apply to another tribunal - this is called the upper tribunal. You'll get details of how to appeal with your decision letter.

You can also get help with the appeal if you contact your nearest Citizens Advice before taking action.

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