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How to challenge a benefit decision

If you think a decision made about your benefits is wrong, you can challenge it. This might sound daunting, but don't be put off – the process might be easier than you think.

Who makes the decision on my benefits claim?

Who makes benefit decisions depends on which benefit you're applying for:

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

After you make a benefit claim and any necessary assessments are complete, you should receive a letter telling you the outcome and outlining how you can appeal. This is known as a 'decision notice'.

To challenge a decision, you can ask for a 'mandatory reconsideration'. This is explained in more detail in the next section.

What is a mandatory reconsideration?

Before you can appeal a decision, the decision-maker (such as the DWP or your local council) must first be given the opportunity to reconsider it. This is known as 'mandatory reconsideration'.

You can ask for a 'written statement of reasons' which explains why the original decision was made. You can use it to support your request for a mandatory reconsideration.

It's important to remember that a revised decision will replace the original one, and it won't necessarily mean you're better off.

Your benefit could be:

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

How do I request a mandatory reconsideration?

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

In your letter, you should:

  • explain why you think the decision they've made is wrong
  • send any evidence or documents to support your argument.

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

There's a 1-month time limit on challenging a benefit decision – so it's important to ask for a mandatory reconsideration as soon as you can.

The deadline should be confirmed in your decision letter.

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

If you have a good reason for applying late for a mandatory reconsideration, the decision-maker might still accept your request up to 13 months after the date you originally got the decision.

This could be because there's a lot of money at stake, you have a particularly strong case, or there were difficult circumstances – such as illness or a bereavement.

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

When can I make an appeal against a benefit decision?

You can only appeal a benefits decision if it's already been reconsidered by the decision-maker.

Once the decision-maker has reconsidered, they'll send you a letter (a 'mandatory reconsideration notice'). It should contain information about your right to appeal.

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

You might be able to make a late appeal if there's good reason for the delay. In your application, you should explain why your appeal is late.

It's important to remember that appealing can result in your benefit being reduced or removed, as well as being increased.

How do I submit an appeal against a benefits decision?

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

You need to request an appeal in writing. You can write a letter, but it's best to use an official appeal form to make sure you've provided all the necessary information.

Here are some things to remember:

  • You need to send a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice to HMCTS, along with your appeal form.
  • In your letter or form, you need to explain why you think the benefit decision is wrong and include any further evidence to support your argument.

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

If my benefit claim is unsuccessful, can I make another claim?

If your new claim for a benefit gets turned down, you can still apply again in the future.

Your needs may change, which might mean you meet eligibility criteria that you didn't before.

So, even if your claim gets turned down this time, claiming successfully in the future is still possible.

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.

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 125 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 22 2022

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