Benefits appeals

If you’ve applied for benefits and been denied, or haven’t been paid what you think you’re entitled to, you can challenge the decision. The Mix talks you through benefit appeals.

Benefit appeals and how to appeal a benefits decision

Jump to section:

  1. What is a benefit appeal?
  2. Appealing a benefits decision
  3. What can I do if I’ve lost the letter?
  4. How long do I have to apply for a benefits reconsideration?
  5. When might I not be able to appeal?
  6. Getting advice for a benefits appeal
  7. What can I do if my appeal was rejected?
  8. My appeal was rejected after an Upper Tribunal and I’m really frustrated – what should I do?
  9. Will I get paid benefits while I’m appealing?
  10. Who can I turn to for advice on benefit appeals?

What is a benefit appeal?

Yo may have heard of benefit appeals – but what are they? If you’ve applied for benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it can be very disheartening if you’re denied. If you’re in need of benefits, then it’s likely that you’re under some financial pressure, which can be made worse when the DWP have said you’re not entitled to unemployment benefits, health benefits or council tax support.

However the good news is that you can appeal to have the decision overturned, if you feel the decision was unfair or inaccurate. To do this, you first have to ask for what is known as a “mandatory reconsideration” – this means that someone will reconsider the decision. You’ll then receive a letter with the outcome, but if you’re still not satisfied then you can apply for a benefits appeal.

Appealing a benefits decision

It’s important that you keep hold of the mandatory reconsideration letter if you want to appeal the benefits decision. It will tell you who you need to contact to challenge the decision, and what options you have.

Appeals can take a long time and involve a lot of work and frustration. If there’s a good chance you’ll win, then this might well be worth it. But before embarking on a long process, it’s worth getting some advice about your chances.

What can I do if I’ve lost the letter?

If you’ve lost your reconsideration letter, you can still appeal – it’s just that the process might be slightly longer, and it might take some more time for the correct department to gather your information. Most benefits are paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), but departments for other benefits can include:

  • Housing and Council Tax Support are paid by local authorities (councils)
  • Tax Credits are paid by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

You can find out who you need to contact from the Turn2us website.

How long do I have to apply for a benefits reconsideration?

You have one month from the date on the decision letter to ask for the decision to be reconsidered (30 days for tax credits), so respond as soon as you can.

If you’ve passed the one month mark, you can still apply for a reconsideration – but you’ll need to have a good explanation as to why you didn’t apply earlier, otherwise they might not accept your request.

You can find out more about applying after the deadline on the Citizens Advice website.

When might I not be able to appeal?

There are some instances where an appeal might not be available to you, which often depends on the decision and type of benefit – your decision letter has this information.

An independent tribunal that’s separate from the office that made the original decision sees appeals. They can’t change the rules of the benefits system, but they can look at whether they’ve been applied correctly so it is worth asking if you’re not sure that they have.

Getting advice for a benefits appeal

Putting together a good appeal can require a lot of knowledge about benefits law. So to give yourself the best chance of success, get benefits advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau advice centre.

How to appeal a benefits decision

If you’ve had a benefits claim rejected, this can be very disheartening. But try not to worry – starting an appeal is as simple and finding and filling in the correct form.

You can then decide whether to have:

  • A paper hearing – where you send your evidence by post and don’t turn up
  • An oral hearing – where you go to a tribunal who ask you questions

Usually your chances are higher if you choose an oral hearing. It can be anxiety-inducing, but try not to worry – you can approach your local CAB or advice centre for advice and assistance on your appeal and to see if they can find someone to go along with you to represent you.

With a paper hearing, the tribunal will consider the appeal without you there, so you should send them as much information and evidence as possible and cover off any questions you think they might have. Again, you can speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau beforehand for help with benefit appeals if you’re stuck. You’ll get the result by letter once they’ve come to a decision.

What can I do if my appeal was rejected?

If you disagree with the decision of the first tribunal you can go to what is known as an ‘Upper Tribunal’. They can only rule on cases where benefits law hasn’t been followed correctly, and not on the facts of your case – so this can’t happen if you simply didn’t get the result you wanted.

As the Upper Tribunal is based on benefits law, you’ll need to take legal advice for this step to give yourself a decent chance of winning. Again, a local advice centre such as Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help, so it’s best to speak to them as soon as you can if you think this is the route you wish to take.

My benefit appeal was rejected after an Upper Tribunal and I’m really frustrated – what should I do?

If you’ve appealed a benefits decision and been rejected again, we’re sorry. We know it can be very frustrating when you’re in an already tough situation, and lots of people find the benefits system unfair and frustrating. You don’t have to lie back and take it though.

If you’ve received a bad service, you can make a complaint. A complaint won’t get the decision changed, but you may get a written explanation of why the problem happened, a commitment to put it right, or they might change the procedure so it’s better for future claimants.

You can contact your local MP, and ask them to send your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Will I get paid benefits while I’m appealing?


For most Department for Work and Pensions benefits, you won’t get paid anything during the reconsideration or benefit appeals process. If you’re challenging a decision to reduce your benefit that you already receive, then you’ll get paid the lower rate until a new decision has been made. However with Employment Support Allowance, the situation is slightly different.

Who can I turn to for advice on benefit appeals?

Getting benefits is often a frustrating process. But there are lots of places you can go for help:
Citizen’s Advice knows all about the benefits system and can help you understand your rights. You can visit your local bureau to get face-to-face advice and support. You must remember to bring along details of your benefits and general financial situation.

Turn2us also has lots more information about challenging a benefits decision.

Unfortunately we are unable to offer benefits advice at The Mix, but we can give emotional support and guide you to the best places for expert advice if you give us a call on 0808 808 4994

Next Steps

  • Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits and grants you're entitled to, or call their helpline on 0808 802 2000
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 24-May-2021