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After you’ve applied for a benefit, you or your relative should receive a ‘decision letter’ explaining what you have or haven’t been awarded. If either of you wish to challenge the decision, follow the advice given below.

Step-by-step guide to challenging a benefits decision

1. Ask for a written statement of reasons

Decision letters should come with a written statement of reasons, for example, to explain why a claim was rejected or why benefits have been reduced. However, if this wasn’t made clear, your relative is still unsure of the reasons behind the decision or hasn't received the written statement, contact the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to ask them to explain what happened. It may be that a simple mistake has been made and a quick phone call can clear things up. If your relative is still unsure of the reasons behind the decision, they can ask for a more detailed written statement of reasons.

2. Request a mandatory reconsideration

If your relative is still not happy with their benefits decision, contact the DWP to request a mandatory reconsideration. They must explain why they think the decision is wrong and include any evidence to support this.

Be aware that this reconsideration must be requested within one month of receiving the original decision, unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as your relative being in hospital.

The DWP is obliged to take another look at your relative’s case and send a response, known as a mandatory reconsideration notice (sometimes known as a written statement of reasons).

3. Appeal to the tribunal

If your relative is not happy with the response to their mandatory reconsideration, they can submit an appeal to the tribunal. Be warned that a formal appeal will not usually be considered if you have not first requested a mandatory reconsideration. Appeals must be submitted within a month of either:

  • the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice (if your relative has one) or
  • the date of the decision they are appealing.

For more information about how to appeal to the tribunal, the mandatory reconsideration notice, and which forms to complete for which benefits, see the GOV.UK website

You can appeal on someone else’s behalf if that person has formally given you permission to do so. You don’t have to be legally qualified to do this. You could be a family member, or anyone else the person has asked to represent them. If your relative does not have mental capacity, you would need to have Power of Attorney in place, or be a court-appointed deputy or have appointeeship powers from the DWP to challenge the decision.

The appeal procedure might be slightly different depending on which benefit you have applied for. See this page on the GOV.UK website for specific advice.

More information

Page last reviewed: April 2017
Next review due: October 2019