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Complaining about the service you’ve received – benefits and tax credits

This advice applies to Wales

You have the right to expect a reasonable standard of service from the people dealing with your benefits or tax credits.

If you have received poor service or have lost out in some way because of errors or a slow response, you should consider complaining.

This page tells you more about complaining about service standards. If you think the decision on your benefit or tax credit is wrong, see the information on our other pages.

What level of service should you expect

Service is the way you're treated when you contact the agency dealing with your claim. It includes things such as meeting target times for dealing with claims and providing interpretation facilities.  

Most agencies that deal with benefits, including local authorities, will have a charter or statement of standards of service that sets out and what you can expect. You will be able to get this from their offices or websites. The service standards of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are available on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

You don't have to have made a claim to complain. You may have contacted the office to get information and received misleading or wrong advice, or been treated rudely .

What can happen if you complain?

If you make a complaint you could get:

  • an apology for what has happened
  • an explanation of what went wrong
  • a promise that the problem will be put right, if this is possible
  • a change in the way things are done. This will help other people, and could help you if you have to use the same office again
  • financial compensation, although this only applies in certain circumstances

When should you complain

Consider complaining if the service you got caused you problems or if the standard of service was unacceptable.

Things you can complain about include:

  • rudeness. This could include not being treated with respect or failing to get an answer to reasonable requests
  • being given incorrect or misleading advice
  • not being informed of your rights or entitlements. If you have lost out financially you may be able to get compensation
  • a long delay before your claim or enquiry was dealt with
  • mistakes,  such as being paid the wrong amount of money or being told that your claim form or other papers have been lost
  • difficulty contacting the office, by phone, letter or in person
  • being treated differently because of your race, sex, disability, religious belief or politics.

Delays

You should consider complaining if you have had to wait too long for:

  • a claim to be decided
  • an award to be changed
  • an explanation to be given.

The agency or local authority should have a target time for deciding a claim. You should find out what they are.

Inefficiency

You should consider complaining if an office has been inefficient. For example If:

  • benefit or tax credit case papers are lost
  • payments stop by mistake
  • you are under or overpaid benefit or tax credits because the office has made a mistake.  

Even if you are repaid the correct balance of an underpayment, you may lose out financially and be inconvenienced by not receiving the correct money for a period of time. In this case, you may want to consider also asking for compensation.

Overpayments which have to be repaid can also cause financial difficulty and distress.

Inadequate information

If you are not satisfied with the advice or information you have been given by a government agency or the local authority, you should consider making a complaint.

For example, you may not have been told about a benefit you could have applied for, or you may have been given incorrect information about your national insurance record.

Lack of interpretation facilities

If your first language is not English, and the office doesn't provide adequate interpretation facilities, you should make a complaint. You have a right to help with claim forms and letters if you do not speak English as your first language. You may have a claim for discrimination if interpretation facilities are not available

Discrimination

It's against the law for you to be discriminated against because of your sex, sexual orientation, religion, race or disability.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against in the way your claim has been handled or in the way you’ve been treated, you can consider making a complaint.

How to complain

It's usually best to complain informally first by talking to the person you dealt with or their manager.  If this doesn't sort out the problem, put the complaint in writing.

Government agencies, service providers and local authorities should have their own internal complaints procedure. This will set out the stages for dealing with the complaint.

If you're still not happy after you have gone through the internal complaints procedure, you may be able to complain to an independent arbitrator.

Depending on the benefit or tax credit, this could be the Independent Case Examiner or the Adjudicator.

If you're not happy with their decision, you may be able to ask your MP to refer your case to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman.

Compensation

In certain circumstances you may be able to get compensation. If you have had problems such as an unreasonable delay, wrong advice or you've lost money you should not lose out financially or suffer undue distress.

However, these payments are made on a case-by-case basis, so you don't have an automatic right to a compensation payment.

Next steps

You should make your complaint to the office that caused the problem. This could be the office that dealt with your claim, or the office where you made an enquiry and got advice.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

Complain to your local authority.

Pension Credit, Retirement Pension, and other benefits and social fund payments for people over 60

National insurance contributions

Complain to HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Contributions Office.

Tax credits

Complain to HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credit Office.

Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance

All other benefits for people under 60

Complain to the benefits office, job centre or Job Centre Plus office which handled your claim or enquiry.

Medical examinations for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance

If your complaint is about the outcome of an assessment decision, you should complain to DWP.

If you’re unhappy with the service you received, you’ll need to complain to the company who carried out your assessment. This will either be:

If you're unsure who your assessment provider was, check your appointment letter.

Other useful information

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