The right of Appeal
When your benefit claim has been assessed, you will receive notification letters telling you how much benefit you are entitled to. The letters will also give you details of the income, needs level (applicable amount), rent and council tax used in the calculation, as well as the start and end dates of the claim. If you disagree with any part of the assessment you have the right to dispute the decision.
What options do I have?
If you disagree with the decision you can:
- Ask for a more detailed explanation
- Request a reconsideration of your claim
- Appeal against the decision
You have one calendar month in which to dispute the decision. If you request a detailed explanation, any time taken by the benefit section to respond to your request will be added to the one month time limit. However, if you intend taking the matter further, it is important that you allow yourself sufficient time to get your request for a reconsideration, or appeal, to the council within the one month time limit. If you do not request a detailed explanation until a day or so before the one month time limit is due to end, you may run out of time and any request for reconsideration or appeal may be received late.
Request a detailed explanation
If you request a detailed explanation the benefit section will explain how your benefit was assessed. If you put your request for a detailed explanation in writing you will receive a written 'statement of reasons' giving a detailed breakdown of the information used to assess your claim. If you are happy with the detailed explanation the matter will end there. If you are still not satisfied you can ask the benefit section to look at your claim again or you can appeal against the decision.
Request a reconsideration
If you decide to request a reconsideration you must do so in writing. It would be helpful if you could say what you are disagreeing with and why. When the benefit section receives your written request for a reconsideration a senior benefit officer will look at your claim again to decide whether the original decision was made correctly.
If the benefit officer decides that the original decision was made correctly, you will be notified of the decision, and of your right to appeal.
If the benefit officer decides that the decision was wrong, your claim will be amended and you will be notified of the new decision. You will also be notified of your right to dispute the new decision. Your dispute rights will start again from the beginning (see above, 'What options do I have?') regardless of whether the new decision has made you better or worse off.
Late request for a reconsideration
If your request for a reconsideration is made after the one month time limit your request will be treated as a late request for a reconsideration. If you can show that there were special circumstances for late request, and if you make a written request for an extension of the time limit, the Benefit Section may be able to accept your request for a reconsideration and deal with it as if it wasn't late. If the Benefit Section does not consider that you have shown there were special circumstances for making the request late, your request will be refused. There is no right of appeal against a decision by a local authority not to extend the period for a reconsideration. There is an overall maximum time limit of 13 months for requesting a reconsideration - if your request is received more than 13 months after the decision date your late appeal cannot be accepted.
Appeal against the decision
If you decide to appeal against the decision your appeal must be in writing. You can write a letter or use the council's approved 'appeals form'. You can download the council's appeal form from this web site. You must state clearly the decision under appeal, what you disagree with, and your grounds for appeal. When the benefit section receives your appeal it will be looked at again by a different decision maker - usually the council's Appeals Officer - to decide whether the original decision was correct.
If the Appeals Officer decides that the original decision was made correctly your appeal will be forwarded to the Appeals Service, an independent organisation that deals with all Social Security and Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit appeals. You will be sent a form called a 'TAS1' to complete which you must send to the Appeals Service within 14 days of the date it was issued if you wish to go ahead with your appeal. If you delay sending the TAS1 your appeal may not be heard.
If your written appeal is made after the one month time limit your appeal will be treated as a late appeal. If you can show that there were special circumstances for late appeal, and if you make a written request for an extension of the time limit for appeal, the Appeals Officer may be able to accept your appeal and deal with it as if it wasn't late. If the Appeals Officer does not consider that you have shown there were special circumstances for making the appeal late your appeal will be forwarded to the Appeals Service as a late appeal. The Appeals Service will then decide whether or not to accept your late appeal. There is an overall maximum time limit of 13 months for appeal - if your appeal is received more than 13 months after the decision date your late appeal cannot be accepted.
The Tribunal Hearing
The Appeals Service will arrange a hearing date and your appeal will be heard by the local Appeals Tribunal. Most tribunals are held at Harlow, but there are other local Tribunals at Basildon. You will be provided with a full written report of the council's decision (the council's submission) and all relevant case papers. There is nothing to be worried about - the tribunal is quite informal and will probably only consist of a chairman, yourself, and a representative from the council. You may take a representative with you if you wish, or a friend for support.
Can I decide to withdraw my appeal?
You can withdraw your appeal at any time prior to the hearing date. If you decide to withdraw your appeal you must do so in writing. You can write to the council or use the council's approved 'Appeals Form' to withdraw your appeal.
Do I have to attend the hearing?
You do not have to attend the hearing if you don't want to - the chair will hear the appeal in your absence. However, you should let the Appeals Service know if you are not going to attend.
What happens at the tribunal?
At the hearing the chair will consider your letter of appeal and any evidence you provide in support of your appeal. If you are represented by a solicitor or welfare rights adviser they will present your case for you. The chair will also consider the council's submission and will ask questions of both the council and yourself in order to ensure the full facts are known. After the hearing the chair will ask both parties to leave the room while he/she makes a decision. If he/she is unable to make a decision immediately the decision will be sent later.
What happens if I disagree with the Tribunal decision?
If you disagree with the tribunal chair's decision you may be able to take the matter further. This will involve appealing to Social Security Commissioners. You may only appeal to Social Security Commissioners on a point of law.< If you intend appealing to Social Security Commissioners it would be advisable to seek independent advice. You may wish to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for assistance in preparing an appeal to Commissioners. The address and telephone number of the Citizens Advice Bureau is: The Citizens Advice Bureau10 Crown Street Brentwood Essex CM14 4BA Telephone: 01277 222888
Are there any leaflets on appeals?
Yes, the council has produced a leaflet - 'If you think the decision about your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit is wrong' - that explains in simple terms how the appeals process works. If you would like a copy of this leaflet telephone the Benefits Section : 01277 312857 Alternatively, you may like to call in at the Town Hall and pick up a copy. If you disagree with a benefit decision you can download a Benefit Appeal Form. When you have printed off the form you should complete it in full. Your completed form must be signed by you and posted to the benefit section at the Council immediately.
- Address: Brentwood Borough Council, Town Hall, Ingrave Road, Brentwood, Essex CM15 8AY
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: 01277 312500
- Fax: 01277 312743
- Minicom: 01277 312809
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This page was updated on 20 May 2013.
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