Appeals toolkit: making the appeal and getting evidence

Basic representation level page 2

Making the appeal

An appeal must:

  • be in writing; it is advisable to use the correct form:
    • SSCS1 for DWP decisions 
    • An appeal form provided by your local authority for housing benefit
    • SSCS5 for HMRC decisions

If you do not use the correct form, a letter may be accepted if you give enough information. It is always important to give the claimant's name, national insurance number, the date of the decision and the name of the benefit on any correspondence. It should be signed by the claimant, or by the representative with the claimant's signed authority enclosed.

  • include a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice (if applicable).

 

  • be in time: the time limits are:
    • within one month of the decision, for housing benefit
    • within one month of the mandatory reconsideration notice

    If your appeal is late, you must give reasons for lateness. An appeal cannot usually be accepted more than 12 months outside the original time limits (but see KK v Sheffield CC [2015] UKUT 367 (AAC) for exceptional circumstances when this may be extended).

  • say why you disagree with the decision. This is known as giving 'grounds for appeal'. It is enough to explain why you think you meet the conditions for a certain benefit, component or element. You may wish to refer to the legislation or caselaw.

    If you do not provide grounds for the appeal, or if you give reasons that are unconnected to the benefit in question, your appeal may be 'struck out' (rejected).

Getting evidence

If the appeal is about the extent of the claimant's disability, it is especially important to get supporting medical evidence if possible. You can write, with the claimant's written consent, to their GP, consultant or other health or social care professional. For suggestions on how to word these letters, see the right-hand panel. Bear in mind that the tribunal may want to see a copy of your letter, and it is generally frowned on if there are 'leading' questions or any suggestion that you are telling the person what to say. Note also that some doctors charge for this work. You may be able to refer your client to a solicitor to access Legal Aid in Scotland to pay for medical reports. 

In other appeals, you should send any other evidence that is not already in the appeal bundle.

You should send a copy of any evidence you wish to use to HM Courts & Tribunals Service - it is advisable to send it at least two weeks in advance of the tribunal.

What is caselaw?

Legislation can sometimes leave room for different interpretations. Caselaw is the legal precedent set in previous decisions. In many areas of social security law, some tricky questions have been decided by the Upper Tribunal or higher courts. These decisions are binding on similar cases at the First-tier Tribunal. If you can find a case that covers similar issues to the points raised in your appeal, it may be worth bringing it to the attention of the tribunal. You should usually send a copy or a reference to it in advance. There are thousands of these cases, and the tribunal may not be familiar with all of them.

You can search for relevant cases here.

Entering a benefit category and a keyword in the ‘Notes’ box in the search engine may bring some useful results. A summary is usually given on the first page of the decision, but it is advisable to read the whole thing to check for comments that might go against you – be warned, some decisions are very long!

It is not essential to use caselaw at a First-tier Tribunal.

What happens next?

HM Courts & Tribunals Service acknowledges receipt of an appeal made on an SSCS1 form. The DWP has agreed to provide its response to your appeal within 28 days.

 

If you have requested an appeal and there is a delay passing it to the tribunals service, see our recent article, 'How to expedite a social security appeal' - follow the link in right hand panel.

When HMCTS has all the documents for the appeal, it sends a copy of everything in a bundle of papers to the claimant, who is known as the appellant, or their representative, and the decision-maker, who is known as the respondent.

It is then up to HMCTS to set a date for the tribunal hearing.

Next: The tribunal