Complaining about bad service for benefits or tax credits
If you’ve had bad service from the people dealing with your benefits or tax credits you should consider complaining. 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 push them to 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 need money now
It might take a long time for your complaint to be fixed. While you’re waiting you can:
- check if you’re entitled to any other benefits on the Turn2us website
- see if you can use a food bank
If you want to challenge a decision about how much benefit you get
You need to ask your benefit provider to change the decision. For example, they might have said you:
- aren’t eligible for a benefit, but you think you are
- broke the rules, but you think you didn’t
Challenging the decision is a separate process to complaining, but you can do both at the same time.
You can find out how to challenge a housing benefit decision on the Turn2us website. For all other benefits you’ll need to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.
Check if you should complain
The kinds of things you can complain about include:
- mistakes, for example if they pay you less money than they said they would or lose your documents
- a long delay before your claim or enquiry was dealt with
- bad advice, including wrong information or not telling you what you’re really entitled to
- difficulty contacting the office, for example if you have to wait a long time before talking to someone
- not providing you with a translator
- rudeness or not replying to your messages
The people dealing with your benefits will usually have a charter or ‘standard of service’ document. This will tell you what kind of service you can expect from them. If they’ve clearly broken their standards you should complain.
It might be discrimination if you’ve been treated differently because of your:
- religious belief
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 out on 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. The extra amount is usually between £25 and £500.
Ask for the compensation you think would be fair in your complaint.
Make your complaint
You’ll need to follow different steps depending on who you’re complaining to.
If you’re complaining to the DWP
First check the DWP customer charter on GOV.UK to see if they’ve clearly broken their standards.
Follow the DWP complaints procedure - it tells you who to contact and what to put in your complaint.
If you make a complaint and they don’t reply, ask to escalate your complaint to the next step (called the ‘Complaint Resolution Manager’). This means your complaint will be looked at by someone from a different office.
You can find the DWP complaints procedure on GOV.UK.
If you’re complaining to HMRC
First check the HMRC customer charter on GOV.UK to see if they’ve clearly broken their standards.
Follow the HMRC complaints procedure - it tells you who to contact and what to put in your complaint.
If you make a complaint and they don’t reply, ask to escalate your complaint to the next step (called the ‘Adjudicator’). This means your complaint will be looked at by someone from a different organisation.
You can see the HMRC complaints procedure on GOV.UK.
If you’re complaining about Housing Benefit
You should be able to get your local council’s service standards from their office or website. Check to see if they’ve clearly broken their standards.
If you’re not sure who your local council is you can:
- check any letters or emails you have about your housing benefit
- find your local council on GOV.UK.
Next, find the complaints process on your local council’s website.
Include as much evidence as you can in your complaint, for example:
- copies of any letters or email conversations with your local council
- 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 when you visited the office 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 getting the money you’re owed or an apology
It’s still worth making a complaint even if you don’t have a lot of evidence.
If your local council doesn't deal with your complaint or you're unhappy with their response, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO is an independent organisation that can investigate local councils.