This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
Changes to challenging or appealing a benefit decision
From 23 May 2016 if you don't agree with a social security benefit decision you must ask for it to be reviewed before you can appeal the decision. This change applies to all decisions made on or after this date.
What will change?
If you disagree with a decision about your benefit, you will have to ask the SSA to look at the decision again before you can appeal. This is known as mandatory reconsideration.
You will have one month from the decision to lodge an appeal for mandatory reconsideration.
A decision maker will look at the decision again and decide whether to change it or keep it the same.
You won’t be able to appeal until you get a decision from the SSA on your request for a reconsideration. If you withdraw a request for mandatory reconsideration, then you will lose your right of appeal.
If you disagree with the outcome of the reconsideration and you want to appeal, you must send your appeal directly to the appeal tribunal, not to the SSA. This is known as direct lodgement.
Mandatory reconsideration will also apply for child maintenance decisions.
Will you still get your benefits while you’re waiting for the outcome of a reconsideration?
For most SSA benefits, if you’re asking for a reconsideration or appealing a claim that’s been refused, you won’t be paid any benefit until the outcome has been decided.
If you were awarded an SSA benefit at a reduced rate and you’re asking for a mandatory reconsideration because you think you should get a higher rate, the benefit will continue to be paid at the reduced rate until the outcome has been decided.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Under the current rules, you can skip the reconsideration stage and move straight to appeal, so your ESA can be paid while you are waiting for the appeal to take place.
Under the changes, if your claim is refused you will no longer be entitled to payment of ESA while your decision is being reconsidered. You will have to wait for the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration.
If you then decide to appeal, ESA will start to be paid at the assessment rate while you wait for the appeal hearing.
While you're waiting for a decision on your request for a mandatory reconsideration, you won't be entitled to:
- hardship payments, unless you’ve been sanctioned.
- an advance payment of benefit.
You can claim Jobseeker's Allowance while waiting for a decision on your ESA. However, you’ll need to meet the usual rules for people who claim JSA, for example you'll need to be actively looking for work. If your condition or disability means you can only work or look for work for a limited number of hours each week, you can try and agree this with the Jobs and Benefits office.
Challenging a tax credits or child benefit decision
If you are challenging a HMRC tax credits or child benefit decision you now have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal against it.
More about challenging a tax credit decision
Which benefits aren’t affected by the changes?
The following benefits are not affected by these changes:
- Housing Benefit
- Rate Rebate
- Challenging a benefit decision
- Challenging a tax credit decision
- Welfare reform - what's changing in Northern Ireland
You can find more information about changes to the appeals process on the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk