Appealing against a Universal Credit decision at a tribunal
If you’ve already asked for mandatory reconsideration and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) haven’t changed their decision, you can appeal to a tribunal.
The tribunal will look at your reasons and make an independent decision. It’s overseen by a judge and separate from the DWP.
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.
Deciding to challenge a decision
The first thing you should do is look at your ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. This is a letter you’ll get from the DWP - it will include the reason they didn’t change their decision.
You can appeal the decision if you:
- have been paid the wrong amount
- have been refused Universal Credit when you should have got it
- shouldn’t have been sanctioned - for example, if you missed a work-focused interview because you were ill
You have 1 month from the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice to apply to a tribunal.
If you’ve missed the deadline
You should still be able to appeal if it’s less than 13 months since the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice.
You’ll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example if you:
- didn't get the mandatory reconsideration notice
- posted your appeal in time, but it got lost in the post
- someone in your family was seriously ill
- were given the wrong facts by the DWP
- have only just been able to get advice to help you appeal
The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if they think you have a good reason. It doesn’t matter if the DWP don’t agree with your reason.
If your appeal is cancelled or ‘struck out’
If HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) ask you to do something like send them a document and you take too long, they might cancel your appeal. This is known as having your appeal ‘struck out’.
If your appeal was struck out for any other reason, you should still write to the tribunal and explain why your appeal shouldn’t have been struck out.
You’ll get a warning letter first - it’ll tell you what to do to stop your appeal being struck out. If you don’t do what the warning letter says, you’ll get another letter after that explaining why your appeal was struck out.
You'll need to write to HMCTS to ask them to reopen your appeal. You'll need to include:
- your full name and address
- your National Insurance number
- the decision you’re appealing
- the date your appeal was cancelled
- why you failed to do something HMCTS asked for, if this was the reason your appeal was struck out
- why you think your appeal should be looked at again
Send this letter to the same address you sent your appeal form to.
You should write no more than 1 month after HMCTS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1 month deadline.
If the tribunal agree they’ll reopen your appeal.
If the tribunal don’t agree to reopen your appeal, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if there’s anything else you can do.
Filling in an appeal form
You’ll need to fill in an SSCS1 form on GOV.UK to ask for an appeal. You can fill in the form online before you print it, or print a blank form and fill it in by hand. The form tells you what to send with it. If you’re not sure about anything, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you fill in the form.
The form asks for your:
- name and contact details
- National Insurance number
- reasons for appealing
It’s important to be specific when you explain why you’re appealing. List the reasons in your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice, and why you disagree. You should also refer to any evidence you’ve sent with the mandatory reconsideration notice.
If you’ve got advice from your local Citizens Advice or another organisation, you should also write this on your form.
The DWP should pass on any evidence you’ve given them to HMCTS. You don’t need to send it again with your appeal form or letter.
Sending your appeal form
You need to sign your completed form and send it to HMCTS. You’ll also need to send your mandatory reconsideration notice along with any evidence you’re using.
HMCTS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203
Ask the Post Office for proof of postage - you might need to show when you sent your mandatory reconsideration notice. You can also send it by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt, but you’ll need to pay for this.
HMCTS will check the form and ask the DWP for their response to your appeal within 28 days. Once the DWP respond, HMCTS will send you:
- a copy of the DWP’s response
- details of what happens next
- details of when and where the hearing will be
Track your appeal
If you appeal a Universal Credit decision online, you’ll be asked if you want to join the ‘track your appeal’ service. This will send you regular email updates and reminders about your appeal. You’ll also get a login, so you can check the progress of your appeal at any time.
If you appealed by post, you can contact HM Courts and Tribunal Service and ask them to send you updates and reminders by text message.
HM Courts and Tribunal Service
Telephone: 0300 123 1142
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm
If you use email, it might take longer to get a reply.
Calls usually cost up to 40p a minute from mobiles and up to 10p a minute from landlines. It should be free if you have a contract that includes calls to landlines - check with your supplier if you’re not sure.
If you don’t want to call or email, you can talk about your appeal online with a trained helper on HM Courts and Tribunals Service website.
Going to the appeal hearing
It’s a good idea to find out what to expect at the hearing on GOV.UK. It’s always best to go to the hearing if you can - it’s a chance for you to make your case and answer any questions the judge has.
You can claim back expenses to cover the cost of travelling to the hearing, or to cover pay you might miss out on.
You can take someone else to the hearing with you, for example a:
- solicitor - you can find a solicitor on the Law Society website
- local advice agency - you can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they can go with you
- friend or a family member
If you don’t go to the hearing
You can ask for the hearing to happen without you on the appeal form. You won’t be able to argue your case or answer questions the judge might have, so you’ll be less likely to succeed.
Getting a decision
You’ll usually get an answer on the day of the hearing. If the judge needs longer to decide, or if you’re not at the hearing, you’ll get the tribunal’s decision through the post.
If they don't agree to your appeal, you'll have to apply to another tribunal - this is called the upper tribunal. You'll get details of how to appeal with your decision letter.
You can also get help with the appeal if you contact your nearest Citizens Advice before taking action.