Appealing a benefits decision

This information applies to England and Wales.

If you do not agree with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision about your benefit claim, you can appeal it.

The first stage is mandatory reconsideration. The deadline is usually 1 month after the date on your DWP decision letter.

Reasons you might disagree with a decision

You might want to appeal the decision if:

  • your claim is turned down
  • you’ll get less money than you thought
  • your claim review date is too soon

A statement of reasons explains how the DWP came to the decision. Call the DWP and ask for a “written statement of reasons”. If a telephone call would not be accessible to you, email them to:

  • ask for a written statement of reasons
  • say why you need to communicate by email as a reasonable adjustment

You can then ask the DWP to reconsider their decision. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. If you were still unhappy with the decision, then you would appeal.

If your condition gets worse, you can report this to the DWP. They will usually review your claim and send you a review form. Your benefits could go up or down. An adviser could tell you if you could benefit from challenging a decision.

Find an adviser (Advicelocal)

Find a local benefits adviser (Turn2us)

Benefits and mental health

The benefit appeal process can be stressful. There are things you can do if it’s affecting your mental health. These can include:

  • accessing mental health support
  • talking to a mental health charity about how you are feeling
  • talking to other disabled people on our online community

Support if claiming benefits affects your mental health

If your mental health means you find it hard to work or do daily tasks, you could claim benefits. These will depend on the criteria, but can include depression or anxiety.

Benefits and mental health

Benefit payments when appealing a decision

Each benefit is different. What happens to your payments can also depend on your circumstances.

Contact the DWP to find out what might happen to your benefits if you appeal the decision.

Help with bills and debt

If you are getting less money, you might be entitled to support. This can include benefits and grants.

Help with your energy bills

Discount on water bills and help with debt

How to apply for grants

There’s also support if you are in debt.

Budgeting tips

Help and advice when you are in debt

Mandatory reconsideration

The first stage of appealing a DWP decision is mandatory reconsideration.

Benefits that have mandatory reconsideration include:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), including contribution, income-related and new style
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Carer’s Allowance (CA)
  • Pension Credit

Challenge a benefit decision (mandatory reconsideration) (GOV.UK)

1 month deadline

If you want to appeal a benefit decision, you have 1 calendar month from the date on your decision letter to ask the DWP to ask for mandatory reconsideration.

For example: Your decision letter from DWP has a date of 1 September. This means that your deadline is 1 October.

If you think your letter will not get to the DWP in time, let them know. The telephone number will be on your decision letter.

If you miss the deadline

If you miss the 1 month deadline, you can still ask the DWP to reconsider, as long as it’s within 13 months of the date on your decision letter.

You must have a good reason for missing the deadline. Reasons include:

  • a benefits adviser gave you the wrong information
  • you were caring for someone who is ill
  • you’ve been mentally or physically unwell

In some circumstances, DWP will reconsider a decision after 13 months. If you are unsure, ask a benefits adviser.

Find a local benefits adviser (Turn2us)

Get support with mandatory reconsideration

You can get support from:

To start mandatory reconsideration

Use the DWP decision letter and statement of reasons to say why you disagree with the decision. Say which part you want them to look at again and why you think it’s wrong.

You can:

  • send a completed mandatory reconsideration request (CRMR1 form)
  • or write a letter telling them why you disagree with their decision

Keep a copy of the form and letter. You may need these if you go to tribunal.

If you choose to write a letter, make sure you include all the information required by the online form.

How to ask for mandatory reconsideration (GOV.UK)

Waiting for the DWP to reconsider their decision

The DWP says it can take 2 months to reconsider their decision. But it could take much longer than this.

To find out about your claim, try calling the department dealing with your benefit claim.

Complaints procedure - Department for Work and Pensions (GOV.UK)

Complaining about the service you’ve received - benefits and tax credits (Citizens Advice)

If you fail the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for ESA

You may be able to go directly to appeal without going through mandatory reconsideration. If you are unsure, check your decision letter or ask your Work Coach.

If you think your ESA decision is wrong (Citizens Advice)

Universal Credit

If you are appealing a Universal Credit decision, you can use your journal to ask for mandatory reconsideration.

Make a copy of your journal however you can. For example, you could take a photo, copy and paste or print it.

If you do not have access to a journal, contact DWP.

You can use the Advice Now UC letter tool to help write your Universal Credit mandatory reconsideration letter.

Sign in to your Universal Credit account (GOV.UK)

Housing Benefit

If you do not agree with a decision about Housing Benefit, you need to contact your local authority and make a request in writing.

Housing benefit revisions and appeals (Shelter)

Appeal a Housing Benefit decision (GOV.UK)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Give specific reasons why you disagree. Use your decision letter, statement of reasons and medical assessment report to do this.

Use the points system to work out where you could have scored more points. The DWP considers if you can do activities:

  • safely
  • to an acceptable standard
  • as often as you need to
  • within a reasonable time

Try using these to explain why you should have scored more points and give examples.

Also say if doing 1 activity would stop you from doing another activity.

For example:

You can wash yourself or prepare food on most days.

But, if you wash yourself, you would not be able to prepare food.

Send evidence you have not already provided to the address on the original decision letter. This could be:

  • reports or letters from medical professionals
  • care or school plans the DWP has not seen
  • a statement from a social worker, carer or personal assistant

You can use the Advice Now PIP letter tool to help write your PIP mandatory reconsideration letter.

PIP Helper (Turn2us)

PIP Appeal Outline Creator (Benefits and Work)

Challenging a PIP decision (Citizens Advice)

Contact Scope’s helpline for support

Attendance Allowance

You may want to appeal the decision because you have got no support or less support than you need.

Challenging an Attendance Allowance decision - mandatory reconsideration (Citizens Advice)

If you want to appeal the decision because your condition is worse now, the process is different.

Attendance Allowance: If your condition gets worse

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Use the decision letter and statement of reasons to say why you disagree with the decision.

You can use the Advice Now letter tool to help write your DLA mandatory reconsideration letter.

Send evidence you have not already provided to the address on the original decision letter. This could be:

  • care plans from schools or hospitals the DWP has not seen
  • extra information about your child’s condition day-to-day

Ask professionals involved with your child to write about the support your child needs. For example:

  • school nurse
  • social worker
  • caseworker
  • medical evidence from a GP or consultant

If your child’s condition gets worse, you should:

  • appeal your existing claim and
  • make a new application for DLA

You cannot include new changes in your child’s condition to appeal your existing claim. You must say why the decision was wrong at the time.

Contact Scope’s helpline for support

If your mandatory reconsideration is successful

You’ll get backpay to the date of the original claim if your mandatory reconsideration is successful.

Stages of the appeal process

If you disagree with the mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal.

There can be up to 2 stages of appeal. These stages are:

  • Tribunal
  • Upper Tribunal

Warning Appeals

Consider appealing if you have a benefit claim rejected.

Government figures show that more than half of people who appealed were successful at tribunal.

Appeals can lead to:

  • your award increasing
  • your award staying the same or
  • you losing an award

A benefits adviser can let you know if you have a strong case to appeal the decision.

Find an adviser (Turn2us)

Tribunal appeal

If you disagree with the DWP decision after a mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to an independent panel called a tribunal. This is also known as a first-tier tribunal.

In-person hearings happen in a court. Contact the tribunal if you need to make sure the hearing is accessible to you. For example:

  • level access
  • using your mobility aid

Ask if you need a remote hearing.

A judge chairs the tribunal. If the tribunal is about disability, the other people on the tribunal will usually include:

  • a doctor
  • someone who works with disabled people, like a social worker

The people on the tribunal do not work for DWP.

Wait times are usually between 6 and 12 months.

Apply to a tribunal (Citizens Advice)

An appeal can be complicated and challenging, so ask for emotional or practical help from relatives, friends, a support worker or health professional.

There may be a local organisation that can provide in-person advice or support at the tribunal.

Find an adviser (Advicelocal)

You do not have to have an adviser at the tribunal. You can represent yourself.

Representing yourself in court

A benefit expert could help

A benefits adviser could help you to get the best outcome if you need support and understanding:

  • how tribunals work
  • what your rights are
  • the kind of written evidence you need, for example how you meet the descriptor for an activity that would make you eligible for PIP

Find a local benefits adviser (Turn2us)

Requesting a tribunal

You have 1 month from the date shown on your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to submit your claim.

If you miss the 1-month deadline, you can still ask the DWP for an appeal if you have a reason. For example:

  • your health
  • waiting for advice
  • caring responsibilities

Contact the Disability Service Centre (GOV.UK)

When appealing to a tribunal you will need:

  • the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice sent by the DWP. If you’ve lost it, contact the office for that benefit at DWP and ask for another
  • to complete the appeal form (SSCS1)
  • any supporting evidence, for example medical evidence

SSCS1: Appeal a social security benefits decision (GOV.UK)

Warning Sending your SSCS1 form and documents

You must send them to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not to the DWP. The address is on the SSCS1 form.

Make copies before you send your form and documents.

Being able to show that you sent your form and supporting evidence is important. This is because your documents might get lost in the post.

A receipt showing proof of postage is free. You can only ask for a receipt if you post it at a post office. This shows that you have posted your documents but you will not be told when they arrive.

Some types of postage also show that the item arrived. These are more expensive. For example:

  • tracked
  • signed for

The DWP should respond within 28 days

The HM Courts and Tribunals Service receives your form and documents. The Tribunals Service then asks the DWP to respond within 28 days.

The tribunal service will send you all the documents which will be looked at. A copy is also sent to others involved in your case. This is called the ‘appeal bundle’. When you receive this, you should:

  • read the documents
  • mark any bits you think are important, for example with sticky notes
  • send any further evidence to the tribunal if it’s not in the bundle

Contact the tribunal as soon as possible if you would prefer an electronic copy of the documents.

Get advice if you are unsure about what evidence you need.

Send missing evidence as soon as you can

Your appeal has the best chance if the tribunal has the correct evidence. They need the evidence in advance.

If you bring new evidence with you to the tribunal hearing, they might not look at it. But you can send further evidence before your tribunal hearing.

If the evidence you need is in your bundle, you do not have to send anything.

1 month deadline

You have 1 calendar month from the date on your appeal bundle letter to send evidence to the tribunal service.

Further evidence can include:

  • documents that are not in your appeal bundle
  • new evidence you now have

The tribunal hearing

After the DWP has responded, the HM Courts and Tribunals Service will send you a letter including:

  • the DWP’s response
  • what happens next
  • details about your first tier tribunal hearing and waiting times

You can ask for a written hearing, but it's usually better to attend in person. It is possible to have a hearing:

  • face to face
  • by video call
  • by phone call

This could give you a chance to show how your condition affects you. Tribunal members can ask you questions and make a better informed decision.

The meeting place should be accessible for you. Contact the tribunal if you have any access needs and need a reasonable adjustment. For example:

  • accessible parking
  • level access from the street
  • lifts to reach the room if it’s not on the first floor

They may ask you to explain why you need this adjustment. For example, your condition means you need to lie down to manage pain.

You can also take someone with you for support.

Challenging a PIP decision - the tribunal hearing (Citizens Advice)

Appealing an ESA decision (Citizens Advice)

Taking someone to the tribunal hearing

Tribunals can be stressful. Having someone with you can help.

Someone can support you to:

  • remember what’s in your appeal documents
  • talk about how much your condition affects you
  • explain how much pain you have on a bad day
  • explaining things that are usual for you, but would be hard for other people to understand

Anyone who can support you with these things will help. They could be:

  • your partner, a friend or family member
  • a carer or health professional
  • an advocate
  • trade union representative
  • social worker

Disability Rights UK has a list of advocacy organisations who could help.

If your case is complex, having someone who understands the benefits process can help.

If you cannot find someone

You could ask for your appeal to happen over a video or phone call if that would make it easier for someone else to take part.

You can ask for another date for your tribunal, but this will probably mean that you will need to wait longer.

If you win your appeal

The tribunal will decide the rate and length of your award. If the amount has increased, you will get back pay. This is usually at the increased amount from the date of your original claim. The DWP should apply the new rate within 4 weeks. It is rare for DWP to challenge a decision.

Further appeal

You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you’ve already:

  1. had a mandatory reconsideration
  2. and then appealed to the First-tier Tribunal

The Upper Tribunal decides if there has been a legal mistake called an ‘error of law’. For example:

  • the decision does not match the evidence
  • there is not enough evidence to back up the decision
  • the decision is against the law (legislation or case law)

An appeal to the Upper Tribunal can take about a year. Get advice before you appeal.

Appeal to the Upper Tribunal

Last reviewed by Scope on: 06/07/2023

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