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Challenging a DLA decision - appealing against the decision

This advice applies to England

Before you can appeal, you must have already asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to look at the decision again - this is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You can read our guide on how to ask for mandatory reconsideration.

If the DWP didn’t change their decision when you asked for mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to an independent panel, called a tribunal.

The tribunal will look at your evidence and hear what you have to say, then make a decision. The tribunal is independent - it’s not part of the DWP.

It’s possible that you could end up with less DLA than you were originally awarded, or nothing at all. However, many decisions are overturned at the tribunal stage. We recommend that you get help from Citizens Advice if you want to challenge a decision.

When you can appeal to a tribunal

You can appeal against any decision made about the DLA claim for your child. Some of the most common reasons are if:

  • you didn’t get awarded DLA
  • you got a lower rate of DLA than you expected

The tribunal can’t consider whether your child's condition has got worse since the decision you’re challenging was made. If your child's condition does change and they need more care or supervision, then you’ll have to make a new claim.

To appeal to a tribunal, you’ll need:

  • your letter from the DWP with the words ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’ at the top - if you’ve lost it, ask them for a new one
  • to send your appeal form in within 1 month of the date shown on the mandatory reconsideration notice

The process can be draining but it’s worth remembering that many DLA decisions are overturned by the tribunal. It’s worth appealing to a tribunal if you think their decision is wrong.

Getting help with your appeal

You can get help with your appeal from your nearest Citizens Advice or a local disability support agency. You can find details of disability support agencies near you on the Scope website if you’re in England and Wales or on Disability Information Scotland.

You might be able to get someone to act as your representative during the appeal - they don’t have to be a lawyer or a professional. They can help you with the paperwork and might speak on your behalf. You can ask your local Citizens Advice if they can help you find someone.

Submit your appeal

You can ask for an appeal on GOV.UK. If you’re not sure about anything, talk to an adviser - they can help you submit your appeal. 

You can also ask for an appeal by filling in a paper form or writing to HMCTS. It’s better to apply online or with a form - if you write a letter you might leave out important information. 

If you want to apply using the paper form, you can download form SSCS1 from GOV.UK.

Explain why you’re appealing

The most important part of your appeal is giving the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.

Use your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice to list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts, examples and medical evidence (if you have any) to support what you’re saying.

You might have done this already when you wrote your mandatory reconsideration letter - if so, you can use the same examples and pieces of evidence again.

Example of why you're appealing
"The DWP decision letter says I’m not entitled to DLA because my child doesn’t need continual supervision to avoid substantial damage to himself or others. This is incorrect. When my child is at home I have to be in the same room with him at all times because he can hurt himself when I’m not there to watch him. He often throws fits - in the past he has knocked heavy things off shelves and hit his head on furniture. This could cause him substantial damage. He needs continual supervision to avoid damage to himself."

If you’ve missed the appeal deadline

You should do everything you can to avoid missing the deadline. If you have missed the deadline, you can still submit your appeal up to 13 months after the date of the original decision. You’ll need to explain why it’s late (for example, if your child was in hospital or other personal circumstances made it impossible to return the form on time).

Ask for a hearing in person

It’s always better to ask to attend the hearing (called an ‘oral hearing’). This may sound daunting but you can get someone to go with you for moral support. Having an oral hearing gives you more opportunities to put your case forward and a better chance of winning. You’ll be able to take your representative if you have one.

When you submit your appeal, you can say if you want an oral hearing. If you choose to have an oral hearing, you can attend it:

  • by phone
  • by online video call 
  • at a tribunal venue

Coronavirus – appealing to the tribunal

If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents. Send any evidence you have to the tribunal as soon as possible – for example medical evidence.

If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead. You can find the contact details of your tribunal on GOV.UK.

If there has to be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference. You can check how to prepare if the tribunal arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

If you go to the tribunal in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.

If you ask for the hearing to be done without you (called a ‘paper hearing’), you’ll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your child’s condition in person.

You’ll have a much better chance of success if you go to a hearing in person.

Ask for what you need

When you submit your appeal you can list the dates you’re not available, as well as anything you need for the hearing. It’s really important to think about anything that might stop you being able to go to the hearing and to write it down. For example:

  • you can only attend a hearing during school hours or term time because of childcare responsibilities
  • holidays you’ve booked
  • any dates you have important medical appointments

If you don’t mention these considerations, and the hearing is booked for a date you’re not available, you might not be able to change it.

Write down details of any aids or help you’ll need, such as a sign language interpreter. Most tribunals will have wheelchair access, but it’s best to include all your access needs anyway.

If you filled in a paper appeal form

Send your documents to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not to the DWP. The address is on the form. You should include the following:

  • the completed SSCS1 form
  • a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice
  • any further evidence you have, although you can send this later if you need to

Post your appeal documents by recorded delivery if you can. Otherwise ask for proof of postage when posting the documents. This can help you later if the tribunal service says you didn’t meet the deadline or if the letter gets lost in the post.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service will check your form and then ask the DWP to give a written response within another 28 days.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service will then send you:

  • a copy of the DWP’s response and any evidence they’ve made their decision on (this is sometimes called the ‘bundle’)
  • information about what happens next
  • details of when and where the hearing will be (if you’ve asked for an oral hearing, rather than a paper one)

Next steps

Check what will happen at the tribunal hearing.

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