How to Appeal a Benefit Decision?

You can make an appeal to the independent Social Security and Child Support tribunal if you don’t agree with a benefit decision. This help guide explains what will happen at the hearing and the process for getting a decision.

The Social Security and Child Support Tribunal is impartial and independent of government. So, the tribunal panel will listen to both sides of an appeal before they make a decision.

Note: The process of appealing a benefit decision differs if you are living in Northern Ireland. You can also read this guide in Welsh language (Cymraeg).

Before You Appeal to the Tribunal

The first step is asking for a review of the decision about your benefits by the department that made it. This is a process called ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

Following that, you must make your appeal to the tribunal within one (1) month of learning the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration. Doing so gives you an opportunity to provide evidence to the tribunal and have it decided at a tribunal hearing.

You would need to explain why your appeal was late if you start it after one month. Even so, they may decide not to accept it.

There are only certain types of benefit decisions that you can appeal against. They are:

Note: The letters you received about your benefits and allowances will have further information about the exact name.

How to Submit an Appeal

Before submitting your appeal, you will need to know your National Insurance number, and:

  • Your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice (received after asking for the benefit decision to be looked at again).
  • Contact details for your representative (if helping you to appeal a benefit decision).

You can choose to attend the tribunal hearing in person (to explain your appeal). Alternatively, you can have the decision based on your appeal form and any supporting evidence that you supply.

Use form SSCS1 to appeal a social security benefit decision by postal methods (e.g. relating to ESA or PIP).

Note: You can submit an appeal online via the GOV.UK website or continue an existing appeal by signing in to a previously saved benefit appeal application.

Appointing a Representative to Help with Your Appeal

If you appoint someone to act as your ‘representative’ (e.g. a family member, trusted friend), they will be able to:

  • Help to submit your appeal.
  • Prepare your evidence.
  • Act on your behalf (e.g. at the tribunal).
  • Respond to letters.
  • Give you expert advice (e.g. about medical evidence).

Some organisations, such as the Citizens Advice, can give out free information about claiming benefits and how to appeal a decision.

When registering a representative, you can choose to (either):

  • Name them when submitting your appeal.
  • Register them any time afterward (by contacting the appropriate benefit appeals helpline).

Benefit Appeals Helpline (England and Wales)
Telephone: 0300 123 1142
Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm
Saturday: 8am to 2pm
Email: [email protected]

Benefit Appeals Helpline (for Welsh speakers)
Telephone: 0300 303 5170
Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 5pm

Benefit Appeals Helpline (Scotland)
Telephone: 0300 790 6234
Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 5pm
Email: [email protected]

After Submitting Your Appeal

Your appeal will go to the same department that made the original decision about your entitlement to benefits. You will get a copy of their response with an explanation behind their decision.

Providing Evidence for the Tribunal

Supplying some evidence (e.g. a doctor’s letter) will help the tribunal understand your particular circumstances or condition. They will consider any evidence you provide when making a decision.

Once you have submitted your appeal, you will receive further details on where to send your evidence. It would be important not to delay it so that the tribunal (and any other parties involved) can read it before the hearing.

At the Tribunal Hearing

A tribunal hearing will make a decision on your appeal. If you attend the hearing in person, you will often get a decision on the same day. If not, they will send you the decision by post soon afterward.

In most cases, it takes around six (6) months for a tribunal to hear an appeal about a benefit decision. But, it can take longer if you don’t:

  • Send your evidence in a timely manner.
  • Turn up on time for the hearing (if you are going to attend).
  • Register your representative without any undue delay (if you are going to use one).

What Will Happen at a Hearing?

The responsibility of making a decision will rest with a judge and at least one expert. The actual benefit that you are appealing will determine which experts they will use.

Even so, the judge and all experts used in hearings will act impartially and independent of the government.

Note: The GOV.UK website provides further advice about the rules in the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008.

Attending the hearing yourself means you would have an opportunity to explain the details about your benefit appeal. But, the judge and experts will ask questions about your condition or your particular circumstances.

In some cases, representatives from the department that made the original decision may also be present at the hearing.

They would also have an opportunity to ask questions. But, they will not act as part of the tribunal and they would not decide the result of your appeal.

As a general rule, certain kinds of specialist support will be available during the hearing, such as:

  • A language interpreter
  • Hearing loop
  • Accessible tribunal room

It is best to request any specialist support when you first make your appeal. But, you would not be able to use your own interpreter during the actual hearing.

Claiming Back ‘Reasonable’ Expenses

You should be able to claim expenses that you encounter when attending the tribunal, including:

  • Travel expenses (to cover fares if using public transport) or 12 pence per mile (if driving), plus 2 pence per mile for a maximum of two (2) passengers.
  • The cost of meals:
    • £4.25 if you are away for more than five (5) hours.
    • £9.30 for more than ten (10) hours.
    • £13.55 for more than twelve (12) hours.
  • Loss of earnings:
    • £38.96 if you are away from work for up to four (4) hours.
    • £75.59 for four (4) hours or longer.
  • Care expenses up to the current National Minimum Wage rates (e.g. to pay for a childminder).

Ask the clerk of the court to give you a claim form at the hearing. They will need some proof of purchases, such as receipts or a letter from your employer to show a loss of earnings.

After Receiving the Tribunal’s Decision

What if you are not happy with the decision given to you by the tribunal (e.g. you think there was a mistake in the process)?

In some cases, you may get a decision set aside (cancelled) or make an appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber).

Getting a Decision Set Aside

Citizens Advice can provide further information on how to get a decision cancelled or ‘set aside’.

Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline
Telephone: 03454 04 05 06
Textphone: 18001 03454 04 05 06
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm

Appealing to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber

As a rule, there would need to be some legal reason to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber). Typical examples would be if the tribunal failed to:

  • Apply the laws of the United Kingdom properly.
  • Provide proper reasons for their decision.
  • Use sufficient facts to back up their decision.

There are three key steps to follow when making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber). They are:

  1. Asking the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal for full written reasons (called a ‘statement of reasons’) within one (1) month of the date of the decision. The decision letter will provide further details on this step.
  2. Getting permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) from the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.
  3. The Social Security and Child Support Tribunal may refuse this step. If so, you can ask the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) for permission to appeal.

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