A Guide To Appealing Against
Decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions
All decisions affecting entitlement to social security benefits are based on the law, but many decisions can be challenged if you are not satisfied with them. When making a decision on a claim the Department for Work and Pensions first considers what are the facts of your situation and then applies what it considers are the relevant rules. Mistakes or disagreements can occur though as the evidence looked at could have been incomplete, inaccurate or based on an opinion you may not agree with. It can also be that the rules used have been the wrong ones or have been incorrectly or inappropriately applied. Where there is an error or mistake this can often lead to a decision being successfully challenged.
Examples of decisions which may be challenged include:
- Assessments for Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance,
- The recovery of overpayments of benefit,
- Allegations that a man and a woman are living together as husband and wife,
- Declarations that an accident has happened at work,
Please note that decisions made by other agencies and departments will have their own separate rules and procedures. Disputes and appeals regarding tax credits, for example, are dealt with by the Inland Revenue and those regarding Child Support by the Child Support Agency. Also, there is no right of appeal in certain situations, for example, regarding Social Fund loans, where there is a separate review procedure.
How are decisions challenged?
When you wish to dispute a decision you normally have the choice of asking for a reconsideration (which can be done in writing or by telephone) or putting in an appeal to an independent tribunal. If the Department for Work and Pensions reconsider their decision and it is still not favourable you will have another month to appeal should you wish to do so. There is a one month time limit (starting from the date on the decision letter) for both reconsiderations and appeals. This limit can be extended by 14 days if more detailed written reasons are requested (unless these have already been provided). Requests can sometimes be submitted later but special reasons would have to be given as to why the application could not have been sent in earlier. In certain situations you can ask for a decision to be looked at again at any time; this might happen, for example, when there has been a change of circumstances during an ongoing claim for benefit.
How do I appeal?
Appeals should normally be submitted on a GL24 form titled ‘If you think our decision is wrong’, which is available from the Department for Work and Pensions. The completed form should be returned to the office which made the decision. Keep a copy of what you have written. On the form you should give a brief outline of why you disagree with the decision but you would not have to explain this in any great detail; it is much more important to ensure that your request is received within the time limit. More details or evidence to support your appeal can be sent in at a later stage if need be. The booklet that accompanies the GL24 form is well worth reading as it contains useful information on the explanations of decisions, as well as on disputes, appeals and the procedures involved.
What happens after I appeal?
Once your appeal has been received it is possible that the Department for Work and Pensions would have another look at their decision. Where this results in a more favourable decision you should note that you would have to submit a further appeal form if you still disagreed with it in some way. If the Department for Work and Pensions do not change their decision then they would have to prepare an appeal submission. The appeal submission explains the decision made, states the rules used in making it, and contains copies of any evidence used to make the decision. Copies of these documents (the ‘appeal papers’) are then sent to yourself, your representative (if you have one) and to another organisation, the Appeals Service, who from then on have the responsibility for dealing with the administration of your appeal. It is sometimes only when these appeal papers have been received that it is possible to understand why the original decision was made; for example, in incapacity or disability cases the Department for Work and Pensions may have got the facts wrong or have preferred the opinion of a doctor they referred you to rather than your own description or the opinion of your own GP or Consultant.
What do I have to do after I have appealed?
After the Appeals Service have received notification of your appeal they will send you an enquiry form, form TAS 1, that asks you various questions about your intentions. It is extremely important that you return the completed form to the Appeals Service within the 14 day time limit otherwise your appeal may be heard without you being invited to attend or may even be struck out completely.
Most of the questions on the form are quite straightforward but a summary of points often raised by some questions is given below:
||Issues to consider when answering
|Do you wish to withdraw your appeal?
||You should tick no to this question (but should seek advice if you were in any doubt about this).
|Do you want an oral hearing or a paper hearing?
||You should opt for an oral hearing as this would give you (or someone acting on your behalf) the option of discussing your case in person with an appeal panel. Even if you do not want to go or cannot go it is still better to ask for an oral hearing; someone may be able to attend on your behalf or, in certain situations, it may be possible for the appeal panel to visit you at home. Paper hearings are brief, heard with the tribunal members considering the documents alone and, statistically, have a poor success rate.
|Do you agree do having less than 14 days notice of a hearing?
||It is possible that your case could be heard slightly sooner if you say yes to this but it could be at very short notice. It is arguably better to have some more advance notice of when your appeal will be heard.
|Do you have any more evidence that you wish to put before the tribunal?
||If you have any additional evidence that may assist you case then you should send a copy to the Appeals Service. If you have asked for or wish to obtain further evidence (for example, a doctor’s letter) but do not know when you will receive it you should mention this on the form and ask that your appeal not be listed until you have obtained it.
|If you already have a representative please give their name and address
||Even if you already stated who your representative is in an earlier letter or form you should give their details again here. Do not put down an individual’s or organisation’s details though unless you have discussed it with them first and they have agreed to represent you.
If you have opted for an oral hearing of your case the Appeals Service will then inform you of the location and date of your hearing and will also send you information about travelling expenses for attending at the hearing. This notification can be a few weeks (sometime more) after you have returned the TAS 1 form. For residents of Tameside appeals are normally heard in offices in Stockport or Manchester.
Remember that this is a general guide to challenging decisions and not a full authoritative statement of law. We have made every effort to ensure that the information is correct at the date shown at the top of the page.
If you want to know more about benefits, you can get help from Tameside Council’s Customer Services. Telephone 0161 342 8355
A directory of information and advice providers is available at the GOV.UK Legal Aid page or you can telephone 0845 345 4345 (Minicom 0845 609 6677)