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A guide to resolving benefit disputes

View profile for Andrew Leakey
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The social security system is currently undergoing one of the biggest upheavals in its history. Gone are the days of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance. We have now entered the era of Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.

Inevitably with change comes confusion and uncertainty. The criteria to claim some benefits has changed and it is now more difficult to qualify for some sickness benefits. Whether you agree with the current Government’s stance or not, a lot of people are receiving letters informing them that they no longer qualify for benefit.

So what can be done about it?

If you have been informed by the DWP or your local council that you no longer qualify for a benefit, you have the right to appeal. You must submit your appeal in writing within one month of the date on your letter.

The appeal process is slightly different depending on whether the decision was made by the DWP or by your local council. If your benefit is provided by the DWP, you must ask for a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ of the decision.

So let’s say Mr Smith receives a letter on 1st March from the DWP informing him that he is not entitled to Employment and Support Allowance. Mr Smith would need to ask the DWP in writing to carry out a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ of the decision before 1st April.

The DWP would then look at their decision again. If the DWP, having reconsidered the decision, decides that Mr Smith is in fact entitled to Employment and Support Allowance this would be the end of the matter. However if the department reconsiders it’s decision and is unwilling to change it, Mr Smith will be issued with a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. Mr Smith can then appeal to the independent Social Security Tribunal who will assess his entitlement to the benefit. In order to appeal to the Tribunal Mr Smith must submit an SSCS1 form along with his Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.

If you are appealing against a decision by your local council in relation to housing benefit, you must lodge an appeal against the decision with your local council. We will use Mr Smith as our example again.

Mr Smith received a letter on 1st March from his local council stating that he is no longer entitled to housing benefit. He would need to write a letter to his council stating that he wishes to appeal against their decision and his reasons for doing so by 1st April. If the council does not allow Mr Smith’s appeal, the council will then refer his appeal to the independent Social Security Tribunal who will assess his entitlement to the benefit.

If you are appealing against a decision by your local council in relation to Council Tax Support (also known as Council Tax Reduction), you must lodge an appeal against the decision with your local council. Let’s say Mr Smith received a letter on 1st March from his local council stating that he is not entitled to Council Tax Support. He would need to write a letter to his council stating that he wishes to appeal against their decision and his reasons for doing so by 1st April. The council would then look at their decision again. If the council, having reconsidered the decision, decides that Mr Smith is not entitled to the benefit, Mr Smith can then appeal to the Independent Valuation Tribunal.

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