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Complaining about the service you’ve received – benefits and tax credits

You have the right to expect a reasonable standard of service from the people dealing with your benefits or tax credits.

If you have received poor service or have lost out in some way because of errors or a slow response, you should consider complaining.

This page tells you more about complaining about service standards. If you think the decision on your benefit or tax credit is wrong, see the information on our other pages.

What level of service should you expect

Service is the way you're treated when you contact the agency dealing with your claim. It includes things such as meeting target times for dealing with claims and providing interpretation facilities.  

Most agencies that deal with benefits, including local authorities, will have a charter or statement of standards of service that sets out and what you can expect. You will be able to get this from their offices or websites.

You don't have to have made a claim to complain. You may have contacted the office to get information and received misleading or wrong advice, or been treated rudely .

What can happen if you complain?

If you make a complaint you could get:

  • an apology for what has happened
  • an explanation of what went wrong
  • a promise that the problem will be put right, if this is possible
  • a change in the way things are done. This will help other people, and could help you if you have to use the same office again
  • financial compensation, although this only applies in certain circumstances

When should you complain

Consider complaining if the service you got caused you problems or if the standard of service was unacceptable.

Things you can complain about include:

  • rudeness. This could include not being treated with respect or failing to get an answer to reasonable requests
  • being given incorrect or misleading advice
  • not being informed of your rights or entitlements. If you have lost out financially you may be able to get compensation
  • a long delay before your claim or enquiry was dealt with
  • mistakes, such as being paid the wrong amount of money or being told that your claim form or other papers have been lost
  • difficulty contacting the office, by phone, letter or in person
  • being treated differently because of your race, sex, disability, religious belief or politics.

Delays

You should consider complaining if you have had to wait too long for:

  • a claim to be decided
  • an award to be changed
  • an explanation to be given.

The agency should have a target time for deciding a claim. You should find out what it is.

Inefficiency

You should consider complaining if an office has been inefficient. For example if:

  • benefit or tax credit case papers are lost
  • payments stop by mistake
  • you are under or overpaid benefit or tax credits because the office has made a mistake.

Even if you are repaid the correct balance of an underpayment, you may lose out financially and be inconvenienced by not receiving the correct money for a period of time. In this case, you may want to consider also asking for compensation.

Overpayments which have to be repaid can also cause financial difficulty and distress.

Inadequate information

If you are not satisfied with the advice or information you have been given by a government agency, you should consider making a complaint.

For example, you may not have been told about a benefit you could have applied for, or you may have been given incorrect information about your national insurance record.

Lack of interpretation facilities

If your first language is not English, and the office doesn't provide adequate interpretation facilities, you should make a complaint. You have a right to help with claim forms and letters if you do not speak English as your first language. You may have a claim for discrimination if interpretation facilities are not available

Discrimination

It's against the law for you to be discriminated against because of your sex, sexual orientation, religion, race or disability.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against in the way your claim has been handled or in the way you’ve been treated, you can consider making a complaint.

How to complain

It's usually best to complain informally first by talking to the person you dealt with or their manager.  If this doesn't sort out the problem, put the complaint in writing.

Government agencies and service providers should have their own internal complaints procedure. This will set out the stages for dealing with the complaint.

If you're still not happy after you have gone through the internal complaints procedure, you may be able to complain to an independent arbitrator.

Depending on the benefit or tax credit, this could be the Independent Case Examiner or the Adjudicator.

If you're not happy with their decision, you may be complain to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

Compensation

In certain circumstances you may be able to get compensation. If you have had problems such as an unreasonable delay, wrong advice or you've lost money you should not lose out financially or suffer undue distress.

However, these payments are made on a case-by-case basis, so you don't have a right to a compensation payment.

Next steps

You should make your complaint to the office that caused the problem. This could be the office that dealt with your claim, or the office where you made an enquiry and got advice.

Housing Benefit and Rate Relief

Complain to the Housing Executive or, if you are an owner-occupier, to Land and Property Services

Pension Credit, Retirement Pension, and other benefits and social fund payments for people over 60

Complain to the Pension Service.

National insurance contributions

Complain to HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Contributions Office.

Tax credits

Complain to HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credit Office.

Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance

Complain to HM Revenue and Customs Child Benefit Office

All other benefits for people under 60

Complain to the Social Security/Jobs and Benefits office which handled your claim or enquiry.

Medical examinations for Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance

Atos Healthcare carries out medical assessments for the SSA for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claims and Work Capability Assessments for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims.

You can complain directly to thecompany about the service you've received but you need to complain to the SSA about the outcome of a decision on their medical or Work Capability Assessment.

Atos Healthcare

If you were being assessed for DLA or being examined for the Work Capability Assessment, contact the Customer Relations Manager on 0113 230 9175 or email customer-relations@atoshealthcare.com.

Ask them for a copy of the Northern Ireland edition of their leaflet 'Comments, complaints and suggestions' so that you can make a complaint.

Other useful information

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