Appealing an Income Support decision at a tribunal
You can appeal to a tribunal if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) didn’t change their decision when you asked for a mandatory reconsideration.
Coronavirus – appealing to the tribunal
If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents. Send any evidence you have to the tribunal as soon as possible – for example medical evidence.
If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead. You can find the contact details of your tribunal on GOV.UK.
If there has to be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference. You can check how to prepare if the tribunal arranges a hearing by phone or video call.
The tribunal is independent of the DWP and overseen by a judge. The judge will look at your evidence and hear what you have to say. They’ll also look at any evidence from the DWP and then make a decision.
Before you appeal to a tribunal
You must ask the DWP to look at their decision again - called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ - before you can appeal to a tribunal. See challenging an Income Support decision for how to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.
When you should appeal to a tribunal
You should appeal to a tribunal if, after reading the reasons on the ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’, you still think the decision is wrong. For example, if you think:
- you’ve been paid the wrong amount
- your Income Support shouldn’t have been stopped
- you haven’t been overpaid - or that you shouldn’t pay the money back
- you shouldn’t have been sanctioned, for example for not going to a work-focused interview
The mandatory reconsideration notice is the letter from the DWP with ‘About your mandatory reconsideration’ written at the top. You’ll need to send a copy of this notice when you ask for an appeal.
Getting specialist help
You can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser at any point in the appeal process. They can help you:
- fill in the form to ask for an appeal
- understand any documents you’re sent
- reply to any letters from the tribunal or the DWP
- photocopy and post documents
- prepare for the appeal hearing and might go with you
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to book an appointment. Take your mandatory reconsideration notice and original decision letter to your first appointment, if you can.
If the tribunal doesn’t agree with your reasons for appealing they either won’t change the decision or they’ll make a new decision. If it’s a new decision there’s a chance they’ll decide to reduce your Income Support even more or increase your overpayment. For example, they might increase your overpayment if your Income Support has stopped and there’s evidence it should have stopped even earlier.
You should be sure you have a good chance of getting the decision changed in your favour before you ask for an appeal. If you’re not sure, contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) must get your appeal within 1 month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow time for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice.
If you’ve missed the deadline
If it’s less than 13 months since the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice, you might still be able to appeal. You’ll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example:
- it took a long time for the DWP to send you your mandatory reconsideration notice
- you posted your appeal in time, but it got lost in the post
- someone in your family was seriously ill
The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if the DWP agrees you had a good reason. Even if the DWP doesn’t agree, the tribunal will extend the time if they think you should have been given an extension.
The tribunal might also agree to extend the time in the interest of fairness and justice. For example, if the decision you’re appealing against is stopping you claiming other benefits or has left you in debt.
It’s free to appeal, but you usually won’t be able to get legal aid to pay for a solicitor to help you. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to ask an adviser to help you prepare your appeal.
Submit your appeal
It’s better to apply online or with a form - if you write a letter you might leave out important information.
If you want to apply using the paper form, you can download form SSCS1 from GOV.UK.
If you ask for an appeal without filling in a form, write ‘Appeal’ at the top of your letter and include:
- your full name
- your National Insurance number
- the date at the top of your mandatory reconsideration notice
- why you think the decision is wrong
The DWP should pass on any evidence you’ve given them to HMCTS. You don’t need to send it again with your appeal form or letter.
HMCTS will send you a copy of all the evidence they’ve received - called an ‘appeal bundle’. It’s important to check this has all the evidence you gave the DWP. If anything is missing, send it to HMCTS - explaining that the DWP failed to send it.
You can send evidence to HMCTS up to 1 month after you get the appeal bundle. If you miss this deadline, explain why when you send the evidence and HMCTS might extend the deadline.
Before sending any extra evidence, you can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser.
If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal
An appeal can be cancelled - known as ‘struck out’ - if you fail to do something HMCTS asks for, like sending them a certain document.
HMCTS will write to warn you if your appeal is in danger of being struck out so you have the chance to stop it.
You can ask for an appeal that was cancelled because you failed to do something to be looked at again - known as getting an appeal ‘reinstated’. Write to HMCTS and include:
- your full name and address
- your National Insurance number
- the decision you’re appealing
- the date your appeal was cancelled
- why you failed to do something HMCTS asked for, if this was the reason your appeal was struck out
- why you think your appeal should be looked at again
You should write no more than 1 month after HMCTS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1 month deadline.
If your appeal was struck out for any other reason, you should still write to the tribunal and explain why your appeal shouldn’t have been struck out. If the tribunal agree they’ll reopen your appeal.
If the tribunal don’t agree to reopen your appeal, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if there’s anything else you can do.
Explaining why you’re appealing
The most important part of your appeal is giving the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.
Use your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice to list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts and examples - and mention the evidence you’ve sent to the DWP to support what you’re saying. You can use the same examples and evidence as for your mandatory reconsideration.
Going to the appeal hearing
When you submit your appeal, you can say if you want to be there when the judge considers your appeal - known as an ‘oral hearing’. If you choose to have an oral hearing, you can attend it:
- by phone
- by online video call
- in person
It’s always better to have an oral hearing, if you can. You’ll have more chance to put your case forward and can answer any questions the judge might have.
You can get help with the cost of travelling to the hearing. Find out what expenses you can claim on GOV.UK.
You can take your representative with you, for example someone from Citizens Advice or a solicitor, if you have one. Or you can ask someone to go with you for support.
If you ask for the hearing to be done without you - called a ‘paper hearing’ - you’ll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your case. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you go to the hearing in person.
If you filled in a paper appeal form
Send your completed form or letter to HMCTS by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.
HMCTS Benefit Appeals
PO Box 12626
HMCTS will check the form and then ask the DWP for their response within 28 days.
HMCTS will send you:
- a copy of the DWP’s response
- information about what happens next
- details of when and where the hearing will be (if you’ve said you want to be there)
You can find out more about what happens at the hearing on GOV.UK.
If the DWP changes the decision before the hearing
The DWP might write to you and HMCTS to say they’ve changed the decision before the appeal hearing.
If the change is in your favour, HMCTS will cancel the hearing. The letter from the DWP will tell you what to do if you’re not happy with the new decision and still want to appeal.
If the change isn't in your favour - for example your Income Support has been reduced further - the hearing will go ahead as planned.
Finding out the tribunal’s decision
If you go to the hearing, you’ll usually be told the decision on the day - and be given a written copy. If the judge needs longer to decide, or you’re not at the hearing, they’ll write to tell you their decision.
If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision
You might be able to appeal to an upper tribunal if the first tribunal made a mistake - called an ‘error of law’. An adviser can help you check if they made an error. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get an appointment.