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Challenge an Attendance Allowance decision - mandatory reconsideration

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You can challenge an Attendance Allowance decision, for example if:

  • you’ve been told you can’t get the benefit
  • you’ve been given a lower rate than you expected

If you want to challenge the decision because your condition has got worse you’ll need to follow a different procedure, so you should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice

Challenging an Attendance Allowance decision could mean you end up with less AA than you were originally awarded, or nothing at all. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re about to challenge a decision.

If you got your decision before 23 May 2016

If you got your decision before 23 May 2016 and you think your decision is wrong, you must follow a different process to challenge the decision.

Read about challenging a benefit decision made before 23 May 2016.

Apply for ‘mandatory reconsideration’

The first step is to ask the Disability and Carers Service to review their decision. This is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’. It means that if you phone or write to the Disability and Carers Service they have to look at your application again and give you a formal response.

You have to apply for mandatory reconsideration before you can appeal a decision.

The best way to apply for mandatory reconsideration is to write a letter to the Disability and Carers Service explaining why you disagree with their decision. You need to make sure that the Disability and Carers Service gets the letter within 1 month of the decision. The decision date is the date on your letter, not the date you received it. 

If you're getting new medical evidence to support your claim, send in you letter anyway and say that you'll forward the medical evidence when you get it. Disability and Carers won't reconsider the decision until they've seen the new medical evidence, as long as they get it within one month of the decision.

If there’s a risk that the letter won’t reach the Disability and Carers Service in time, you should ring the AA helpline to say you want them to reconsider the decision and that your letter will be sent shortly.

Your decision letter will say that you can call the AA helpline to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. You can do this, but it’s best to make a written request in case you need written proof in the future. If you prefer to call, write a letter to the Disability and Carers Service summarising what you talked about over the phone.

Disability and Carers Service
Telephone: 0300 123 3356
Textphone: 028 9031 1092
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed bank holidays)

Your decision letter will tell you where to send your reconsideration letter. Make a copy of your reconsideration letter before you send it in case it gets lost or you need to refer to it later.

The decision letter may or may not provide much detail - often initial decisions only repeat the law for example "You do not need continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger..." or "You do not need not need frequent attention throughout the day in connection with bodily functions".

What to put in the letter

You need to write the reasons specific to your condition and why you disagree with the decision.

Look at your decision letter. It will tell you the reasons why the Disability and Carers Service made the decision. Make a note of the statements you disagree with and why you disagree.

In your reconsideration letter, give facts, examples and medical evidence (if available) to support what you're saying. Make sure you use the same words that they use in the decision letter.

Below is an example of what a reconsideration request letter might say. Every reconsideration request letter will be different - yours needs to contain examples that are specific to your needs.

Example
Your letter says I’m not entitled to AA because I don’t need continual supervision to avoid substantial damage to myself or others. This is incorrect. When I’m at home I need other people to be with me at all times because I can fall and hurt myself when no one is there to watch me. In the past I have knocked heavy things off shelves and hit my  head on furniture when I have fallen. This situation could cause me substantial damage. I need continual supervision to avoid damage to myself.

If you need help with your mandatory reconsideration request, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. Try to get in touch straight away - you might have to wait for an appointment and you only have 1 month to send your letter in.

If you’ve missed the deadline

If you’ve missed the 1 month deadline, you can still apply for a reconsideration, as long as it’s within 13 months of the decision. You’ll need to give a good reason for being late, like a bereavement or being in hospital.

The Disability and Carers Service doesn’t have to consider a late application, so try to send your letter as soon as you can. Explain in the letter why your application is late, as well as why you disagree with their decision.

Talk to your nearest Citizens Advice if your application is rejected because of lateness.

If you call the Disability and Carers Service to ask for mandatory reconsideration

You can call the Disability and Carers Service to tell them that you don't agree with their decision so you want a mandatory reconsideration.

Make sure to tell them if you often need:   

  • help with personal care during the day or night, or both

  • someone to look after you during the day to make sure you’re safe

  • someone to wake up during the night to watch over you and make sure you're safe

You should also tell them if you forgot to write something in your claim form or want to explain something in more detail. 

Tell them if you're getting more medical information to support your claim. They won't reconsider their decision until they've seen the new medical evidence, as long as they get it within one month of the decision.

Disability and Carers Service
Telephone: 0300 123 3356
Textphone: 028 9031 1092
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed bank holidays)

Getting your mandatory reconsideration decision letter

The Disability and Carers Service doesn’t have to make a decision on your mandatory reconsideration request within a specific timescale - sometimes it can take several months to get your decision letter.

The decision letter is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’, and you’ll be sent 2 copies.

If the Disability and Carers Service changes their decision, you’ll start getting your AA payment straight away. Your payment for AA will start from the date of your claim.

If you’re challenging the rate you’ve been put on and the Disability and Carers Service changes the decision in your favour, they'll pay you the difference from the date of your claim.

Don’t be put off if they don’t change the decision, not many decisions are overturned at this stage. More decisions are changed after the next stage, which is appealing to a tribunal.

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