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Appealing a JSA decision at a tribunal

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You can appeal to a tribunal if the Department for Communities (DfC) didn't change their decision when you asked for a mandatory reconsideration.

The tribunal will be run by The Appeals Service (TAS). It's independent from the DfC so might disagree with their decision.

It's free to appeal. You won't usually be able to get legal aid to pay for representation, but don't worry as you don't need a solicitor. You can ask a Citizens Advice adviser to help you prepare your appeal and represent you at the tribunal. They can help you get additional evidence if it is needed.

Before you appeal

You must ask the DfC to look at their decision again. This is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. See challenging a JSA decision - mandatory reconsideration  for how to ask for one.

Check if you should appeal to a tribunal

Read the letter from the DfC with ‘About your mandatory reconsideration’ written at the top.

If you disagree with the DfC’s reasons and have evidence to show why they’re wrong, you should appeal to a tribunal. For example, if you have evidence:

  • you’re entitled to JSA
  • you had a good reason for missing your appointment at the Jobs and Benefits Office - for example a note from your doctor
  • you were paid the right amount - for example, payslips from part-time work

You don’t have to have evidence to appeal, but it will give you more chance of getting the decision changed in your favour. Contact your local Citizens Advice if you're not sure what evidence would be helpful.

You can’t appeal a decision about when your JSA is paid or whether it gives you enough to live on. 

You also can’t appeal if the DfC is looking into your claim because they think you’re not entitled to JSA. You’ll be able to appeal once the investigation has finished and they’ve made a decision.

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 DfC
  • prepare for the appeal hearing - they might be able to go with you too

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.

Filling in the appeal form

It's best to ask for an appeal by filling in the NOA1(SS) appeals form on the nidirect website. The form guides you through what to include.

If you can’t fill in the form you can write to ask for an appeal. Write ‘Appeal’ at the top of your letter and include:

  • your full name
  • why you think the decision is wrong
  • a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice

Explaining why you’re appealing

The most important part of the form is 'Section 3: Grounds for appeal'. You need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.

Look at your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice and list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Describe the evidence you've sent to the DfC and how it supports your reasons for disagreeing with their decision.
If you have any new evidence, send it with your form too. You should send in any new evidence to TAS as soon as possible.

Deciding if you should go to the appeal hearing

You'll be sent a Hearing Type Enquiry (HTE) form asking if you want to be there when the tribunal considers your appeal - known as an 'oral hearing'.

You should go to the hearing, if you can. You'll have more chance to put your case forward and can answer any questions the tribunal might have.

The hearing won't be as formal as other court hearings. You can bring some notes on what you'd like to say.

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

Fill in section 6 of the HTE form if you've got someone to help you with the appeal.

If you don't go to the hearing, you'll have what is called a 'paper hearing'. You'll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your case. You've a much greater chance of getting the decision changed in your favour if you go to the hearing.

You can find out more about what happens at a hearing on nidirect.

Sending the appeal form

Check you've filled in everything then send the form to TAS by Royal Mail Signed For. Keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.

The Appeals Service
PO Box 2202
Belfast
BT1 9GY

You'll need to send a copy of the mandatory reconsideration letter with the form.

TAS must receive your appeal within 1 month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow a few days for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice.

If you’ve missed the deadline

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

  • you posted your appeal in time, but it was lost in the post
  • someone in your family was seriously ill
  • you made a mistake when working out the deadline 

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

The tribunal might also agree to give you more time to be fair to you. For example, if the decision you’re appealing against is stopping you claiming other benefits or has left you in debt.

The tribunal will write to tell you if you’ve been given more time.

After you’ve sent the form

TAS will check the from and then ask the DfC for their response within 28 days.

TAS will send you:

  • a copy of the DfC'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)

Sending any new evidence

The DfC should pass on any evidence you've given them for the mandatory reconsideration to TAS. You don't need to send it again with your appeal form.

TAS will send you a copy of all the evidence they've got - called an 'appeal bundle'. If someone like a Citizens Advice adviser is helping you with your appeal and has told the DfC they're your 'representative', they'll be sent a copy.

You should check the copy has all the evidence you gave the DfC. If any evidence is missing, send it to TAS - explaining that the DfC didn't send it.

It's best to send any evidence before the day of your hearing. If you take new evidence with you the tribunal might be rescheduled to give the tribunal time to read the new evidence.

If the DfC changes the decision before the hearing

The DfC might write to you and TAS to say they've changed the decision before the appeal hearing.

If the change is in your favour, TAS will cancel the hearing - known as a 'lapsed appeal'. The letter from the TAS 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 if it further reduces your JSA - 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 tribunal needs longer to decide, or you're not at the hearing, they'll write to tell you their decision.

If you disagree with the decision

You might be able to appeal to the Social Security Commissioners if the first tribunal made a mistake - called an 'error of law'. It's difficult to know if an error of law has been made, so you should get advice.

If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal

An appeal can be cancelled - known as 'struck out' - if you don't do something TAS asks for, like send them a certain document.

You can ask for an appeal that was cancelled to be looked at again - known as getting an appeal 'reinstated'. Write to TAS and tell them:

  • your full name and address
  • your National Insurance number
  • the decision you're appealing
  • the date your appeal was cancelled
  • why you didn't do something TAS 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 TAS 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 you don't think your appeal should have been struck out.

For example, if it was struck out because the tribunal didn't think you had a chance of success, but you disagree.

If the tribunal agree, they'll reopen your appeal.

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

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