Benefit decisions and appeals
Some people with epilepsy are eligible to receive certain UK benefits, depending on their situation. Not everyone will be awarded the benefits they claim. This page covers the options and processes of challenging an unsuccessful benefits claim.
Can someone with epilepsy claim benefits?
Whether someone with epilepsy can claim benefits will depend on their situation. Some benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are for people with a long-term disability or health condition, who need help or support with daily living, or with mobility, or both. Some people with epilepsy may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit for working-age people who cannot work due to their medical condition or disability.
Whether or not you are eligible for health-related benefits depends on how your health condition affects you (and not on what your condition is). There are other UK benefits that someone with epilepsy may be entitled to, depending on their situation.
What if my claim is unsuccessful?
When a decision is made about your claim for a benefit, a ‘case manager’ from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will write to you to tell about you this decision and why it was made.
If you are not happy with the decision, or if your situation has changed, you may want the decision to be looked at again. There are some decisions you cannot challenge, for example when and how payments are made, or if your claim is ‘suspended’ because you are not eligible to claim that benefit. Each letter from the DWP will say whether you can challenge or appeal a decision, how to do this and how long you have to do it (the time period you are given).
If you are told you can challenge a decision, you may want to think about this. If you challenge the fact that you have been awarded some benefit, but it is at a lower rate than you feel you should get, there is a chance that you might lose the amount of benefit you have been awarded. Also, your benefit may be stopped while the decision is looked at again. Equally, a new decision may mean you receive a higher rate of benefit which better supports your situation, so it is worth considering this carefully. You may want to contact an agency offering independent benefits advice, such as the Citizens Advice or Scope. Such advisers may be able to help you to prepare an appeal against a decision, or act as your ‘adviser representative’.
How to challenge a benefits decision
If you do decide to challenge a benefits decision, the next steps need to happen in the following order, and you need to respond quickly (usually within one month) at each stage.
1. Ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’
Write to the DWP within one month of the date of the decision, to ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You do not need to use a specific form to ask for a mandatory consideration, but you need to include the following:
- your name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, and the date of the decision about your benefit;
- contact details and a signed letter of authority from any adviser representative you may have (such as an adviser from an agency like the Citizens Advice); and
- your explanation of why you think the decision is wrong, pointing out how your situation specifically matches the criteria in the application form, and enclosing a copy of any supporting ‘evidence’ for your claim, such as notes from your doctor or other professional involved in your care. Include this even if you have already provided this information with your original claim. Include any new information if your situation has changed.
The more specific you are about each individual point where you fit the criteria for the benefit, the easier it is for the DWP to focus their attention on those specific areas.
A second case manager at the DWP will look again at your situation and send you a second decision, called a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. This could say that the first decision still stands, or that you have been awarded more benefit, or less benefit than you had been awarded at first. The notice will say whether you can appeal against this second decision, if you are not happy with it. If you are told you can appeal, this needs to be within one month.
You can appeal only if you have had a mandatory reconsideration first. To appeal, send a written letter or form to the tribunal office listed on the DWP’s mandatory reconsideration notice, within one calendar month of the date of decision on the notice. The tribunal service is run by an independent agency called the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS). The easiest way is to use a ‘Notice of appeal’ form.
Download and complete the form ‘Notice of appeal against a decision of the Department for Work and Pensions – SSCS1’and send it to the address on the form, with a copy of the ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’.
You can also download a guide called ‘How to appeal against a decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions - SSCS1A’ . Or you can ask for a paper copy of the appeal forms from a Citizens Advice or other advice agency.
Your appeal needs to reach the tribunal office within one month of the date on the mandatory reconsideration notice. If your appeal is going to be late, you need to explain why, either on the SSCS1 form or in your letter. An appeal may still be considered if the reason given for lateness is accepted, for example if you are in hospital.
Oral and paper hearings
Part of the SSCS1 form asks whether you would like an ‘oral hearing’ (where you meet a tribunal panel face to face). The oral hearing is not like a court, it aims to be a process where you are encouraged to put your points across at your own pace to an independent (neutral) panel. If you are unable to do this, you can ask for your appeal to be decided ‘on the papers’ (where a decision is made based solely on the information you and the DWP has provided).
What happens next?
When HMCTS receives your appeal application, DWP will be informed and will prepare their response to send to HMCTS. Their response will give reasons for their decision, including a copy of your claim form and any other letters and forms you have filled in, and say what law they have used to make the decision. The DWP should send this within 28 calendar days, although this may be delayed. HM Courts and Tribunals Service will also write to tell you what will happen next.
Preparing for an appeal
Our guide on this page is a short overview only. Organisations such as Disability Rights UK or Citizens Advice can give a lot of information about giving yourself the best possible chance of a successful appeal outcome. A friend or family member can help you fill in forms and accompany you to your hearing and they may be very supportive, but a trained benefits adviser will have more experience to guide you through the process, and provide you with information. For individual support, contact your local Citizens Advice or other advice agency as soon as possible before your appeal.