Frequently Asked Questions
Here you will find the answers to questions we’re frequently asked. To help you be as well equipped as you can be, we’ve listed them below. If you have any questions that aren’t covered below, please get in touch with the SARC team
Frequently Asked Questions will be coming soon.
Challenging benefits decisions – a quick guide
Original decision – this is the first decision that you receive. If it is a decision made by the DWP, you have one calendar month (e.g. if the decision is dated the 1st of the month you have until the 1st of the following month) to do a Mandatory Reconsideration. This means ringing the number on the letter or writing to the address on the letter and telling them clearly that you disagree with the decision and why you disagree providing any more evidence to support why you think they’re wrong. The DWP must then look at its decision again and provide you with a response. The response is called The Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
(Note: For Housing Benefit decisions, you have a choice either to ask them to reconsider their decision or proceed directly to tribunal – tell them which you wish to do)
If you still disagree with The Mandatory Reconsideration Notice, you have one calendar month from the date of this notice to lodge an appeal to independent tribunal/court. You do this by completing a form called SSCS1 (this is publicly available online or you can ask an advice centre or the DWP to send you one). You don’t need this for Housing Benefit decisions – you simply need to tell Housing Benefit department that you want to appeal to the court and they will do that for you.
Once you have completed your SSCS1 appeal form and sent it off to the court, the courts – HM Courts and Tribunals Service – will send you a letter within 10 working days acknowledging receipt of your appeal. From then on, contact the court if you have any queries or problems. Contact details are on their first letter.
Within a month of the above letter, you should receive a ‘bundle’ of paperwork. This is the DWP’s ‘response’ to your appeal i.e. it is their case against you. At that stage, seek representation from someone familiar with the law such as a Welfare Rights specialist. Law centres, some councils, and other advice centres often have these specialists working for them.
Your case will be heard in court orally or on the paper evidence – whichever you’ve chosen – within a number of months. A typical waiting time is 3-6 months from the courts receiving your appeal to dealing with your case. You will be sent notification by the court – usually with 2-3 weeks’ notice – of a date on which your case will be considered.
Once your case has been considered, the tribunal will give you their written decision usually at the end of the hearing. This will also be sent to the DWP automatically. If you have won your case, you may be paid backdated money to the date when it stopped for example and the DWP have to write to you acknowledging the decision.
Try and get help from a specialist. Welfare Rights Advisers are often the best people to help you with anything relating to benefits and they will usually not charge you for their help
If you do engage a Welfare Rights specialist to represent you, keep them informed of all developments and provide them with all evidence in advance of a hearing of your case
Keep all your papers together safely in a folder leading up to your court case for example
Try and get as much evidence as possible leading up to your court case – there is no such thing as too much evidence to support your case
You have a better chance of winning your case statistically if you have legal representation and you go to a hearing of your appeal