Group File 36 (CE/766/2016) Mandatory                     Reconsideration Time Limits.

The Upper Tribunal recently made a decision (CE/766/2016) that will help social security claimants who apply for mandatory reconsideration late: over one month after the original decision.

BACKGROUND

When you apply for social security benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will look at your papers and make a decision. If you're unhappy with the decision, you have one month to ask for mandatory reconsideration. This means you give reasons why you disagree with the DWP's decision and the DWP will look at your papers again and make another decision.

The question in this case was: who do you go to if you're outside of the one month time limit for mandatory reconsideration?
 

To simplify the arguments in this case, the Upper Tribunal had to decide whether (1) you go to the First-tier Tribunal (as if you'd skipped the mandatory reconsideration stage) or (2) you go through a complicated court process called judicial review, to challenge the DWP's decision not to extend the mandatory reconsideration time limit in your case.
 

WHAT THE UPPER TRIBUNAL DECIDED

The Upper Tribunal looked closely at the law and the purpose behind it. The Tribunal decided that if you're outside of the one month time limit for applying for mandatory reconsideration, you can still appeal to the First-tier Tribunal about your benefit entitlements; you DON'T have to go through the more complicated process called judicial review.

Note that there is a time limit for appealing to the First-tier Tribunal too. This time limit depends on the circumstances of your case, although you generally have one month to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal after the DWP gives you their decision.

If you try to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal after the one month time limit, then it's still possible to appeal within a further 12 months if all the parties agree OR if the First-tier Tribunal, looking at your reasons for not meeting the one month time limit and all the facts of your case, decides it should hear your appeal. So this makes a maximum time limit of 13 months overall, to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, from the time you got the DWP's decision.
 

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

Time limits are put in place to try to smooth out the benefits awarding process; it's not ideal for anyone when an application for benefits drags out over an unnecessarily long time period.

So it's important, if you can, to get free advice from a Citizens' Advice Bureau or similar organisation when applying for social security benefits or as soon as possible after the DWP has given you a decision. They can help you decide whether to ask for mandatory reconsideration and, after that, help you appeal the decision if that's what you want to do.

Even if you don't get advice, remember to apply for mandatory reconsideration or an appeal as soon as possible after you get the DWP's decision.
 

This decision shows it's still possible to appeal outside of the time limits, although you may need good reasons as to why you're applying late (e.g. you were in hospital for a long period, you were looking after a sick relative). You can't appeal to the First-tier Tribunal more than 13 months after the DWP's decision, unless you have a "very exceptional" case.
 

TIMING

The Upper Tribunal made this decision on 3 August 2017 but it’s a clarification of the law rather than a new definition. This means that this decision applies straightaway to your claim, mandatory reconsiderations and appeals. It may take some months before the DWP and assessors catch up with this decision, however.

 

This analysis is brought to you free of charge by BuDS Benefit Information Team. It is only general information and you should take advice on your own case. If you value our entirely voluntary charitable work, please consider making a donation via https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/alexandermcpherson1

 

You can read the full judgement here: https://www.gov.uk/…/r-cj-and-sg-v-secretary-of-state-for-w…

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