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Challenging a benefit decision made on or after 23 May 2016

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you want to challenge a decision made about a benefit you can ask the office that made the decision to explain it, you can ask for it to be reconsidered and you can appeal it. You need to make sure you follow the right procedure if you want to try and get the decision changed.

This page tells you more about the appeals process you should follow for benefits paid by the Department for Communities (DfC). It does not cover challenging decisions on tax credits, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit or Rate Relief.

Benefits paid by the Department for Communities (DfC)

Benefits paid by the Department for Communities (DfC) are:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement benefits
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Social Fund payments
  • State Pension
  • Universal Credit
  • Widow's benefits.

Benefits paid by HM Revenue and Customs

  • Child Benefit
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit.

Challenging a DfC benefit decision

When was the decision made

It is important to check the date that the decision about your benefit was made. This is important because if you want to challenge the decision, you must do so within certain time limits.

Your decision letter will tell you the date of the decision and also whether you have the right of appeal.

Asking for an explanation of the decision

If you disagree with a DfC decision you can ask the office that sent you the decision for an explanation of the decision or for a written statement of reasons, if you have not already received one. You can ask for an explanation of every decision. This will not affect your right to ask for the decision to be looked at again or to appeal it.

You have one month from the date on the decision letter to contact the office that sent you the letter. You can contact them by phone or in writing. The phone number and address of the office will be on the front page of the letter.

Asking for the decision to be looked at again

If you want to change a DfC benefit decision, you have to ask the DfC to look at the decision again before you can appeal it. This is called mandatory reconsideration. There may be facts that you think the DfC has overlooked in the decision or you may have additional evidence which could affect the decision.

You must normally ask for a DfC decision to be looked at again within one month of the date of the decision. This deadline may be extended if there are special circumstances why you couldn't apply within the time limit.

The DfC decision letter will say whether mandatory consideration applies and tell you how to ask for it. You will usually be able to ask for a reconsideration over the phone or in writing, but it is best to apply in writing or to confirm your phone call in writing.

While the DfC is conducting the mandatory reconsideration, a decision maker may want to speak to you to clarify the points under dispute or to discuss further evidence you may be able to give them. They will try to contact you by telephone or by text message to make an appointment for a phonecall with a decision maker. This will give you time to prepare for the call and have someone with you, if you want.

If you do not want to be contacted by phone, you should say so when you request a mandatory reconsideration. The decision maker will then write to you to request clarification or further information about your reconsideration, if necessary.

When they have looked at the decision again, the DfC will send you a new decision letter. This is called a mandatory reconsideration notice. It will tell you your new revision and appeal rights.

You will also receive a letter explaining how the mandatory reconsideration decision affects what benefits you are entitled to.

Appealing against a DfC benefit decision

If you disagree with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can then appeal directly to an independent tribunal. Complete form NOA1(SS), which you can download from the nidirect website, or contact the Appeals Service and they will send you out the form. Alternatively, you can write to the Appeals Service saying which decision you are appealing and giving your reason. Your appeal must be in writing and must be signed by you or someone legally authorised to act for you. You need to return the appeal form or letter directly to the Appeals Service. You must include the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.

If you decide to appeal a decision, your appeal must arrive at the Appeals Service within one month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice. This time limit can only be extended in special circumstances.

More useful information

For more information on how to appeal a benefits decision go to www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Next steps

Asking for a reconsideration

Appealing a decision

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