Ask CPAG Online - Mandatory Reconsideration

What is mandatory reconsideration (MR)?

Mandatory reconsideration (MR) is the term used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to describe their process of reconsidering whether a disputed benefit or tax credit decision is correct. You cannot normally appeal against a decision to an independent tribunal unless you have first requested a MR and until the MR has been completed by the DWP or HMRC. This requirement was extended to all DWP benefit decisions from 28 October 2013 and to tax credits and child benefit from 6 April 2014. Note, however, that MR does not apply to housing benefit decisions, which can be appealed to a tribunal straight away.

Why was MR introduced?

Prior to MR, you could directly appeal against a decision to an independent tribunal (you also had the option of requesting an internal revision and the DWP and HMRC could revise a decision under appeal). The Government says that the introduction of MR should improve the standard of decision making by requiring disputed decisions to be checked and reconsidered (e.g. in the light of further evidence) and result in more decisions being corrected without the need for an appeal, saving time, money and potential stress for claimants.

What concerns are there?

There is concern that MR makes it more difficult for claimants to dispute decisions, by introducing additional stages in the process, causing confusion and delay, discouraging claimants from pursuing disputes through to appeal. Most significantly, there is no statutory time limit for the completion of MRs and no provision for payment of disputed benefit pending a MR, potentially leaving claimants without benefit for indefinite periods of time. The power to revise a decision prior to appeal has always existed, raising a suspicion that MR is primarily designed to reduce the number of benefit appeals by making it harder to appeal.

How is it working?

There has been no comprehensive review of the effects of MR by the Government to date, but the Social Security Advisory Committee produced a detailed report on MR in July 2016.

Advice agencies have consistently reported problems with the MR process, particularly in relation to the confusion and delays it can cause to claimants wanting to dispute benefit decisions. Significantly, the introduction of MR was followed by a huge fall (around 80%) in social security appeals (this has now been partly reversed). The Government has claimed that this showed that MR is working by getting decisions confirmed or changed without the need for an appeal. Many critics, however, say that the fall in appeals reflected the fact that MR effectively acts as a significant barrier to exercising the right of appeal to an independent tribunal.

What issues and problems commonly arise?

Click on the links below for detailed information and practical advice on common problem areas related to MR: