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Challenging universal credit decisions

This content applies to England

How to challenge a universal credit decision.

If a claimant wants to challenge a decision made on her/his universal credit claim, s/he must first request that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reconsider its decision – this is known as mandatory reconsideration. It is only after this stage that a claimant can appeal.

Notification of decision

A decision letter on a claim for universal credit must inform a claimant that:[1]

  • s/he has a right of appeal, but only after the mandatory reconsideration stage
  • s/he has the right to request a written statement of reasons within a month of the day after the date on the decision if this has not been provided, and
  • the time limits that apply.

Claimants have the right to an internal reconsideration of any decision by way of revision. However, there are certain decisions that cannot be appealed.[2]

Asking for a reconsideration

The first step in challenging a universal credit decision is for a claimant to request that the DWP revise it.[3] This is known as mandatory reconsideration, because it is a compulsory step before a claimant can appeal to the First-tier tribunal. An application may be made in writing, in person or by phone.[4] The DWP's mandatory reconsideration request form can be downloaded and used. An accompanying notes document explains how to fill in the form and what happens after the form has been returned.

The DWP may treat a request for an appeal as a request for the decision to be revised.[5]

Time limits for requesting mandatory reconsideration

Dispute period

A claimant must request a revision of a decision within the 'dispute period'. The dispute period starts on the day after the date on the decision letter and ends one calendar month later.[6] A claimant can request a written statement of reasons within a month of the day after the date of the decision if this has not already been provided.[7] The deadline for requesting a revision will then be extended by 14 days if reasons are provided within one month of the day after the date on the decision letter, or otherwise 14 days from the date of the reasons being provided.[8]

Out of time requests for a reconsideration

The time limit to request a revision of a decision can be extended up to 12 months where:[9]

  • a claimant has requested an extension of time
  • a claimant explains why s/he was unable to comply with the one month time limit
  • the DWP thinks this it is reasonable to grant an extension
  • the DWP judges that there were special circumstances which meant the applicant could not have requested the revision in time.

'Any time' revisions

Some decisions are not subject to a time limit for revision and can be requested at any time. The main grounds for an 'any time' revision include cases where:[10]

  • there has been an official error
  • a mistake about or ignorance of facts has led to a claimant being overpaid
  • another benefit has been awarded which affects the original claim.
  • the decision made is one which cannot be appealed.

Refusal to allow out of time request

If the DWP refuses to revise a decision because a claimant is out of time, there is no right to appeal. A claimant could ask for a judicial review of the DWP's refusal to reconsider but this is subject to the particular rules on judicial review.

Time limit for the mandatory reconsideration of decisions by DWP

There is no time limit for the DWP to complete its reconsideration of a decision. The Government says the time will 'vary depending on the circumstances of the case'.[11]

Mandatory reconsideration notice

If the DWP upholds its original decision it will send a claimant a 'mandatory reconsideration notice'. The notice must set out the DWP's reasons for its decision and inform a claimant of her/his right to appeal. If no reasons have been provided a claimant can request a written statement of reasons within one month and this should be provided within 2 weeks.[12]

Appealing to the First-tier tribunal

If the DWP upholds its original decision, a claimant can then appeal to the First-tier tribunal by sending a notice of appeal form SSCS1 direct to HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), together with the mandatory reconsideration notice, the statement of reasons if the claimant has received one and any other documentation not already sent to the DWP.[13] This is called a direct lodgement of appeal.

Certain decisions do not carry the right to appeal. These are mainly decisions covering the administration of Universal Credit.[14]

For more information on the First-tier tribunal hearing, see Appealing housing benefit decisions.

Time limit for lodging an appeal

A claimant should normally lodge an appeal within one calendar month of being sent the mandatory reconsideration notice.[15] Where an appeal is made to the First-tier Tribunal outside the one month time limit, a claimant must include a request for an extension of time and the reason it is late.[16] The maximum extension is up to 13 months after the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice. It will normally be granted if neither the DWP nor any other respondent objects but the Tribunal has the power to grant an extension even if there is an objection.[17]

Who can appeal

The First-tier tribunal can accept an appeal from:[18]

  • the claimant
  • an appointee when a claimant has died subsequent to her/his claim
  • an appointee when a claimant is unable to act on her/his own behalf
  • a person who claims Personal Independence Payment on behalf of another due to terminal illness
  • anyone, including the landlord, from whom the the authority decides to recover an overpayment.

Wales

The information on this page reflects the law as applicable in England. Go to Shelter Cymru to check for variations applicable in Wales.

[1] reg 7 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381; see also Ch. A3 Advice for decision makers, DWP.

[2] reg 7 s.12(2)(a) Social Security Act 1998; reg 50(2) and sch 3, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[3] s.12(2)(b) and s.12(3A) Social Security Act 1998; reg 7 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381

[4] paras 3030 - 3032, Ch. A3 Advice for decision makers, DWP; reg 5(1) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381

[5] reg 7(5) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[6] reg 5(1) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[7] reg 7 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[8] reg 5(1) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[9] reg 6 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381 as amended by reg 16 Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments No.4) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/1015.

[10] regs 8-14 and reg 19, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[11] Commons Hansard - Written answers 31 October 2013 DWP / ESA Column 553W.

[12] reg 51 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[13] Rule 22(4) Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685.

[14] s.12(2)(a) Social Security Act 1998; reg 50(2) and sch 3, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[15] Rule 22(2) Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685.

[16] Rule 22(6) Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685.

[17] Rule 22(8) Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal)(Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008 SI 2008/2685.

[18] reg 49 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

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