Court rules to protect the appeal rights of benefit claimants

The Upper Tribunal has declared the Government’s restrictions on access to the social security appeals system to be unlawful, in a test case brought by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

The Tribunal’s decision enhances and protects the appeal rights of the hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants who each year seek to challenge refusals of benefit.

Since 2013, where a claimant wishes to challenge a decision to refuse a benefit, the claimant was first required to apply for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before appealing to an independent tribunal. The Department for Work and Pensions has consistently asserted that where it decides a mandatory reconsideration application has been made too late, the claimant cannot then make an appeal. The effect has been to exclude large numbers of benefit claimants from access to the justice system, and in the words of the Upper Tribunal, ‘result in a significant number of claimants who are entitled to benefits not being paid them’.

This court decision then has emphasised the importance of access to justice, and will make it much easier to challenge unjust benefit decisions at a tribunal.

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Image credit: Beth Cortez-Neaval, Flickr