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Welfare Rights - benefits appeals

What can I do if I disagree with a decision about my benefit?

You can challenge many (but not all) decisions about your benefits by asking for a reconsideration or by appealing. You can ask for a reconsideration by ringing or writing to the benefit office that made the decision. A different officer will review the decision. They will probably not change it unless you have new information or evidence to support your request. If they do not change the decision they will write and tell you and you can appeal against this to an independent tribunal. Reconsiderations and appeals have the same time limits (see below). You do not have to ask for a reconsideration first and can appeal instead but asking for a reconsideration can often resolve the matter more quickly than an appeal.

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How do I appeal?

You should appeal in writing on the form at the back of the GL24 leaflet (or by letter as long as it includes the details below). Post or take this to the benefit office that sent you the decision. You should sign and date your appeal and it must include the following:

  • Your name, address and National Insurance number.
  • The name of the benefit you are appealing about.
  • The date the decision was sent to you (this should be on the decision letter).
  • The reason(s) you disagree with the decision. This can be fairly brief but must include some explanation of why you think the decision is wrong. You can send in more detailed reasons later. 

You do not have to include details of a representative on the GL24 unless you have already arranged for someone to come to the tribunal with you. If Welfare Rights, or another organisation, agrees to represent you at a tribunal, these details can be sent later.

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How long do I have to appeal?

You have a month from the date of the decision to appeal. This time limit can be extended by 2 weeks if you ring the benefit office to ask for reasons for their decision before the month has run out. If you miss this deadline you may still be able to appeal but only if you have good reasons, for example, you may have been ill.  Get advice if you are out of time.

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What happens after I appeal?

The benefit office should write to you to confirm they have got your appeal. If you have not received this after 14 days you should ring to check they have received it. When they get your appeal, the benefits office will review the first decision they sent you. If they still think their decision is right they will send your appeal to the Tribunals Service who will organise your tribunal. But if they change their decision in your favour they will write to you with a new decision and you will not have to go to a tribunal.

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What happens if the decision is changed but I still don't agree with it?

You will have to appeal again against the new decision. If the new decision is in your favour then your first appeal stops, even if you only get part of what you were asking for.

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What happens after the Tribunals Service gets my appeal?

The Tribunals Service will send you an enquiry form  to check that you still want to go ahead with your appeal. You must complete and return this within 14 days or your appeal may not be heard. If you miss the deadline, ring them up to explain why - your appeal may still go ahead if you have a good reason for being late. They will also send you all the papers for the appeal . These will include the reasons for the decision, copies of any documents about your case (for example, medical reports), a copy of your appeal form and any evidence you may have sent in. These papers should give you a better idea about why the decision on your claim was made.

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Should I ask for a paper or oral hearing?

The enquiry form from the Tribunals Service asks if you want a paper or oral hearing. If you choose a paper hearing you do not go to a tribunal. The tribunal will decide your appeal by looking at the appeal papers, plus any other evidence you send in. At an oral hearing you can argue your case in person. You can also take someone with you (for example, a representative, friend or witness). The tribunal members can ask you questions as well as looking at the evidence in the papers. Your chances of winning your appeal are much higher if you attend in person (and if you take someone with you).

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What evidence can I use in my appeal?

What you tell the tribunal in person is evidence. If your appeal is about your disability or health problems, medical evidence from your GP, hospital consultant or other health professional could help. Any evidence you do get should be about your circumstances when the decision was made. If, for example, your health has got worse between the date of the decision you are appealing and the date of your appeal tribunal the tribunal cannot take this into account. You should send your evidence to the Tribunals Service at least 2 weeks before your tribunal if you can. If you bring it on the day, explain to the tribunal why you could not get it any earlier.

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What happens at the tribunal hearing?

The tribunal is independent from the DWP and other benefit authorities. It will be chaired by a legally qualified judge who will sometimes hear the appeal on their own. If your appeal is about a disability benefit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) there will also be a doctor and, sometimes, another tribunal member. The DWP may send someone to put their arguments to the tribunal but often do not. The person chairing the tribunal should introduce everyone there and explain how the hearing will run on the day. Not all tribunals are the same but you will be asked questions, allowed to ask your own questions and explain why you think the decision is wrong. You should get the tribunal decision on the same day.

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What if I lose my appeal?

You can sometimes appeal against a tribunal decision but only if there has been a legal mistake, not just because you disagree with the decision.  You may be able to make a new claim for the same benefit if your circumstances have changed, for example, if your health has got worse. Or you may be able to claim a different benefit instead. Get advice if you are not sure.

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When should I contact Welfare Rights?

We can advise you at any time but may not need to see you until you have your appeal papers. If you need help with your appeal form or appeal enquiry form we may be able to do this on the phone with you.

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Can Welfare Rights represent me at the tribunal?

We do represent at tribunals but cannot do so in every case. Sometimes there will not be a lot we can add to the hearing - the most important person there is you as the tribunal will want to ask you questions to help them make their decision. You can also take someone else with you for support, maybe a friend or family member. If we do not attend on the day we will still be able to help you in other ways, by explaining the reasons for the decision and whether you have a strong case, outlining what you need to argue in support of your appeal, helping you to get evidence and preparing written submissions.

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© 2014, Lancashire County CouncilPhone: 0300 123 6701 email: enquiries@lancashire.gov.uk