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Challenging a PIP decision - appealing the decision

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Before you can appeal to a tribunal, you’ll need to ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called mandatory reconsideration.

If the Department for Communities (DfC) didn’t change their decision when you asked them to look at it again, you can appeal to an independent panel, called a tribunal.

The tribunal looks at the evidence from both sides, then makes a final decision. The tribunal is part of the court system - it’s not part of the Department for Communities.

When you can appeal to a tribunal

You can appeal any decision made about your PIP claim. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • you didn’t get PIP
  • you got a lower level of PIP than you expected
  • you think your PIP award should last for longer

The appeal will look at whether the decision was right at the time it was made - they won’t consider whether your condition has got worse since then. Get advice from your local Citizens Advice if this applies to you.

To be allowed to appeal to a tribunal, you’ll need:

  • your letter from the DfC with the words ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’ at the top - if you’ve lost it, ask them for a new one
  • to send your appeal form in within one month of the date shown on the mandatory reconsideration notice

Worth knowing

It can take a long time to get to a tribunal hearing.

The process can be draining but it’s worth remembering that in Great Britain more than half of people who appeal their PIP decision win at a tribunal.

If you feel the decision is wrong, don’t be put off appealing.

Getting help with your appeal

You can get help with your appeal from your local Citizens Advice, or a local disability support organisation.

You might be able to get someone like an adviser or a solicitor to act as your representative during the appeal, but they’re not always available. Your local Citizens Advice can help you with the paperwork and might speak on your behalf. If you go to a solicitor, you may be able to get legal aid for advice and assistance, but not for representation.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a representative - the appeal panel is most interested in hearing how your condition affects you and in your own words. Support from a friend or family member can really help, and you can do it without a professional.

Complete the appeal form

Fill in an appeal form, called NOA1(SS). You can get a copy of NOA1(SS) from nidirect. Make sure you complete the whole appeal form otherwise your appeal could be rejected.

Explain why you’re appealing

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

Use your decision letter, statement of reasons and medical assessment report to note each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts, examples and medical evidence (if you have any) to support what you’re saying.

You might have done this already for your mandatory reconsideration letter - if so, you can use the same examples and pieces of evidence again.

You should also look at the points system the PIP case manager uses (called descriptors) to assess PIP claims to see where you might get more points. It's important to use the right kind of evidence. You can use our guide to how the PIP Centre makes a decision to help you.

You can include all this information on a separate sheet if you’d prefer, just write ‘See enclosed information’ in the box and attach any papers securely to the form.

Tribunals can look at your whole award again. So you should consider whether you risk losing your current award - for example, if you've got evidence to support a daily living component but might lose your mobility award. If you're not sure, you should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

An example of depression affecting eating and drinking

I don’t think you’ve taken into account the effects of my severe depression when it comes to preparing food and eating. I find it hard to concentrate, so even if I push myself to start I can’t finish making a meal. I only eat meals I can heat up in the microwave. On the times I have tried to cook from scratch I have burned myself because I lose concentration and forget I have a pan on the hob.

An example of challenging a mobility decision

I don’t think you’ve properly understood my mobility problems. You say I can walk 50 metres unaided. In reality, trying to do this causes me significant pain and means I can’t walk at all for the rest of the day. I have enclosed a report from my occupational therapist which explains this in more detail.

An example of challenging the assessment

I don’t believe all the findings from my medical assessment are accurate. The assessor asked me if I could lift a cup. I did as asked but it caused shooting pains up my arm that took several hours to subside and meant I struggled to hold anything else for the rest of the day. I wasn’t given the opportunity to explain this in the assessment.

Missed the appeal deadline

If you missed the deadline you can still send in the NOA1(SS) form, but in Section 2 you’ll need to explain why it’s late (for example, if you were in hospital). The tribunal board will look at why your form was late and decide whether they’ll let you appeal.

Send the form

Send your documents to The Appeals Service (TAS), not to the DfC. The address is on the form. You should include the following:

  • the completed NOA1(SS) form. Make sure you have signed it.
  • a copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice
  • any further evidence you have, although you can send this later

Post your appeal documents by recorded delivery if you can. Otherwise go to your local Post Office to post it and ask for proof of postage. This can help you later if the tribunal service says you didn’t meet the deadline or if the letter gets lost in the post.

TAS will check the form and if they accept your appeal they will notify you that your appeal is being processed and that it has been forwarded to the DfC for their response.

What happens next

TAS will send you a copy of the DfC’s response and information about what happens next.

Then they will send you an enquiry form (HTE) asking you:

  • if you want to have a paper hearing, where you do not attend the tribunal, or an oral hearing, where you do attend the tribunal
  • if you want to bring someone with you
  • if you need an interpreter
  • any dates you can’t attend a tribunal

Ask for a hearing in person

It’s always better to ask to attend in person (called an oral hearing). This may sound daunting but it’s an informal meeting and you can get someone to go with you for moral support. Having an oral hearing gives you more opportunities to put your case forward and a better chance of winning.

Ask for what you need

Tell them any dates you’re not available and information about anything you need to be at the hearing. It’s really important to think about anything that might stop you being able to go to the hearing and to write it down. For example:

  • you can only attend a hearing during school hours or term time because of childcare responsibilities
  • holidays you’ve booked
  • any dates you’ve got important medical appointments

If you don’t mention these and the hearing is booked for a date you’re not available, you might not be able to change it.

The tribunal centre should be accessible, but write down details of any aids or help you’ll need, such as a sign language interpreter.

After TAS has received your HTE form, they will organise a hearing. If you’ve asked for an oral hearing, they will send you details of when and where the hearing will be. If you’ve asked for a paper hearing, they will make a decision without you being there.

If you do not return the HTE form your appeal will be listed as a paper hearing. If you want a paper hearing it is better to say on you HTE form, as if you don’t return the form it can take longer to be listed.

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