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How to challenge a benefit decision

If you think a decision made about your benefits is wrong, you can ask the office that made the decision to explain or reconsider.

Challenging a benefit decision may sound daunting, but don't be put off – the process may be easier than you think.

To challenge a decision, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Only after the outcome of a mandatory reconsideration can you make an appeal.

Who makes a decision on my benefits claim?

  • Most decisions about benefits for older people are made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Decisions about Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are made by local authorities.

You should receive a letter, known as a decision notice, which tells you the outcome of your claim and will outline your appeal rights.

To challenge a benefit decision, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Only after the outcome of a mandatory reconsideration can you make an appeal.

What is a mandatory reconsideration?

You can’t appeal a decision unless a decision maker (for example the DWP or local authority) has first had the opportunity to revise or reconsider their decision. This is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

You can ask for a ‘written statement of reasons’ which explains why the original decision was made. You can use this as evidence to support your argument for requesting a mandatory reconsideration.

It's important to remember that once your decision has been reconsidered, it replaces the original decision and your benefit could be:

  • continued at the same amount
  • increased
  • reduced
  • stopped altogether.

How do I submit a mandatory reconsideration?

You can ask the decision-maker for a mandatory reconsideration over the telephone, but you should confirm your request in writing; the address you need to write to will be on the original decision letter.

You should explain why you think the decision is wrong and send any evidence or documents to support your argument.

Is there a time limit for me to ask for a mandatory reconsideration?

It’s important to ask for a mandatory reconsideration as soon as possible, as there is a one month time limit for challenging a benefit decision. The deadline for you to request a reconsideration should be on your decision letter.

If you have asked for a written statement of reasons for the decision, the 1 month time limit can be extended by 14 days.

The decision-maker may accept a late application (within 13 months of the date that you received the original decision) if there is a good reason for doing so. This may be because there is a lot of money at stake, you have a particularly strong case, or there is a good reason why it was late, such as illness or bereavement.

If they refuse to accept a late application within the 13 months, they should send you a Mandatory Reconsideration Notification with details of your appeal rights. You can then lodge an appeal against the original decision with the independent tribunal.

When can I make an appeal against a benefit decision?

You can’t appeal a benefits decision unless it has first been reconsidered by the decision-maker. Once the decision-maker has reconsidered their original decision, they will send you a letter (called the mandatory reconsideration notice).

Information about your right to appeal should be on your mandatory reconsideration notice.

You usually have up to 1 month from the date the mandatory reconsideration notice was sent to you to appeal.

A late appeal may be accepted if there is a good reason for doing so – in your application you should explain why your appeal is late.

An appeal can reduce or remove your benefit.

How do I submit an appeal against a benefits decision?

You can appeal to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), where your appeal will be heard by an independent tribunal called the First-Tier tribunal:

  • The appeal request must be in writing. You can write a letter, but it's best to use an official appeal form to make sure you give all the necessary information.
  • You need to send a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice, with your appeal form, to HMCTS.
  • When you request an appeal, you must explain why you think the decision is wrong and include any further evidence to support your argument.

After receiving your request, HMCTS will contact you to tell you what will happen next.

If my benefits claim is unsuccessful, can I make another claim in future?

If your new application for a claim has been turned down, you can still apply again in future.

Remember that your needs and eligibility criteria may change, so even if your claim was turned down, you may be able to claim successfully in future.

What should I do next?

What extra money are you entitled to?

Do you know what benefits you are entitled to? Our Benefits Calculator can help you, quickly and easily, to find out what you could be claiming.

Contact your local Age UK for advice


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For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.

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Last updated: Apr 20 2021

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