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Complaining about benefits services

This advice applies to Scotland

You should consider complaining if the people dealing with your benefits claim or issue have handled it badly. For example, they might have:

  • ignored your questions or letters
  • taken too long to get back to you
  • given you the wrong information

Complaining might make them deal with your problem faster. If they agree the service was bad, you might also be able to get compensation.

Complaining shouldn’t affect any of your ongoing benefit claims or decisions.

You don't have to be currently getting benefits to make a complaint.

If you want to challenge a decision about your benefits

You need to ask your benefit provider to change the decision. This is different to complaining, but you can do both at the same time. You can:

Think about what would solve your problem

Before you complain you should have an idea of what you want your benefit provider to do.

You could ask them to:

  • apologise to you
  • fix the problem
  • explain what went wrong
  • change the way they do things - this will help other people, and could help you if you have to use the same office again

Asking for compensation

You might also be able to get compensation from your benefit provider if you’ve lost money because of a very long delay or bad service. You can ask them for the money you had to spend trying to contact them or the money you would have got if they didn’t give you bad advice.

You might also be able to get an extra amount on top to make up for the trouble or distress they caused you. If you're complaining to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the extra amount is usually between £25 and £500.

Ask for the compensation you think would be fair in your complaint.

But if you want to ask for compensation from Social Security Scotland, you should ask by phone, email, webchat or letter. Find out how to contact Social Security Scotland.

If you want to make a complaint about a Scottish benefit, you should use the Social Security Scotland complaints process. Your complaint and compensation claim will be dealt with separately.

Making your complaint

Include your name, address, contact details, date of birth and National Insurance number.

You should also include as much evidence as you can in your complaint to the benefits service, for example:

  • copies of any letters or email conversations you had with them
  • the dates things happened - for example, when you applied for a benefit or they sent you a letter
  • any other evidence - for example forms you filled in or proof of postage from when you sent them something
  • why you think their service wasn’t good enough
  • how you were affected - for example if you couldn’t pay your rent or got into debt
  • what you think they should do to make things right - for example give the money you’re owed or apologise

You’ll need to follow different steps depending on who you’re complaining to - check your benefit letters if you’re not sure. There are also different steps if you’re complaining about a medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

If you’re complaining to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

It’s best to complain in writing. Check the DWP’s complaints procedure on GOV.UK - it tells you what to put in your complaint and what will happen next. Write to the address at the top of your benefit letters.

Check the DWP’s customer charter on GOV.UK. If you think they didn’t follow the charter, explain why in your complaint.

If you’re not happy with the DWP’s reply

Write to them again and ask for the DWP Complaints Team to look at your complaint.

If you’re still not happy with the reply from the DWP Complaints Team, you can contact the Independent Case Examiner. They’re an independent complaints body - you’re more likely to get a good result if you complain to them.

Make sure to send full details of your complaint to the Independent Case Examiner - don’t assume the DWP will pass them on. Check how to contact the Independent Case Examiner on GOV.UK.

If you’re complaining about a medical assessment for ESA or PIP

If you’re unhappy with a medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you can complain to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA). Check how to complain to the CHDA on their website.

If you’re unhappy with a medical assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you can complain to the company that assessed you using the contact details on its website. This is either:

If you don’t know who assessed you, check your appointment letter or check the assessment company map on GOV.UK.

If you’re complaining to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

It’s best to complain in writing. Check HMRC’s complaints procedure on GOV.UK - it tells you what to put in your complaint and what will happen next. Write to the address at the top of your benefit letters.

Check HMRC’s customer charter on GOV.UK. If you think they didn’t follow the charter, explain why in your complaint.

If you’re not happy with HMRC’s reply

Write to them again and ask them to review their decision about your complaint.

If you’re still not happy with the reply after the review, you can contact the Adjudicator’s Office. They’re an independent complaints organisation - you’re more likely to get a good result if you complain to them.

Make sure to send full details of your complaint to the Adjudicator’s Office - don’t assume HMRC will pass them on. Check how to contact the Adjudicator’s Office on GOV.UK.

If you’re complaining to your local council

It’s best to complain in writing. Check your local council’s complaints procedure - it should be on their website. It should tell you what to put in your complaint and what will happen next. Write to the address at the top of your benefit letters.

If you’re not happy with your local council’s reply

Write to them again and ask for the Monitoring Officer to look at your complaint.

If you’re still not happy with the reply from the Monitoring Officer, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. They’re an independent organisation that can investigate local councils - you’re more likely to get a good result if you complain to them.

Make sure to send full details of your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman - don’t assume your local council will pass them on. Check how to contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman on their website.

If you’re complaining to Social Security Scotland

Check the Social Security Scotland complaints procedure on mygov.scot – it tells you how to complain and how long you have to make your complaint.

It also tells you what will happen next.

If you’re not happy with Social Security Scotland’s reply

You can make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Check how to contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman on their website.

You can also ask your MP to get involved at any time - for example if you’re not happy with how your complaint is being handled. You can find your MP on the UK Parliament website.

If your complaint is about your local council, it’s usually best to contact your councillors instead of your MP. You can find your councillors on your local council’s website.

If you need money now

It might take a long time for your complaint to be fixed. While you’re waiting you can:

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