How to appeal against a benefits decision
If you think a decision about your benefits is wrong, you can ask the office that made the decision to explain it. You can also ask to get the decision reconsidered and, if you're still unhappy, you can appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal.
If you disagree with a benefits decision
When the benefits office sends you a letter about their decision, if you do not agree, you can ask them to explain or reconsider it.
If you're unhappy with a reconsidered decision you can appeal.
You can ask for an explanation or reconsideration of every decision, but some benefit decisions cannot be appealed.
For example, you can't appeal against decisions on:
- Budgeting Loans
- Community Care Grants
- Crisis Loans
The decision letter will make it clear if it can't be appealed.
You have one month:
- after getting a decision to ask for it to be explained, reconsidered or to appeal
- after getting a reconsidered decision to start an appeal
A late appeal may be accepted if you have special circumstances that prevented you appealing in time, but not if more than 13 months have passed.
How to appeal
Information on how to appeal is normally included in the decision letter.
In most cases, it involves filling in the appeal form in the leaflet: 'If you think our decision is wrong' and posting it to the benefits office dealing with your claim.
You can pick up the leaflet at your local Social Security/Jobs and Benefits office or download it, below, from the Department for Social Development website.
- DSD leaflet (GL24): 'If you think our decision is wrong' (PDF 111 KB) (PDF 176 KB)
- Help with PDF files
- Social Security / Jobs and Benefits Offices (contacts section)
But if you are appealing in these cases follow the procedures below:
If you don't agree with a decision made by the Child Maintenance Service of the Department for Social Development you can contact them.
Housing Benefit is dealt with by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) if you are a tenant and by the Land and Property Services (LPS) if you are a homeowner. If you think that a decision about Housing Benefit is wrong, your NIHE district office or your local LPS office (whichever is appropriate) can tell you what to do.
Benefits for people with disabilities and their carers
If you have any queries about Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Carer's Allowance, contact the Disability and Carers Service.
If you're not satisfied with the results, you may be able to appeal by using the SSA form 'If you think our decision is wrong'.
- Social Security appeals and complaints leaflets
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) makes decisions about tax credits.
You can download the appeal form online, below, or you can call the Tax credits helpline. If you live in Northern Ireland call 0845 603 2000, textphone 0845 607 6078. Lines are open every day from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm.
Child Benefit and Guardians' Allowance
These benefits are also handled by HMRC, appeal forms are available online or by phoning the helpline. If you live in Northern Ireland call 0845 603 2000, textphone 0845 607 6078. Lines are open 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday.
The Appeals Service
The Appeals Service provides administrative support to the independent tribunals set up by legislation to hear appeals against decisions made by the decision makers in the:
- Social Security Agency
- Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division of DSD
- Inland Revenue
- Northern Ireland Housing Executive
- Land and Property Services
- The Appeals Service Northern Ireland (TAS)
Who hears the appeal?
Appeals are heard by a tribunal. There are two kinds of tribunal hearing. You will be asked to notify The Appeals Service which kind of hearing you want:
- oral hearing - where you and/or your representative can attend to discuss your appeal
- paper hearing - where you or your representative do not attend the hearing and the case is decided on the written evidence only
- Appealing against a benefits decision
Attending your tribunal hearing
If you have received a letter from The Appeal Service inviting you to attend your social security appeal tribunal in Londonderry/Newry/Strabane Courthouse, this video will help you prepare for your tribunal hearing and show you where to go and what to expect when you arrive at the courthouse.
- tribunal hearing at Londonderry Courthouse
- tribunal hearing at Newry Courthouse
- tribunal hearing at Strabane Courthouse
Advice and help with your appeal
Some organisations offer help and advice (some for free) with your appeal such as:
- local advice centres
- local welfare rights' groups
- trade unions
- law centres
Some will help you fill in forms and may accompany you to the hearing. Or you could ask an adviser, friend or family member to appeal on your behalf.
You may be able to claim some expenses. There is more detailed information on the Appeals Procedure page on nidirect.
If you lose the appeal
Your decision letter from the appeal tribunal will tell you what to do if you are dissatisfied with the decision.
You will have one month from the date of issue of the decision within which to request a statement of reasons for the tribunal decision.
You should read the statement of reasons carefully. If you still do not agree with the reasons for the decision, you can apply to the tribunal for permission to appeal to the Commissioners.
You can only appeal to the Commissioners on a point of law. You cannot appeal to the Commissioners about questions of facts or a tribunal’s medical findings or conclusions.
Find out more about appealing to the Commissioners from the Social Security Agency.
- Social Security appeals and complaints leaflets