Steps to follow
Do you think the Benefits Office or another body (eg, CSA, HMRC, local council) has made a mistake in calculating your benefits which has resulted in you not receiving the right amount of cash?
The first step in this situation would be to contact the body which made the decision about your benefits and ask them to explain it.
If the explanation isn’t satisfactory, you can ask the relevant body to reconsider.
If the decision is changed and you are happy with it, any award will be backdated to the date of the original decision.
If you’re still not happy, you can appeal to an independent tribunal about most decisions.
You cannot appeal against decisions on Budgeting Loans, Community Care Grants or Crisis Loans. Instead you would need to apply to the Independent Review Service for a review.
Most appeal processes can be launched by filling in the form at the bottom of the DWP booklet: 'If you think our decision is wrong' (click here) and sending it off to the appropriate body.
As long as a person who wants to appeal against a benefits decision has put it in writing, you can appeal on their behalf even if you’re not legally qualified.
Appeals are heard by a Firsttier tribunal which includes a panel of up to three members, one of whom is legally qualified. The tribunal hearing will either be oral (where you or your representative can attend); or paper (you or your representative do not appear – the case is decided on the written evidence). You should send the Tribunals Service any information you think will help your case as soon as possible.
The Firsttier tribunal will send you a notice explaining its decision. It will also send a copy to the office that made the original decision.
You can apply for a written statement of reasons, which explains the tribunal’s decision, including the facts and the law they used, within one month of the date on the decision notice.
If your appeal succeeds, the office that deals with your benefit will usually carry out the tribunal’s decision as soon as they receive their copy of it.
If you or the relevant benefits office disagrees with the Firsttier tribunal’s decision you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal. You can only appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you think the Firsttier Tribunal has not applied the law correctly in dealing with your appeal. You can’t appeal on matters of fact, or about the Firsttier Tribunal medical findings or conclusions.
What to watch out for
You usually have one month after receiving a decision to ask for it to be explained, reconsidered or to appeal or, after getting a reconsidered decision, to launch an appeal. Later appeals may be allowed if you have a good reason for not appealing on time but after 13 months all appeals are time-barred.
Solicitor’s top tip
You may be able to get free advice about your case from a solicitor under the legalhelp scheme. You may also be able to claim some expenses for travelling to a tribunal, but you can't claim for legal expenses and solicitors' fees at the actual hearing - even if you win.
DWP booklet: 'If you think our decision is wrong'
CSA Central Appeals Unit
Appeal against a Council Tax Benefit decision
Appeal against a Housing Benefit decision
Complaints about child benefit – HMRC
Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance appeal form
Tax credits appeal form
Generally meeting with your lawyer
What documents do I need when meeting a lawyer?
Checklist for selecting a lawyer
Choices if you cannot afford a lawyer
Overview of child support
Welcoming a child
Rights of carers