8 I do not agree with the decision on my benefit claim. What do I do next?
If you have been turned down for a benefit claim, or you have been awarded less than you think you are entitled to, you have the legal right to challenge the decision. You can challenge a benefits decision by asking the office which sent you the decision to reconsider it, or by appealing to an independent tribunal. You should challenge the decision within one month, but you may be able to ask for more information about the decision first.
If you ask the benefit office to look at your benefit claim again, it will be reconsidered by a different person from the one who looked at your original claim. At this stage, if the office asks you for any further information, it is important that you provide it within one month. If you appeal instead, the benefit office may decide to look at your benefit claim again anyway. They will let you know if they change the decision, and how this affects your appeal.
If you are still not happy with the decision on your benefit claim after it has been reconsidered, you can appeal at this point instead. Appeals are heard by an independent tribunal which is completely separate from the benefit office. You must appeal within one month of the date of the letter telling you the decision or the outcome of the reconsideration.
If you are appealing a decision, it is best to use the standard appeal form to lodge your appeal, to make sure you include all the necessary information. There are different appeal forms for different benefits. You can get the right form from the office which made the benefit decision, or from some advice agencies, for example your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
There may be a delay of several weeks before the decision of the independent tribunal is made. You will be asked whether you want a hearing that you can attend, or a hearing which is just based on written evidence. If you don’t respond to this question within the time limit, usually 14 days, your appeal may not be heard at all. It is a good idea to ask for a hearing which you can attend, and if possible to find someone to represent you as well. Even if you don’t ask for a hearing that you can attend, the benefit office may ask for one, or the tribunal may decide there should be one.
The rules regarding tax credits are different. You can get information about tax credits from the Tax Credits Helpline on 0845 300 3900.
If you have had a benefit claim turned down and need help dealing with it or any other aspect of welfare benefits, we recommend that you speak to one of our welfare benefit advisers on 0845 345 4 345 for specialist advice. Telephone specialist advice is only available if you qualify for legal aid.