Appeals toolkit: self-help level

This page is intended for unrepresented claimants, or support workers or volunteers who do not specialise in welfare rights.

The first thing we would suggest is to always try to get free, independent advice from an experienced representative - click on the external links on the right-hand panel to help find advice in your area. However, we know it is not always possible to get advice. Some advice agencies may not do appeal represention, and some may only be able to take up your case on the day of the hearing. This page of the toolkit is intended to support you through the process, but remember you can try again to find a representative at any point of your appeal and they will do their best to help you.

We have divided the appeals process into this four-step checklist, which you can also download from the right hand panel:

Step 1: Have you had a decision?

You can only begin the appeal process once you have made a claim for a benefit and received a decision in writing. For examples of what a decision letter looks like, click on the links on the right hand panel. In all your following correspondence, you should quote the date of this decision, as well as your full name, address and national insurance number.

Time limit: You only have one calendar month to challenge a decision (30 days for tax credits). If it is late, give reasons. 

Step 2: Have you requested a mandatory reconsideration?

For benefits administered by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), you have to ask the decision maker to reconsider the decision before you can appeal.

For DWP decisions, there is no special form to do this, and it can be done by telephone, but it is better to put it in writing and keep a copy, so that you have a record to refer back to. For an example of a letter to request a mandatory reconsideration, click on the right hand panel.

For HMRC decisions, it is advisable to use the reconsideration form in leaflet WTC/AP for tax credits, and CH24A for child benefit or guardian's allowance.

Time limit: You must request a mandatory reconsideration within one calendar month (30 days for tax credits decisions) of the decision - if it is late, give reasons.

There is no time limit for how long it takes for the DWP or HMRC to reconsider a decision - check if you are entitled to any other benefits while you are waiting.

This step does not apply to housing benefit, which is administered by your local authority.

Step 3: Appeal

Once you have received a letter from the DWP or HMRC with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration, you have the right of appeal to the tribunal. See right hand panel for an example of a mandatory reconsideration notice. You should use form SSCS1 (SSCS5 for HMRC decisions) and enclose a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice. There is also a very useful 30-page booklet SSCS1A (SSCS5A for HMRC decisions) which contains official guidance on completing this form and the appeal process.

Time limit: You must appeal within one calendar month of the date on the mandatory reconsideration notice - if it is late, give reasons.

Housing benefit

If you are appealing against a housing benefit decision made by your local authority, you have the right of appeal straight away.

Time limit: You must appeal a housing benefit decision within one calendar month - if it is late give reasons.

Step 4: The tribunal

It is very important that you prepare for the tribunal as best you can, and attend the hearing in person if possible, as this greatly increases your chances of winning the appeal. You can bring a friend, relative or someone from a support group or advice agency with you.

If you used the SSCS1 form to appeal, this also asks about your availability for the hearing. In other cases, HM Courts &Tribunals Service (HMCTS) will send you a TAS1 form, which asks you about your availability for the hearing.

Time limit: You have 14 days to return the TAS1 form, or your appeal may be struck out (rejected).

If your appeal is about the extent of your disability or capability for work, you may wish to discuss this with your GP or another health or social care professional who knows you. They may be able to provide evidence that will help the tribunal to understand how your condition affects you. However, doctors are very busy and some may charge for writing a letter or report - if so, you may be able to get Legal Aid in Scotland.

In any case, if you have any further evidence you wish to send in before the tribunal, you should send this to HMCTS at least 14 days before the hearing to give enough time for copies to be sent to the tribunal members. If you send it later, there is a possibility it may not arrive in time. You can present further evidence on the day but it should be quite brief. If there is evidence missing, or insufficient time to consider new evidence, the judge may adjourn the hearing for another date to be set.

Tribunals are administered in Glasgow but are held in venues all over Scotland - see the link on the right hand side for details. You can claim expenses related to your attendance at the tribunal - see here for more information.

After the tribunal, you are usually given a written notice of the decision. In some cases this may be sent to you a few days later. This is usually the end of your appeal, but in some cases it may have to go further - if so, you will need specialist assistance.

More information

For more detail, you may wish to look at the basic representation level of this toolkit, or our new guide, 'Winning your benefit appeal: what you need to know'.

You may also be interested in our new elearning on appeals.