Your guide to care and support

Challenging a benefit decision

If you’re not happy with the decision made about the income-related benefit that you've claimed, you must first ask for the decision to be looked at again (this is known as "mandatory reconsideration"). If you're unhappy about the way your claim has been dealt with, you can also make a complaint.

If you want more information about the reasons behind the decision, you need to ask for a "written statement of reasons" within one month of being sent the decision. If you're sent written reasons within that month, you have an extra 14 days in which to ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

In some cases, you may be able to get the decision looked at again even if the one-month deadline has expired.

When your application for reconsideration has been decided, you will be sent a "mandatory reconsideration notice". This will explain about your right of appeal, should you still disagree with the decision.

Appealing a benefit decision

The "mandatory reconsideration notice" will tell you how to appeal. Importantly, it will tell you that your appeal must be made directly to HM Courts and Tribunals Service and that you must also include a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice.

The Tribunals Service will send you an enquiry form, which asks whether you want an oral hearing or a paper hearing (where you don’t attend). You must return the enquiry form within 14 days. The appeal may not go ahead if the form is not returned in time.

Before the hearing, you will be sent an explanation for the decision (known as a response), and this will also be sent to Tribunals Service.

Paper hearing

In a paper hearing, the tribunal looks at all of the information in the case papers and makes a decision based on that information. In an oral hearing, you appear in person and explain why you think the decision on the benefit you've claimed is wrong. The tribunal will ask you questions about the facts in your case.

Oral hearing

You stand a better chance of success if you go to an oral hearing. This is because most of us are better at explaining things by talking to other people than by putting things in writing. The tribunal will also be able to ask questions and may raise points that you didn't know were relevant.

The rules of the tribunal procedure aren't very strict. The chairman or woman of the tribunal decides who speaks and when, but the chair must make sure that you get a fair chance to state your case.

It helps to be prepared. Before the hearing, make notes of what you want to say. Lay out the main points you want to raise to explain why you think the decision is wrong. Be clear about what you think the correct decision should be, and set out what other evidence you may have that can support your case

The decision is usually made on the same day, and you will be given a short notice informing you of the tribunal's decision.

If you believe there's been an official error, you can ask for a decision to be reconsidered at any time.

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015
Next review due: 15/01/2018