Benefits Claims Appeals: What to Expect

Noble beginnings:

The welfare benefits system in the UK was created to provide a safety net for those who found themselves in difficult situations in life, situations that may arise from a long-term illness, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. Many people have received support from this system which has proved indispensable, helping them to endure in circumstances that otherwise would have overwhelmed them. It is a system that has done the country great credit, having at its root concern for the most vulnerable in our society.

Like most systems, however, it is far from perfect. Many people in desperate need of support continue to be overlooked by it and are forced to look elsewhere for help. That’s where we come in.

Catching those that slip through:

We are ideally placed to help those who have been let down by the benefits system by outlining what is needed to achieve  the best possible outcome, particularly to those that have sought out and been denied the following:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living allowance
  • Universal Credit

Ministry of Justice statistics show that a high proportion of legitimate claimants for the above benefits are refused first time round.  There’s a silver lining to such gloom, however, as the majority are reinstated after an appeal. In the April-June 2019 quarter, for example, a substantial 75% of all tribunal appeals were successful (which means that almost 8 claimants out of 10 were incorrectly refused their benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions).

However, while the tribunal appeal success rate is cheeringly high, only 15% of all mandatory reconsiderations of Personal Independence Payments appeals led to a change in the award. It is perhaps worth noting that mandatory reconsiderations are examined and decided by the Department for Work and Pensions, while the appeals are reviewed by independent tribunals.

Despite such high success rates for those appealing through tribunals, many claimants are deterred by what is perceived to be a cumbersome and even humiliating process. It’s our job to make things a little easier.

We would like to encourage any claimant who was refused a benefit to challenge the decision of the Department for Work and Pensions. If your claim was rejected entirely, there is nothing to lose by challenging the decision. If your application was partially awarded and you consider the decision incorrect, then it’s best to seek advice before appealing to ensure the current benefits payments are protected.

What we’ve learnt:

When challenging a benefits decision, it’s best to bear the following things in mind:

File your mandatory reconsideration request or/and appeal in time.

The Department of Work and Pensions and independent tribunals must consider your request if submitted within the deadline. If it was submitted late, your application and/or appeal might be disregarded.

Prepare the groundwork for your mandatory reconsideration/appeal.

In our experience, most claimants are inadequately prepared for their claim, having failed to gather the evidence needed to support it. Check the requirements of the benefit you are claiming and get evidentiary requirements from the outset, such as medical evidence, log of symptoms, statements from your carer, medical professionals, etc.

Solicitors aren’t required!

You don’t need a solicitor or barrister to win a benefits appeal. We’ve prepared many people for their appeals, helping them to secure favourable outcomes. Tribunals are also increasingly accommodating when it comes to appellants who do not engage solicitors, aware that recent Legal Aid cuts have prevented many from seeking out professional (and often prohibitively expensive) legal help. Our advice is to explain to the tribunal  (in your own words – you do not need to know any legal jargon!) why you are appealing your benefits decision. The tribunals will make a fair decision based on the merits of your claim. Keep calm and appeal your benefits decision!