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How to appeal against a Universal Credit decision

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) didn't change their decision at the mandatory reconsideration stage, you can appeal against a Universal Credit decision to an independent panel, called a tribunal.

When appealing against a Universal Credit decision, the tribunal is part of the court system and independent from the DWP. The tribunal will look at the evidence from yourself and the DWP and make an independent decision.

Once you receive your mandatory reconsideration notice form - the letter you will receive from the DWP that states the reason they didn't change their decision - you should appeal directly to the tribunal service.

You can challenge the DWP's decision by asking for an appeal if:

  • You have been paid an incorrect amount for Universal Credit.
  • You have been refused Universal Credit when you believe you should have been awarded it.
  • You disagree with a decision on any Universal Credit element.
  • You disagree with a limited capability for work decision.
  • You disagree with a decision by the DWP to give you a Universal Credit sanction.

To appeal to a tribunal, you'll need the following:

  • Your mandatory reconsideration notice form - if you've lost it, ask the DWP for a new one.
  • To fill in and submit your appeal form.

You will have to appeal within one month from the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice form letter.

What happens if I've missed my deadline to file a Universal Credit appeal?

You are expected to ask for a Universal Credit appeal within one month of your mandatory reconsideration notice form. However, you may be able to ask for an appeal after the one-month deadline if:

  • You have a good reason for the delay
  • You received the mandatory reconsideration decision notice less than 13 months ago.

Examples of a good reason for being late:

  • You received incorrect information about your appeal from an advisor
  • Your partner or relative has been ill.
  • You have been mentally or physically unwell.
  • You have had problems receiving post at your address.
  • You didn't get the mandatory reconsideration notice.

The tribunal, and not the DWP, will decide if you have a good enough reason to extend the time of your Universal Credit appeal submission.

What happens if your Universal Credit tribunal has been cancelled?

The HM Courts and Tribunals Service can cancel your Universal Credit tribunal if you don't do something they require - known as having your appeal struck out - or for another reason.

Before this happens, you will receive a warning letter - explaining that your tribunal is in danger of being cancelled and a list of what you need to do for this not to happen.

If your tribunal has been cancelled, you will need to write to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service to ask them to reopen your appeal. You will need the following information:

  • Your name and address.
  • Your National Insurance Number.
  • The decision you're appealing.
  • The date your appeal was cancelled.
  • The reason you failed to do what the Tribunal Service asked you to do.
  • Explain why you think your appeal should be re-opened.

How to fill in a Universal Credit appeal form

You can start a Universal Credit appeal by either filling in an appeal form, called SSCS1, or appealing the decision online.

You will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Your name and address.
  • Your telephone number.
  • Your National Insurance number.
  • Your reason for appealing the decision.

It would be best if you took your time to fill in the 'grounds for appeal' section. Here you will need to explain:

  • What decision you are challenging.
  • What you believe the decision should have been.
  • Why you disagree with the DWP's decision.
  • Use your decision letter and medical assessment report to note each of the statements you disagree with and why.
  • Give facts, examples and medical evidence to support your argument.

The tribunal panel will only look at evidence and examples at the time of the Universal Credit decision. If your situation has gotten better or worse since then, try to think about how it was at that time.

Supporting evidence for your Universal Credit appeal hearing

It would help if you always tried to get medical evidence to support your Universal Credit appeal. The tribunal will not contact your GP, psychiatrist or any other medical professional to ask for evidence. You will need to ask them for proof.

You can send evidence with your appeal form, but don't worry if you can't get the evidence in time - send it once you receive it.

You can use this sample letter for requesting evidence from a medical professional for a Universal Credit claim.

Special requirements for your Universal Credit appeal hearing

You can request special requirements for your Universal Credit appeal hearing on the appeal form or a few weeks before your hearing.

For example, you should note down:

  • Any dates you're not available to attend a tribunal.
  • Any special requirements you have: this is a good place to ask for any help you might need because of your mental health condition
  • Only attending an appeal during school times and term time.
  • Important medical appointments.
  • Accessibility requests.
  • Communication help.

How to submit your Universal Credit appeal form

You will need to send your documents to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not the DWP - the address is on the form. You should include the following in the envelope:

  • Your completed Universal Credit appeal form.
  • Your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
  • Any further evidence you have (you can also send this later if you need to).

The HM Courts and Tribunals will tell the DWP you are appealing and ask for their response within 28 days. Following this you will receive:

  • A copy of the DWP's response.
  • Information about what happens next.
  • Details of when and where the hearing will be.

Attending your Universal Credit appeal hearing

You can get help with your Universal Credit appeal from a specialist welfare rights advisor at your local Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, an independent advice agency or your local authority's welfare rights service.

A representative can help you with the appeal paperwork and might attend the tribunal with you. You can usually find details of local services in the telephone book, Yellow Pages or on the Internet.

If you can't find a local organisation to help with an appeal, you will have to represent yourself at the hearing.

Representing yourself may sound overwhelming, but it's common practice – this article explains tips for representing yourself at a tribunal.

Getting your Universal Credit appeal decision

The tribunal will usually tell you their decision on the day. They will ask you to step out of the room while they decide. If the judge needs longer to decide, you will get the tribunal's decision through the post.

If they don't agree with your appeal, you will receive an official notice explaining your options.

If you disagree with the tribunal's decision, you can apply to an upper tribunal. The details of how to do this will be in your decision letter.

What happens if your Universal Credit appeal is successful?

If your Universal Credit was stopped whilst you appealed, you should receive a backdated Universal Credit payment. The DWP may want to pay the backdated amount in instalments instead of a lump sum. They can only do this if they believe it is in your best interest and you agree with their decision to pay you the sum in instalments. The same rules apply if your Universal Credit is a joint claim with another person (e.g. partner, family member)

For more information and help you should seek guidance from a welfare and benefits advisor.

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