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Appealing a benefits decision

You have the right to challenge a benefit decision that you disagree with. This page explains the process.  

Challenging a benefit decision

If you want to challenge a benefit decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or the Department of Communities (DoC) in Norther Ireland, the first step is to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

The information below applies to benefits administered by the DWP or DoC, including:

There are differences for benefits and tax credits that aren’t administered by the DWP, including:

  • tax credits and Child Benefit, which are dealt with by HM Revenue & Customs
  • Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support, which are dealt with by local councils or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Asking for a benefit decision to be reconsidered

The main ways that the DWP and DoC change decisions is by revising them or superseding (replacing) them. When they revise a decision, it means that the original decision is replaced with a new decision. The revised decision is then backdated to take effect from the date of the original decision.

When a decision is superseded, the new decision takes effect from that moment onwards. The DWP and DoC use the term reconsideration to refer to revisions and supersessions together.

You can’t appeal against a decision on a benefit from the DWP until you’ve asked for a mandatory reconsideration.

You’ll usually have one calendar month to ask for a reconsideration of your benefits decision. This is called a ‘dispute period’ and it starts from the date the decision is given to you.

When you ask for a reconsideration, the decision maker will look at your request and, if they agree with it, they will revise the decision.

If you have missed the one-month deadline, you may be able to ask for a late revision. This may be accepted up to 12 months (or 13 months in the case of Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit) after the normal deadline if the decision maker thinks it’s reasonable and special circumstances meant you weren’t able to seek a revision within one month.


If the DWP or DoC upholds its first decision after you’ve asked for reconsideration you can appeal and take your case to an independent tribunal. This is called a First-tier Tribunal, which will look at the decision and replace it if it thinks it’s wrong.

The tribunal is part of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. The tribunal also hears appeals about Housing Benefit and tax credits.

Again, you have one calendar month to appeal the outcome of the reconsideration, starting from the date the mandatory reconsideration notice was sent to you. If your appeal is late, you’ll need to explain why. The appeal tribunal will consider your reasons and can extend the time limit by up to 12 months.

If you request a late appeal you should include all the reasons why your appeal is late and why it’s important that the appeal should go ahead. Good reasons are not defined under the appeal rules, but could include things like illness, difficulty finding advice or language problems.

If you lose your appeal, you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, but you would need to get specialist advice about this.

Getting independent advice

It’s a good idea to seek advice when challenging decisions. See the Disability Rights UK Getting Advice factsheet for information on how to find an advice centre that can:

  • advise you if you have a good case
  • advise on legal arguments you might use
  • seek medical or other evidence on your behalf
  • write letters in your support
  • represent you at an appeal hearing.

Useful links

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