Appealing against a benefits decision

If you think a decision about your social security benefits is wrong, you must now ask the office that made the decision to explain it.

For social security decisions notified on or after 23 May 2016 you must ask the office that made the decision to reconsider it.
This is known as a Mandatory Reconsideration and if after the Mandatory Reconsideration stage you're still unhappy with the decision, you can appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal. 

For appealing Child Maintenance decisions, please see Appealing a Child Maintenance Service Decision

Changes to disputing a social security benefit decision

How you dispute a social security decision in Northern Ireland changed on 23 May 2016.

You must now ask the office that made the decision to formally reconsider its decision before you are able to make an appeal. This is known as a Mandatory Reconsideration.

Following a Mandatory Reconsideration if you wish to appeal the decision, you must send your appeal directly to The Appeals Service (TAS) rather than the Social Security Office or Jobs & Benefits office that made the decision. This process is referred to as Direct Lodgement.

What these changes mean for you

If you disagree with a social security benefit or recovery of benefit decision notified on or after 23 May 2016 you must ask for it to be reviewed by the office that issued the decision before you can appeal the decision. Child Maintenance Service decisions changed on 11 July 2016.

Social security benefit or recovery of benefit decision changes only apply to decisions notified on or after 23 May 2016.

The rules for disputing a decision will be explained in your benefit decision notification.

If you disagree with a social security decision notified before 23 May 2016

When the 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 decisions cannot be appealed. The decision letter will make it clear if it can't be appealed.

Deadlines

You have one month:

  • after getting a decision to ask for it to be explained, or reconsidered
  • after getting a reconsidered decision to appeal

A late appeal may be accepted if you have special circumstances that prevented you appealing in time, but an appeal cannot be made after 13 months from the dates of the decisions outlined above

How to appeal a social security decision notified on or after 23 May 2016

Since 23 May 2016 before you can appeal a social security benefit decision you must have already asked the office that made the decision to look at it again and have received a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.  This is the letter the office that made the decision sends to confirm they have looked at it again.

If you wish to appeal against a social security decision following your Mandatory Reconsideration you must send your appeal directly to The Appeals Service (TAS).

You can download the appeal form NOA1(SS) below and send the form directly to TAS.

You can telephone TAS using the contact details link below and the form will be sent to you by post if you are unable to download it.

You can also appeal by writing a letter to TAS instead of using a form. If you do it must include the information set out in the section  'What to include with the appeal form'.

How to appeal other decisions notified on or after 23 May 2016

Information on how to appeal is normally included in the decision letter. You can also follow the steps below:

Compensation Recovery

If you think that your Compensation Recovery Scheme (CRS), recovery of benefits decision is wrong, or that some important facts or evidence have been overlooked, you can only appeal if you have asked CRS to reconsider their decision. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration.

Following the Mandatory Reconsideration stage if you wish to appeal the decision you can complete the appeal form NOA1(CR) for CRS recovery of benefits. 

You can also appeal by writing a letter to TAS instead of using a form. You must include the information set out in the section  'What to include with the appeal form'.

Health Service Charges

If you think that your CRS, recovery of health service charges decision is wrong, or that some important facts or evidence have been overlooked, you can ask the CRS to review their decision.

It is not mandatory to ask for a review of a CRS, recovery of health service charges decision.

If you appeal before a review has been carried out CRS will treat your appeal as a review request.

If you are not happy with the original or reviewed decision, you can appeal directly to The Appeals Service by completing the NOA1(HSC) appeal form.

You can also appeal by writing a letter to TAS instead of using a form. If you do it must include the information set out in the section 'What to include with the appeal form'.

How to appeal a social security decision notified before 23 May 2016

Information on how to appeal is normally included in the decision letter.

In benefit 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 Office/Jobs & Benefits office or download it below.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is dealt with by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) if you are a tenant and by Land and Property Services (LPS) if you are a homeowner. If you think that a decision about your Housing Benefit is wrong, or that some important facts or evidence have been overlooked, you should contact NIHE or LPS.

Decisions made by HMRC

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are responsible for decisions about Tax Credits, Child Benefit and Guardians’ Allowance. If you think a decision made by HMRC is wrong you can only appeal if you have asked HMRC to reconsider their decision.

This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration. You can appeal the mandatory reconsideration decision by completing the appeal form NOA1(HMRC).

If you have received a decision you are unhappy with but you have not yet asked for it to be reconsidered, you should contact HMRC for information on Mandatory Reconsiderations before trying to appeal.

How to appeal against an HMRC decision

To appeal against a decision which was made by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about Tax Credits, Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance you need to send your appeal directly to The Appeals Service (TAS).

What you need to do before you appeal

Before making your appeal, you must already have asked HMRC to reconsider their decision and have received a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. This is the letter HMRC send to confirm they have looked at your decision again. You will need to send a copy of this letter along with your appeal form or letter to The Appeals Service (TAS).

How to appeal

You can download form NOA1 (HMRC) and send it directly to TAS or telephone TAS and a form will be sent to you by post. You can also appeal by writing a letter instead of using a form. If you do it must include the information set out in the section 'What needs to be included with the appeal form'.

Deadlines for putting in an appeal

To appeal against a Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance decision your appeal must be received in TAS within one calendar month of the date the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice was sent to you.

To appeal against a Tax Credit decision, your appeal must be received in TAS within 30 days from the date the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice was sent to you.

If your appeal is late you must explain why it is late. There is a space on the form to do this. A late appeal may be accepted, up to 13 months after the date the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice was sent to you, if you have special circumstances that have prevented you appealing in time.

What to include with the appeal form

The law requires your appeal to include certain information to be valid. The appeal form will help you to do this. Your appeal must:

  • be in writing
  • provide reasons for the appeal
  • be signed by you, or someone legally authorised to act on your behalf
  • include the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice

The completed appeal form along with the Notice should be sent directly to the TAS Belfast office

What happens when your appeal is received

TAS will check that it includes all the information the law requires.

If any information is missing, TAS will write to you and ask you to send it. If you do not provide the missing information, a legal member of the tribunal may decide that your appeal cannot be accepted and no further action will be taken.

If you have sent all the information needed for your appeal, TAS will write to you to confirm your appeal has been received. It will also write to HMRC and ask them to prepare a written response to the appeal for the tribunal. You will then be sent a copy of their response along with an information leaflet on what to do next. 

Appealing a benefits decision to an Independent Tribunal

All the administrative arrangements for an Independent Tribunal, including arranging the date, place and time of your hearing will be handled by The Appeals Service (TAS).

The Appeals Service (TAS)

The Appeals Service (TAS) provides administrative support to the independent tribunals set up by legislation to hear appeals against decisions made by the:

  • Department for Communities
  • Child Maintenance Service
  • Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Northern Ireland Housing Executive
  • Land and Property Services

The appeal hearing

Appeals are heard by a tribunal. There are two kinds of tribunal hearing. You will be asked to notify The Appeals Service (TAS) 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

Attending your tribunal hearing

The Appeals Service hold tribunal hearings in a range of venues, including some courthouses, across Northern Ireland.

If you have received a letter from The Appeals Service (TAS) inviting you to attend an appeal tribunal in a Courthouse, the videos below will help you prepare for your tribunal hearing. They are an example of what to expect when you attend a courthouse for a tribunal hearing. 

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
  • solicitors
  • charities

Some will help you fill in forms and may accompany you to the hearing.

Financial help

You may be able to claim some expenses. For further information:

  • see 'TAS – information and expenses' section below

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 to ask for a statement of reasons for the tribunal decision.

You should read this carefully and if you still don’t agree with the reasons for the decision, you can apply to the legal member of the tribunal for permission to appeal to the Commissioners. You can go directly to the Commissioners if permission is not granted.

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.

Read more about the Commissioners on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service website.

Preparing for your appeal hearing

The papers sent to you set out the case you have appealed against as the relevant Social Security Officce/Jobs & Benefit office sees it, and includes the documentary evidence they are relying on in support of their decision.

What you must do

Please study these papers carefully. You may disagree with the facts or you may disagree with the Jobs & Benefit Office’s understanding of the law. The job of the Tribunal is, of course, to find out what the correct facts are and how the law should be correctly applied.

You will want to consider what evidence you need to support your case, since most appeals involve some dispute over the facts.

First and foremost, there is what you yourself can tell the Tribunal. Sometimes it is easy to overlook that what you say to the Tribunal is classed as “evidence”.

Secondly, there is what others can tell the Tribunal. You could, for example, take along to the hearing one or more witnesses. Suppose your appeal concerns problems you have in looking after yourself because you are disabled: you may wish to bring along your carer to tell the Tribunal about the kinds of help you need.

Thirdly, there is evidence in the form of a document. Suppose your appeal concerns the amount of savings you have: you may wish to produce bank statements covering the period in question.

Documents in support of your case

If you do have documents you want to use in support of your case, please send them to the Appeals Service (TAS) as early as possible. Do not wait until the hearing. Producing key documents at the last moment may result in the Tribunal adjourning the hearing, so that the Tribunal and the other party in the appeal can have a fair opportunity to consider that late evidence.

Please remember that it is your responsibility to get any evidence you feel relevant to your appeal. You cannot assume that the Tribunal will get that evidence for you.

Confidentiality of information in Child Support or Child Maintenance cases

If you have asked the Child Maintenance Service to keep your location confidential, then your address, or information which could reasonably be expected to lead to your location, will be withheld from the appeal papers being issued to the other party.

Medical records

If you are appealing against Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance and have consented to release medical records to the Tribunal, The Appeals Service (TAS) will request these on your behalf.

You should check with your Hospital / GP before the hearing to make sure they have sent them to TAS. If not, you may have to make alternative arrangements to make sure these are available on the day of the hearing.

The law that applies to appeals

The legislation governing appeals is:

If you want to look up the law on social security, further information is available from the Northern Ireland Digest Of Case Law at the website:

Or you may prefer to leave that to your representative. TAS cannot research the law for you give you copies.

The appeal hearing

The Tribunal may consist of one, two or three members. Each member has a particular expertise – in law, medicine, disability or finance. The number and combination of members depends on the type of case and are set by law.

Tribunals

Tribunals are independent and operate within a set of rules laid down by law and reach decisions on the basis of evidence. The hearing takes place around a table and the Tribunal will play an active part in the proceedings by asking questions to find out the facts of the matter.

In appeals about disablement issues the questions asked will specifically relate to your medical condition, and how this affects your everyday life. These questions at times will be of an intimate or personal nature since the Tribunal must find out your precise care and/or mobility needs.

Please remember that even if you have a representative, the Tribunal will almost certainly want to talk directly with you, person to person, asking you questions and listening to what you have to say. The best evidence comes from a person giving their own account in their own words. Most appeal hearings last between half an hour and an hour.

Mechanical recording in sound, film, video or any other recording medium, of tribunal proceedings is not permitted. In particular, the use of tape recorders, digital recorders of sound and, or, vision, video and film cameras is forbidden in tribunal hearing rooms or any adjoining premises.

Where a medical issue arises in an appeal involving Severe Disablement Allowance or Industrial Injuries Benefit, the Tribunal may find it desirable, with your consent, to carry out a medical examination. If so, the examination will be conducted in private by the medical members of the Tribunal.

The Appeals Service (TAS) aim to provide you with a copy of the Tribunal’s decision within three days of your hearing.

Getting help

TAS staff who look after the administrative side of appeals are called “Clerks to the Tribunal”. They will handle your letters and telephone calls and deal with any queries about your appeal. What they cannot do is advise you whether you have a good case or not.

If you want advice about your case, or someone to help you present your case to the Tribunal, you should contact a Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Advice (NI), Law Centre, solicitor or your trade union. Please do not delay. Get advice at the earliest opportunity.

The Appeals Service Northern Ireland (TAS)

This information will help you through the appeal process, after your appeal has been forwarded to the Appeals Service.

What is The Appeals Service?

The Appeals Service Northern Ireland – TAS (NI) handles all the administrative arrangements for your appeal. For example, arranging the date, place, and time of your hearing and issuing the relevant papers connected with the appeal. It is a separate organisation from your local Social Security office/Jobs & Benefits office, Child Maintenance Service, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), Land & Property Services (LPS) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  The Appeals Service has its own administrative head.

Completing the Enquiry Form – Reg2(i)D

The Enquiry Form Reg2(i)D asks you for information to help the Appeals Service take your appeal forward. It is very important that you fill it in, sign it and return it.

Returning the Enquiry Form

Please return the completed form to the Appeals Service within 14 days. A pre-paid envelope is provided. If you are unable to sort out a representative within that time, do not delay returning the form. Just let TAS have your representative’s details later. Failure to return the enquiry form within the deadline will delay your appeal.

When your completed Enquiry Form is received

What happens next depends on whether you or the other parties to the appeal have asked to go to an oral hearing. If no-one has asked for an oral hearing, TAS will arrange for the appeal papers to be placed before the Tribunal for its decision.

By 'the appeal papers' TAS mean the bundle of documents which has been sent to you. TAS will not tell you the date the papers go before the Tribunal but will send you the Tribunal’s written decision when made.

If you change your mind, and decide you want an oral hearing, you must write immediately to the Tribunal Clerk before your appeal is decided.  

If you have said on the form that you want an oral hearing, you need to begin preparing for the hearing, if you haven’t already started.  

If you wish to place additional evidence before the Tribunal please send it to The Appeals Service along with your completed form within 14 days, any evidence received after this date may not be considered by the Tribunal.

You want to continue with your appeal or withdraw

Some people change their mind after starting an appeal and for various reasons decide not to pursue it. Please bear in mind that the Tribunal cannot change the law. It has to apply the law as it stands, even if that leads to an outcome that you think is unfair. Within those limits, the Tribunal has the power to change the decision you are appealing against with the decision it thinks ought to have been made.

Sometimes this might leave you worse off. If you want to withdraw your appeal, just tick the box, sign the form at the end and return it to The Appeals Service (TAS). TAS will contact you no further.

How to continue with your appeal

If you want to continue with your appeal, please tell TAS if you want to go to a hearing. You should then fill in the rest of the form and sign and return it in the envelope provided. You must do so within 14 days.

An 'oral hearing' means meeting the Tribunal, so that you and/or your representative, if you have one, can put your case forward in person. The advantage of an oral hearing is that you have an opportunity to speak to the Tribunal and the Tribunal has an opportunity to learn more about your case than it could gather from the appeal papers alone.

TAS will give you at least 14 days’ notice of the precise date and time of your oral hearing. The time is the earliest your appeal will be heard. Although waiting time is kept to a minimum, delays may occur because it is impossible to estimate precisely how long each appeal will last.

If you and the other parties to the appeal do not want an oral hearing, your appeal will still be decided by the Tribunal but on the basis of the appeal papers only. If there’s anything besides the information in the appeal papers you would like the Tribunal to take into account when making its decision, please send it with your completed form.

Representatives

The Enquiry Form asks you for the name of your representative, if you have decided to appoint one. Your representative will have the authority to act on your behalf on the date of hearing;  any further applications may require additional authority.

You are very welcome to bring someone along to the hearing if you just want ‘moral support’. There’s no need to give that person’s name on the form.

Interpreter

If you need, or would prefer to have, the services of an interpreter at the hearing, TAS will arrange for an independent professional interpreter. Using a friend or relative to interpret will not be acceptable.

Signer

If you need, or would prefer to have, the services of someone to sign for you at the hearing, TAS will arrange for an independent, professional signer. Using a friend or relative to sign will not be acceptable.

Induction Loop

An Induction Loop (AFILS) system is available for the benefit of Hearing Aid Users attending a hearing. If you wish to use this facility please tell TAS as soon as possible so that they can arrange for it to be available for your hearing. 

TAS - information and expenses

The Appeals Service (TAS) provides a range of information about other help that you may be entitled to such as expenses. Here are some ways of finding how you can get other help.

Expenses

Can you claim for expenses?

Yes. Normally, the Clerk at the hearing will give you a form on which to claim your expenses and a giro cheque will be sent to you later by post. Some information is given here but ask the clerk what you can claim for and what the current rates are.

Travelling expenses

  • if required, the clerk to the Tribunal will provide you with a form so you can claim a refund of your public transport costs
  • refunds cannot be made on the day
  • if you use your own car to travel to the Tribunal hearing you may claim expenses at the current mileage rate of 12 pence per mile

In exceptional circumstances a taxi fare may be payable but only if arranged beforehand with the Appeals Service and provided one of the following criteria is satisfied:

  • you can provide written evidence from your GP that your disability prohibits you from using public transport
  • you can provide details that there are no suitable bus times / schedules to allow you to make your hearing on time (this will be checked by the Clerk)
  • you live outside Northern Ireland (please contact the Clerk to the tribunal before making travel arrangements)

Subsistence

To get this allowance you must be away from home for more than five hours while attending the hearing.

Compensation for loss of earnings

If you lose earnings by attending, you may claim for earnings lost on the day of the hearing. TAS cannot pay compensation for a full day if you could reasonably have worked before or after attending the hearing. Therefore, you should make arrangements with your employer so that you lose as little working time as possible.

TAS cannot pay you any more than the daily maximum amount, nor can they pay for more than three consecutive days in any one week.

If you intend claiming, you should ask your employer for a certificate to support your claim. The certificate should have your employer’s stamp on it and show details of how much you expect to lose and your hourly rate of pay.

In self-employed cases the amount payable is limited to what appears to be a reasonable amount and to the daily maximum amount. If you are self-employed, you do not need a certificate. Instead, write, “self-employed” after your occupation and work out the amount you have lost (if any) by attending the tribunal hearing.

Childminding and similar expenses

TAS can pay an allowance up to a maximum amount to cover the cost of employing a person to look after your children or an elderly or infirm close relative while you go to the tribunal hearing. The allowance will be paid on production of a receipt or a letter from the carer showing the amount you have had to pay.

If someone comes with you, for example an escort, a witness or a representative, that person may also be entitled to expenses.

A person claiming loss of earnings cannot claim childminding expenses.

Complaints procedure

A complaints procedure is in place and available to parties who are dissatisfied with the administrative service provided by The Appeals Service (NI). A leaflet entitled 'Making A Complaint - A Guide to our Complaints Procedure' is available from all of the hearing venues, the Tribunal Clerk, or may be requested by contacting the Belfast or Omagh office by phone or by e-mail.

If your complaint is about the way the Appeal Tribunal Panel has conducted your hearing then you should address your complaint to:

The Office of the President of Appeal Tribunals
1st Floor
Head Line Building
10-14 Victoria Street
Belfast
BT1 3GG

 

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