procedure for appealing against benefit decisions changed in 2013.
If you have appealed benefit decisions in the past (before 28th
October 2013) you need to be aware that the process now is not the
same as it was then.
Note: Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support decisions are still appealed using the old procedure.
In a nutshell, the procedure works like this:
- You cannot appeal without first asking the Jobcentre Plus to look again at your case: this is called asking for a mandatory reconsideration;
- If the Jobcentre Plus does not change its mind, you then have to
send in your appeal, but you have to send it direct
to the Tribunal Service, not to the Jobcentre Plus.
Stage 1: Ask the Jobcentre Plus for a mandatory reconsideration
When you write asking for a mandatory reconsideration, there is no special form, so it’s important to make sure you include information like your National Insurance Number, the date of the decision(s) you’re not happy with, and exactly why you disagree with the decision(s). You could use the example I have written here.
When you come to give your reasons for appealing make it simple and clear.
- DO tell them why you think their decision is wrong.
- DO list the descriptors that you think apply
- DO tell them if you think that any exceptional circumstances apply
- DON’T write lots of stuff about how the decision has made it hard for you: sadly, it’s not relevant
- TRY and keep a copy of the letter: it may make things easier later.
Make sure your request for a mandatory reconsideration reaches the
Jobcentre Plus by the deadline. This deadline is one month from
the date each decision was sent to you. So if the date on the
Jobcentre Plus letter is 10th March you should make sure your
appeal reaches them by 10th April.
Stage 2: Wait for the Jobcentre Plus to look at your request
Here we come to a very big problem with the new procedure, and some very bad news...
when the Jobcentre Plus received your appeal, you were normally
entitled to carry on getting Employment and Support Allowance at
the assessment rate until the appeal was finished.
Although this now still applies once the Tribunal Service gets your appeal (see below) it does not apply while the Jobcentre Plus is looking at your request for a mandatory reconsideration.
In other words, you are not normally entitled to Employment and Support Allowance while the Jobcentre Plus is looking at your request for a mandatory reconsideration.
This means your options are as follows:
- If you have a new condition, or your current situation has seriously worsened, and you have medical evidence to support this, you can make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance because of this.
- Otherwise you will normally need to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.
You might say at this point: 'how can I possibly claim Jobseeker's Allowance when I'm also saying I'm not fit for work?'. This is a good question. However, you need to remember that when you claim Jobseeker's Allowance you are not saying anything about your health or disabilities: all you are saying is that you are willing to look for work. Also, the Jobcentre Plus is not allowed to use the fact that you have claimed Jobseeker's Allowance in the Employment and Support Allowance appeal.
So, if you do need to claim Jobseeker's Allowance (and this is very likely):
- You must say you are willing to look for work, and agree to your jobseeker's agreement or claimant commitment.
- You should also make clear, though, that you have disabilities or health problems that may limit the jobs you can do.
- You should ask to see a Disability Employment Adviser, as they can
adjust your Jobseeker's agreement or claimant commitment to take
account of your disabilities and health problems.
How long will you be in this position? It's hard to say at the moment,
because the system is new.
The Jobcentre Plus may phone you up during this time to discuss your
Either way, when the Jobcentre Plus has finished its work it will write to you to tell you what it has decided (it should send you two copies of this letter). If you are not happy with what it says you will now need to make your appeal.
Stage 3: Appealing to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service
You now need to appeal directly to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service, or the Tribunal Service for short.
- You should use the form www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/forms/tribunals/sscs/sscs1.pdf
- Where it asks for your 'grounds for appeal' you could say 'see attached letter' and include a copy of your letter to the Jobcentre Plus, if you have kept one. If you haven't, make sure you include all the reasons you put in your previous letter.
- Send the form off to the Tribunal Service at the address they give you, together with your letter to the Jobcentre Plus (if you've referred to it) and one of the copies of the reconsideration letter that the Jobcentre Plus sent to you.
|At Section 6 of the appeal form it asks whether you want to attend a hearing of your case: you generally have better chance of success if you attend your hearing|
|Make sure your appeal form reaches the Tribunal Service by the deadline. This deadline is one month from the date the Jobcentre Plus replied to you. So if the date on the Jobcentre Plus letter is 1st May you should make sure your appeal reaches them before 1st June. Sometimes your request can be accepted even though it was late. Click here for more information about this.|
When the Tribunal Service receives your appeal it will ask the Jobcentre Plus for all the papers relating to the case. At some point a copy of these papers will be sent to you. This is called your appeal bundle.
|Don’t lose your appeal bundle. Don’t get the pages out of order.|
Stage 4: reclaiming Employment and Support Allowance
Once you know that the Tribunal Service has received your appeal, you have two main options if you have had to claim Jobseeker's Allowance during the reconsideration:
- You could carry on claiming Jobseeker's Allowance
- You could contact the Jobcentre Plus and ask for your Employment and Support Allowance to be re-instated.
I can't think of any good reason for staying on Jobseeker's Allowance,
unless you really like it and are keen to find a job. Apart from
anything else, if you win your appeal you will be entitled to arrears of
either the work-related activity component or the support component if
you do this.
|Provided that your GP is willing to carry on giving you medical certificates (sick notes) you are entitled to carry on getting Employment and Support Allowance at the assessment rate until the appeal is finished. You should get £73.10 for a single person over 25 years old, or £114.85 for a couple both over 18 years old.|
|You are NOT entitled to Employment and Support Allowance while the appeal is ongoing if the reason your Employment and Support Allowance was stopped was that you did not return the ESA50 questionnaire or did not attend the medical. If that is the case your only option is probably to claim Jobseeker's Allowance.|
Stage 5: Prepare for the appeal hearing, wait for an appeal date, and attend the hearing
This is a special subject in its own right…
- ‘I want know about preparing for and attending the appeal hearing’
- ‘I want to know what my options are if my appeal fails’