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How to challenge a benefits decision

Harriet Meyer / 30 September 2015

If your claim for a benefit is refused, you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered. Find out how with our guide to challenging or appealing a benefits decision.

Ticking alarm clock
If you want to challenge a benefits decision, you will need to act quickly as there is usually a time limit for appeals and requests to reconsider

If you find your claim for a benefit is refused and you believe you’re entitled to the help, you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

The process can seem daunting, but you’ll need to break it into stages. 

Here are the various steps you must take:

Ask for reconsiderations

Before appealing any benefits decision you should ask for it to be reconsidered.

Give some time and thought to why you believe the decision was incorrect, and set our your reasons. Send this evidence along with request for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. 

If you are unable to send any evidence at that particular point for whatever reason, say so. Send this request to the office address on the decision letter, and keep a copy of the letter.

Read our guide to the benefits you may be entitled to when you retire.

Be aware of time limits

You typically face a time limit of one month from the date you received the initial decision to request that it’s reconsidered. However, if there’s a large sum involved or another good reason for a late request, such as bereavement or illness, you may find a late application is accepted.

Also, if the decision letter failed to include reasons for refusal, you can ask for a written statement of these. If you ask for this within the one-month time period, the dispute period for reconsiderations is extended by 14 days.

Your benefits could be reduced or stopped 

You will receive a notice detailing the outcome of your request. However, bear in mind that this may include increasing, stopping or reducing your benefit too. 

If your payment is increased, this will be backdated to when the incorrect decision was made. Likewise, if it’s reduced or stopped you may face an overpayment. You will also be told at this stage whether you have a right to appeal.

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How to appeal

Once you’ve received a reconsidered decision you have one month to appeal. Where you appeal depends on the type of benefit. For Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC benefits and tax credits you will need to appeal to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The Valuation Tribunal is the place for housing benefit appeals. Ask for an appeal form and ensure you supply all the required documentation and evidence.

Think carefully before appealing

You may wish to seek advice on the strength of your appeal before going down the reconsideration or appeal route. After all, in some cases you may find your benefits are reduced so it is important to consider the likely outcome.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.