Appealing against a DfC benefit decision
If you want to challenge a decision about a benefit claim from the Department for Communities (DfC) you must ask for a reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal it. This is called mandatory reconsideration.
The DfC must reconsider the decision and give you a response before you can appeal to the independent tribunal. This page explains how to appeal to an independent tribunal if you’re not happy with the DfC's reconsideration of the decision.
When can you appeal against a decision?
Before you have a right to appeal to a tribunal you must ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called a reconsideration. If you're not happy with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can appeal to the Appeals Service Northern Ireland (TAS). Your appeal will be heard by an independent tribunal.
Time limits for appealing
You must appeal within one month of the date on the letter or email telling you the outcome of the reconsideration. It is important to appeal in time otherwise you might lose the chance to challenge the decision.
If you miss the deadline, TAS can still accept your appeal up to 13 months after the decision was sent if you can give good reasons why it’s late. The Adjudicator will decide if the appeal can be accepted.
More about late appeals
Decisions you can't appeal against
There are some decisions that you can’t appeal against. The letter telling you about the decision must say if you can appeal and how to do this.
You usually can't appeal against decisions such as when and how to pay your benefit. You also won't be able to appeal if the DfC has suspended your claim because they think you're not entitled to it.
If the letter says you don’t have the right to appeal, and you think the DfC has made a mistake, you can apply to TAS for a ruling on whether you have a legal right to appeal. Before you do this, you should get advice from a specialist adviser.
Who can appeal?
You can appeal against a decision made on your own claim. If you are not the benefit claimant you can appeal if you:
- are the parent or guardian of a child who has made a claim
- have been appointed by the DfC to act for a person unable to deal with their claim, for example because of poor mental or physical health
- been given permission by DfC to act for a claimant who has now died
- If you are not the benefit claimant but it has been decided that a short-term or budgeting advance or hardship payment should be recovered from you.
Getting help to prepare your appeal
If you think you will need help to prepare your case you can ask someone else to help you. This person is called your representative. The person you choose should be able to:
- advise you on the evidence you need to prepare to help you with your case
- help you to get this evidence
- be prepared to talk to the DfC to see if it’s possible to change the decision in your favour without going to a tribunal
- research the law
- prepare a written statement for the tribunal hearing
- advise you on other benefits or Legal Help you may be entitled to
- help you with anything you need to do after the tribunal hearing.
You should only ask a friend or relative to act as your representative if you think they will be able to carry out these tasks for you. It may be better to get help from a trained representative through your local Citizens Advice Bureau, another advice agency or your trade union.
How to appeal
To appeal, you need to fill in form NOA1(SS). If you can’t download the form, you can telephone TAS to send a form out to you or you can get a paper copy from Social Security/Jobs and Benefits offices.
If you can’t get a form in time to meet your one-month deadline to appeal, you can send a letter instead. However, if you have a good reason for why you might miss the deadline, it’s best to get in touch with TAS to see if you can extend the time limit.
You can also appeal by letter. In your letter you must:
- let TAS know that you have had a MR carried out before appealing
- identify the decision under appeal
- confirm your details and the benefit office that made the decision
- give a reason why you are appealing
- include your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice
- sign the letter
Your appeal must be in writing. Using the correct form will prevent delays in registering and processing the appeal.
If you want to keep your address confidential
If you are appealing against a joint claim or a claim for a child that you made with a former partner or spouse and you are no longer living with them, there may be a reason why you don't want them to know where you are now living now. If this is the case, you can ask TAS to keep your address confidential to protect your anonymity. If you need to do this, tell TAS when you send in your appeal.
Where to send the form
When you’ve completed your form send it directly to the Appeals Service (TAS):
PO Box 2202
Phone: 028 9054 4000
Fax: 028 9054 4199
What happens after you appeal
When you send back your form, TAS will check that your appeal is legally valid. If there are any problems they will contact you.
If you haven’t asked for a mandatory reconsideration, your appeal will be sent to whichever office made the decision and it will be treated as a request for a mandatory reconsideration.
If your appeal is late, TAS will ask you if you have reasons for submitting it late. They will let you know if they can accept your appeal.
If you have not signed the appeal or someone has signed the appeal on your behalf and they have not included written authority for them to act for you, the form or letter will be returned to the sender requesting for the form to be properly signed and authorised.
If your appeal is accepted, TAS will notify you that your appeal is being processed and that it has been forwarded to the DfC.
TAS will send you an enquiry form asking you for more information about your needs for the appeal hearing. This includes asking you:
- if you want to have an paper hearing, where you do not attend the tribunal, or an oral hearing, where you do attend the tribunal
- if you want to bring witnesses
- if you will need an interpreter
- any dates you can’t attend a hearing.
You have 14 days to reply.
The DfC will prepare a response which will:
- give reasons for the decision
- include a copy of your claim form and any other letters and forms you have filled in
- say what law they have used to make the decision.
If you've already gone to a tribunal, a decision maker can change the decision by supersession if the tribunal were ignorant or mistaken about a material fact. A tribunal decision can also be changed if it is now wrong because of a Commissioners’ decision in another case.
More about changing a benefit decision by supersession
- Download form NOA1(SS) at www.nidirect.gov.uk
- Making a late appeal
- Asking for a reconsideration of a benefit decision
Other useful information
You can see a video of what to expect when you attend an appeal tribunal on the government website at www.nidirect.gov.uk