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Appealing against a DWP benefit decision

This advice applies to Scotland

If you want to challenge a decision about a benefit claim from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) you must ask for reconsideration of the decision before you can make an appeal. The DWP call it a mandatory reconsideration.

The DWP must reconsider the decision and give you a response before you can appeal to an independent tribunal. This page explains how to appeal to an independent tribunal if you’re not happy with the DWP’s reconsideration of the decision.

This page does not cover challenging decisions on Scottish benefits paid by Social Security Scotland. 

If you want to appeal a decision made by Social Security Scotland about a Scottish benefit, you should appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Social Security Chamber). You’ll usually need to ask for a 're-determination' before you can appeal. Find out more about appealing a Scottish benefit decision.

Top tips

Try to keep to the one month time limit if at all possible - it can be difficult to dispute a decision if you miss it. If you are late, make sure you explain the reasons in as much detail as you can.

When can you appeal against a decision?

Before you have a right to appeal to a tribunal you must usually ask for the decision to be looked at again. DWP call this a mandatory reconsideration. The decision letter tells you if you must ask for a reconsideration before you can appeal. You usually have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration within a month of the decision - check what to do if you’ve missed the deadline.

If you're not happy with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can appeal to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). Your appeal will be heard by an independent tribunal called the First-Tier tribunal.

Time limits for appealing

You must appeal within one month of the date on the letter or email telling you the outcome of the reconsideration. It is important to appeal in time otherwise you might lose the chance to challenge the decision.

If you miss the deadline, HMCTS can still accept your appeal up to 13 months after the decision was sent if you can give good reasons why it’s late. However the DWP can object to the reasons you give. If this happens, a tribunal will decide if the appeal can be accepted.

Decisions you can't appeal against

There are some decisions that you can’t appeal against. The letter telling you about the decision must say if you can appeal and how to do this.

You usually can't appeal against decisions such as when and how to pay your benefit.

If the DWP thinks you might not be eligible to get benefits, they might suspend your claim while they investigate. You can’t appeal the DWP suspending your claim.

If you’re not sure if you can appeal or you need help while your claim is suspended, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Who can appeal?

You can appeal against a decision made on your own claim. If you are not the benefit claimant you can appeal if you:

  • are the parent or guardian of a child who has made a claim
  • have been appointed by the DWP to act for a person unable to deal with their claim, for example because of poor mental or physical health
  • claimed PIP, DLA or Attendance Allowance for a person who is terminally ill
  • been given permission by DWP to act for a claimant who has now died
  • aren't the benefit claimant but the DWP have decided that an overpayment, an advance or a hardship payment should be recovered from you

Getting help to prepare your appeal

If you think you will need help to prepare your case you can ask someone else to help you. This person is called your representative. The person you choose should be able to:

  • advise you on the evidence you need to prepare to help you with your case
  • help you to get this evidence
  • be prepared to talk to the DWP to see if it’s possible to change the decision in your favour without going to a tribunal
  • research the law
  • prepare a written statement for the tribunal hearing
  • advise you on other benefits or Legal Help you may be entitled to
  • help you with anything you need to do after the tribunal hearing.

You should only ask a friend or relative to act as your representative if you think they will be able to carry out these tasks for you. It may be better to get help from a trained representative through your local Citizens Advice Bureau, another advice agency or your trade union.

How to appeal

When the DWP sends you the outcome of their reconsideration, they'll include 2 copies of a mandatory reconsideration notice. If the decision’s about Universal Credit, they’ll send the notice to your online account and you’ll need to print it out. You will need to send a copy of your notice to HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) with your appeal form.

Your appeal usually won’t be accepted without the notice. If you have trouble getting a notice, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

To appeal, you need to fill in form SSCS1. You should also read the guide produced by HMCTS called ‘How to appeal against a decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions'. This will help you to fill in the form correctly.

If you're appealing a decision about PIP or ESA, you can appeal against the decision online on GOV.UK instead of using the form.

If you can’t download the online form, you can get a paper copy from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau or other advice agency.

If you can’t get a form in time to meet your one-month deadline to appeal, you can send a letter instead. However, if you have a good reason for why you might miss the deadline, it’s best to get in touch with HMCTS to see if you can extend the time limit.

If you live overseas

If you want to make an appeal and you live outside the UK, you can download form SSCS1 and a copy of the guide that helps you to fill in the form correctly. You can also get a copy from the International Pension Service Officer at the International Pension Centre or from your nearest Embassy.

If you want to keep your address confidential

If you are appealing against a joint claim or a claim for a child that you made with a former partner or spouse and you are no longer living with them, there may be a reason why you don't want them to know where you are now living now. If this is the case, you can ask HMCTS to keep your address confidential to protect your anonymity. If you need to do this, tell HMCTS when you send in your appeal.

Where to send the form

When you’ve completed your form send it with the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service office, not to the DWP office This is also called direct lodgement.

What happens after you appeal

When you send back your form, HMCTS will check that your appeal is legally valid. If your appeal is accepted, the DWP will be told you have appealed and will prepare their response. The response will:

  • give reasons for the decision
  • include a copy of your claim form, other letters and forms you've filled in and other documents about your claim
  • say what law they have used to make the decision.

The DWP should respond to HMCTS within 28 calendar days.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service will also write to tell you what will happen next.

If you appealed by writing a letter instead of filling in form SSCS1, HMCTS may send you an enquiry form asking you for more information about your needs for the appeal hearing. This includes asking you:

  • if you want to go to the appeal hearing
  • if you want to bring witnesses
  • if you will need an interpreter
  • any dates you can’t attend a hearing.

If you filled in form SSCS1, you will already have been asked for this information and usually won't have to fill in an enquiry form unless HMCTS needs more details from you.

Challenging a tribunal decision

You might be able to appeal a tribunal’s decision if you can show that it made an ‘error of law’.

First you have to ask the tribunal for a ‘statement of reasons’ if they haven’t sent you one. You must ask within a month of the decision - the letter from the tribunal tells you how.

It’s complicated to show that the tribunal made an error of law. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help as soon as possible.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • Contact the International Pension Centre, at www.gov.uk
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