Scope’s benefits advisor Debbie Voakes is presenting a set of films on how to appeal a PIP benefits decision. Read below for her guide to the five main steps:
1) The Mandatory Reconsideration process
You have one calendar month from the date on your decision letter to request a mandatory reconsideration.
Before you request a mandatory reconsideration go through your paperwork and pick out all the points that you don’t agree with. If possible, seek advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, Disabled Person’s Organisation or a local welfare rights team. Don’t panic if you can’t get advice.
Review the PIP descriptors and work out why you should have qualified. If possible try and get some new evidence to support this. Call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and explain your reasons for disputing the decision and point out why you feel that you should have qualified.
Can you do the activity reliably, safely, repeatedly, to an acceptable standard and in good time? If not, you might qualify for a higher score.
If you have further medical evidence, tell the DWP that you’ll send this as soon as you can. If you can, send it recorded or special delivery. Keep proof of postage.
If you can’t meet the deadline, tell the DWP as soon as possible. It’s best to keep within the timescales but if you can’t you might be allowed some more time.
2) From Mandatory Reconsideration to Appeal Tribunal
The Mandatory Reconsideration will be carried out by a different decision-maker at the DWP. They will review the claim form, the assessment report and all the supporting evidence that you sent in.
If the decision remains unchanged after the Mandatory Reconsideration, you will receive a copy of a Mandatory Reconsideration notice. You will be sent two copies of this and you’ll need one copy to send to the tribunal.
You will need to download an SSCS1 form.
Try getting in touch with a benefits adviser to start building your case and work out your chances of success.
Join Scope’s online community where you can share appeal tactics and ask our benefits advisors specific questions.
If your SSCS1 form is going to be late, explain this on the form otherwise your appeal will not be accepted.
You can choose to have an oral or paper-based hearing. An oral hearing is better because you will be able to put your case forward in person. Only choose a paper-based hearing if your evidence is strong and clear and points to a clear decision.
Send your SSCS1 form and your copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to the tribunal. If possible send it by recorded delivery or special delivery.
Remember to keep records of all telephone calls and paperwork.
3) How to prepare for a PIP hearing
The DWP will look at their decision again once they have received your appeal. They can revise your award at any point up until the hearing if, for example, you send in new evidence.
You will be told the date of the hearing 14 days in advance. You should receive directions to the venue with transport links, accessibility information and also expenses. Review your paper evidence and think about what extra evidence you might need. Attending the hearing and telling the panel about your disability counts as evidence.
You can send in evidence at any point up until the hearing but don’t save it all up for the hearing as this could delay matters.
All papers relating to the appeal will be sent to the panel members before the hearing. This will give them the chance to identify if there are any problems or issues that may affect the hearing from going ahead.
4) On the day of the hearing
Take someone with you. This can be your representative if you managed to find one, could be your partner, a family member or a friend.
The tribunal will be made up of a tribunal judge, a doctor and a disability specialist. All are independent from the Department of Works and Pensions. Their role is to check the DWP’s decision and to ensure that the law has been applied correctly.
This is your chance to talk about how your disability affects you, how you feel you meet the descriptors and anything else that went wrong during the assessment process.
Normally tribunals will make a decision on the day and will confirm this in writing.
5) Further appeal
If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the first-tier tribunal, there is a further appeals process. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you believe there has been an error in law.
This is a very complex area and you will need the help of a solicitor or a welfare benefits specialist. There may be some legal aid available to help you with your case.