Challenging a benefits decision
When you apply for any state benefits, you will receive a written confirmation telling you whether you have been successful or not. If you haven’t been successful, the letter will give you the reasons why.
If you don’t agree with the decision letter, in most cases you have the right to appeal. It might be that you think they’ve made a mistake or it could be that you don’t agree with the reasons that are given.
The letter may also give some information about how to appeal the decision.
If you live in Northern Ireland, there’s a different process to the one laid out here.
Ask for a written statement of reasons
Decision letters should come with a written statement of reasons to explain, for example, why a claim was rejected or why benefits have been reduced.
However, if this isn’t made clear, you’re unsure of the reasons behind the decision, or you haven’t received the written statement, get in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ask for an explanation. The contact details will be on your decision letter.
It may be that a simple mistake has been made and a quick phone call can clear things up. If you’re still unsure of the reasons behind the decision at this stage, ask for a more detailed written statement of reasons.
Request a mandatory reconsideration
If you’re still unhappy with the decision, you can contact the DWP and make a formal request for the decision to be looked at again. This is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.
Explain why you think the decision is wrong and include any evidence to support this.
You can request a mandatory reconsideration in writing or over the phone. You can also download and fill in an official request form from the DWP, which includes guidance notes – but this is not obligatory
If you are asking for a mandatory reconsideration, you must do so within one month of receiving the original decision, unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example, if you’re in hospital.
The DWP is obliged to take another look at your case and send a response, known as a mandatory reconsideration notice.
There are some exceptions to this process:
- Some decisions cannot be reconsidered.
- Other decisions can go straight to an appeal without asking for a mandatory reconsideration.
Your original decision letter will explain if one of these exceptions applies to your case.
Appeal to the tribunal
If you disagree with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to a tribunal.
Appeals must be submitted within a month of either:
- the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice (if you have one) or
- the date of the decision you’re appealing.
To start the process, go to the Gov.uk page for appealing a benefit decision. Click on the ‘start now’ button to begin the application. This will take you to the relevant form for your circumstances.
Click on ‘Contact us for help’ at any point during the process to use the online web chat service and get help from an agent. You can also contact the benefit appeals helpline:
- England and Wales: 0300 123 1142 (Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm)
- Scotland: 0300 790 6234 (Mon-Fri, 8.30am-5pm)
- Wales (for Welsh speakers): 0300 303 5170 (Mon-Fri, 8.30am-5pm)
You can choose to attend the tribunal hearing in person to explain your appeal, or the appeal will be decided on the basis of your appeal form and any evidence you provide.
Appointing a representative to help you
You can appoint someone as a representative to help you with your appeal. This can be anyone, including a family member or a friend. They can help you prepare and submit your appeal, act on your behalf and give you advice. Your library or Citizens Advice can also help you find a representative.
You will need to register your representative by naming them when you submit your appeal. You can also name them after submitting your appeal by writing to:
HMCTS Benefit Appeals, PO Box 12626, Harlow CM20 9QF
Appealing on someone else’s behalf
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 loved one doesn’t have mental capacity, you would need to have Power of Attorney (in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) in place, or be a court-appointed deputy or have powers to choose an appointee from the DWP to challenge the decision.
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