How to challenge your PIP decision and get the DWP to look at it again

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Mims Davies MP, has recently highlighted that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has managed to cut down the waiting times for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeals to just 39 days. The improvement, according to Ms Davies, is due to enhanced "processes and increasing decision-making capacity".

Addressing Parliament last month, Ms Davies responded to Labour MP Jessica Morden's enquiry about the measures being taken by the DWP to speed up the Mandatory Reconsideration decision times. The Minister detailed: "We have reduced clearance times from the peak of 79 days in 2021 to 36 days in October 2023 by improving processes and increasing decision-making capacity. We will continue to improve efficiency while ensuring effective decision-making for all reconsiderations."

Recent statistics reveal that throughout the financial year of 2022/23, approximately 5,300 individuals successfully overturned the DWP's initial decisions on their PIP claims. Out of these successful challenges, around 1,500 claimants were subsequently granted at least one enhanced rate payment for either the daily living or mobility components of the benefit during the Mandatory Reconsideration phase.

Moreover, 28 per cent of those who were awarded PIP at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, after initially being denied the benefit, received at least one enhanced component, reports the Daily Record. A successful claim for PIP or Adult Disability Payment (ADP) - for people living in Scotland - can provide between £28.70 and £184.30 each week in additional financial support. Given that the benefit is paid every four weeks, this equates to between £114.80 and £737.20 per payment period.

The annual uprating implies that existing claimants and those making a new claim for PIP or ADP could be entitled to up to £9,583.60 over the 2024/25 financial year. If you've made a PIP claim and disagree with the award decision, there are ways to challenge it - this might involve asking for the decision to be reconsidered (Mandatory Reconsideration), lodging an appeal, or taking it to a tribunal.

Here are some straightforward steps to follow if you believe the DWP decision-makers have erred. Comprehensive guidance on challenging benefit decisions can be found on GOV.UK here.

Check the PIP decision

If you don’t understand the decision on your letter, you can ask the DWP to explain it by contacting them using the details on the top right of the decision letter.

If you don’t know if the decision is right, you can check whether you qualify by doing the PIP self test on the Benefits and Work website here.

This mock test has all the questions plus the points awarded for each answer and will help you understand:

  • Whether you would score enough points to receive PIP for each component (daily living and mobility)

  • Whether you would qualify for the standard or enhanced rate of each component

Ask for Mandatory Reconsideration

A Mandatory Reconsideration is when the DWP looks at their decision again and decides whether to change it.

The best way to ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration is to write to the DWP at the address on your decision letter. You normally have one month from the date you got your decision letter to ask for Mandatory Reconsideration.

Get a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice

Once the DWP has looked again at the decision, they will send you a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. The Mandatory Reconsideration Notice will tell you if the decision has been changed or it stays the same.

Appeal to a tribunal

If the DWP does not change their decision when you ask them to look at it again, you can appeal to an independent panel, called a tribunal.

The tribunal looks at the evidence from both sides, then makes a final decision. It is part of the court system - it is not part of the DWP.

When you can appeal to a tribunal

You can appeal any decision made about your PIP claim. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • you did not get PIP

  • you got a lower level of PIP than you expected

  • you think your PIP award should last for longer

The appeal will look at whether the decision was right at the time it was made - they won’t consider whether your condition has got worse since then.

Get advice from your local Citizens Advice, welfare support team at your local council or online at Benefits and Work.

To be allowed to appeal to a tribunal, you will need:

  • your letter from the DWP with the words ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’ at the top - if you’ve lost it, ask them for a new one

  • to send your appeal form in within one month of the date shown on the mandatory reconsideration notice

Citizens Advice warns that the tribunal process can take a long time. A statement on their website reads: “The process can be draining but it’s worth remembering that more than half of people who appeal their PIP decision win at a tribunal. If you feel the decision is wrong, don’t be put off appealing.”

Complete the appeal form

There are two ways to appeal. You can either:

  • fill in an appeal form, called the SSCS1 - get a copy of the SSCS1 and check the guidance notes for the SSCS1 on Gov.uk

  • appeal against the decision online on Gov.uk

Make sure you complete the whole appeal form otherwise your appeal could be rejected.

Explain why you are appealing

The most important part of the application is ‘Grounds for appeal’- if you’re filling in form SSCS1, this is Section 5. In this box you need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.

Use your decision letter, statement of reasons and medical assessment report to note each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts, examples and medical evidence (if you have any) to support what you’re saying.

You might have done this already for your Mandatory Reconsideration Letter - if so, you can use the same examples and pieces of evidence again.

You can include all this information on a separate sheet if you’d prefer, just write ‘See enclosed information’ in the box and attach any papers securely to the form.

Tribunals can look at your whole award again. So you should consider whether you risk losing your current award - for example, if you've got evidence to support a daily living component but might lose your mobility award because you can now move better.

If you're not sure, you should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice or support team at your local council.

Getting help with your appeal

You can get help with your appeal from your local Citizens Advice, or a local disability support agency or group. You might be able to get someone like an adviser or a solicitor to act as your representative during the appeal, but they’re not always available.

A representative can help you with the paperwork and might speak on your behalf. Don’t worry if you don’t have a representative - the tribunal board is most interested in hearing how your condition affects you and in your own words. Support from a friend or family member can really help, and you can do it without a professional.

Tribunal dates availability - ask for what you need

You can add the dates you're not available and information about anything you need at the hearing - if you're filling in form SSCS1, this is Section 7.

Think about anything that might stop you being able to go to the hearing and to write it down. For example:

  • you can only attend a hearing during school hours because of childcare responsibilities

  • holidays you’ve booked

  • any dates you’ve got important medical appointments

If you don’t mention these and the hearing is booked for a date you’re not available, you might not be able to change it.

Sending the form

If you fill out the online form, it's sent when you've completed it.

If you've filled out the paper form, send your documents to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not to the DWP. The address is on the form. You should include the following:

  • the completed SSCS1 form

  • a copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice

  • any further evidence you have - you can also send this later

Citizens Advice guidance states to post your appeal documents by recorded delivery if you can. Otherwise go to your local Post Office to post them and ask for proof of postage. This can help you later if the tribunal service says you didn’t meet the deadline or if the letter gets lost in the post.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service will check the form and then ask the DWP for their response within another 28 days.

For more advice about challenging a PIP decision and understanding the tribunal process, Citizens Advice have detailed information plus examples of statements showing what to write when making an appeal. You can find all this information here.