Be well prepared for your UC appeal
Lodging a universal credit appeal may seem like a scary and hopeless thing to have to do, but in reality, the odds are on your side
Your chances of winning an appeal against a decision about your capability for work are better than 60%.
And our Benefits and Work guides can help you through every stage of the process.
You’ll be sure about what you need to do and when you need to do it by. And you’ll know how to be as well prepared as possible for your hearing.
This applies whether you are appealing against a decision that you are capable of work or against a decision that you have limited capability for work, but not limited capability for work-related activity
Lodging your appeal
You can’t lodge your appeal until you have received your mandatory reconsideration notice.
Once you have it, the most important thing is to lodge your appeal within one month of the date on the mandatory reconsideration notice. If you miss this deadline the absolute time limit for submitting an appeal is 13 months from the date of the decision. If your appeal misses the one month time limit you need to explain why it is late. The more compelling reasons the better, but don’t be put off if you think your reasons aren’t particularly strong. A high proportion of late appeals are accepted.
You’ll need a SSCS1 appeal form to do this. You can download Form SSCS1: Appeal a social security benefits decision (Notice of appeal) from this link. This form is in the process of being renamed SSCS1PE. Don’t worry if you use the old version of the form your appeal will still be accepted, but it may take longer to process.
Our universal credit appeals guide takes you through completing the SSCS1 form, including sample wording that will be sufficient to lodge your appeal.
Paper or oral hearing?
From March 24th 2020, as a result of concerns about the spread of Coronavirus, all oral hearings have been suspended for 6 months, until September 24th 2020. A Tribunal judge will make a provisional decision based on the papers, if they feel that you are almost certain to win your appeal. If neither you or the DWP object to this decision, it will become the final decision. If either party objects, then it will proceed to an oral hearing, but this will take place either by phone or video-link.
At an oral hearing, you will be able to meet the tribunal panel and put forward your case in person. The tribunal will also be able to ask you questions.
The DWP may send a representative called a ‘presenting officer’ to the hearing as well.
The alternative to an oral hearing is to have the case decided by the tribunal on the papers alone.
If you opt for a paper hearing, neither you nor the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be able to attend and the tribunal will make a decision based solely on the evidence you have submitted, the letter of appeal, the outcome of your face-to-face assessment and any other paperwork submitted by you or the DWP.
We would strongly advise you to ask for an oral hearing where you put your case in person.
The chances of success at a paper hearing, where you are not present to tell the tribunal about your everyday life, are much lower.
Tribunals set a great deal of store by being able to talk directly to a claimant and reach their own conclusion about whether they are a reliable witness.
It may sound scary. But many thousands of people every year represent themselves at social security tribunals and the majority win their case.
Preparing for your appeal hearing
With our guides, you will be able to prepare in great detail for every aspect of your hearing.
There are lots of things you can do to improve your chances at appeal. For example:
- Make sure you know all the appeal deadlines and don’t miss any of them.
- Get copies of all the DWP evidence.
- Go through every point scoring descriptor in the test using our guides, to decide if there are any points you could ask the tribunal for that you didn’t realise might apply when you filled out your UC50 form.
- Submit supporting medical and non-medical evidence for your universal credit appeal.
- Understand the value of a written submission and how to provide one.
- Check the appeal papers for errors or omissions.
- Understand what upper tribunal decisions are and whether you need to submit any.
- Watch a hearing before attending yours, so you know exactly what happens at a tribunal first-hand.
- Mark up your appeal papers.
- Decide whether to take any witnesses.
- Draw up checklists of vital evidence and things to take to the hearing.
On the day of your appeal hearing
Pretty much everybody who has to go to an appeal hearing is nervous. A lot of people won’t sleep much the night before.
But if you have prepared as best you can and take along appeal papers you have marked up and checklists to make sure you say everything that you think is vital, there’s every reason for optimism about the result.
Our guides will make sure that you know what to do on the day of the hearing as well, including:
- Knowing the importance of issues like how you travel to the appeal hearing and the clothes you wear.
- Knowing the procedure the tribunal will follow.
- Dealing with silences and difficult situations.
- Managing difficult tribunal members.
- What to do when you get the decision.
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