Holding the DWP to account and how to complain when your benefits go wrong

Nick at The Complaining Cow

Nick  Dilworth writes a guest post on the state of the benefits system and what to do if you have problems with benefits.


Holding the state to account
Having helped many hundreds of people battle with the Secretary of State over benefit decisions which are often full of flaws, badly reasoned and which are all too often overturned by independent Tribunals allowing appeals in favour of the claimant, I am increasingly concerned about the gross erosion of access to justice following cut backs in legal aid and cuts backs in the advice sector.  As a front line benefit specialist we are fully stretched in trying to help more people than our limited resources can adequately properly provide for.

I’m seeing large numbers of people turn to social media in an effort to find online solutions, its soul destroying to see so many people out on a limb and alarming that much of the advice available simply isn’t right.

So here’s a few handy hints.

What should you do if you find your benefits stopped, reduced or subject to sanction?

  • In all cases you should try and get help from a reputable advice agency such as the CAB or a recognised law centre. Despite savage cut backs the advice sector is still there to help you and even if they can’t offer you one to one help you can access updated advice resources which enable some people to resolve their problems by empowering them to follow the correct procedure.  Agencies have proper indemnity insurance if anything goes wrong and rigid training is in place for staff who provide advice, so speak to someone in the know.
  • Make sure you know which process to follow. If your benefits have stopped or been reduced or you are subject to a sanction, you will generally have a statutory right of appeal and a right to request written reasons as to how the decision was arrived at.  Most statutory authorities use fairly standard stock phrased letters, sometimes it pays to ask for more detailed information so you can be sure of exactly what it is that you disagree with.  Many disputes have to be resolved by initially requesting a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.  After this you should be sent a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’; if you still disagree with the decision you can request a formal appeal to an independent tribunal arranged by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS); you’ll need to send a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with form SSCS1 to the HMCTS Appeals Centre to the address given on the form.  These types of disputes are known as formal reconsideration requests, revisions/supersessions and lodging formal appeal.
  • Always put your reconsideration request, request for reasons or formal appeal in writing, keep a copy and send it by some form of recorded mail so you have proof of postage and receipt. Authorities try and resolve disputes of this nature by telephone, by all means use it to speed things up but always back everything up in writing and make sure you keep a record of when the call was made, what was said and who you spoke to. Why you should write not phone. If you have been given a valid email then use it as it enables you to show evidence of communication. Do everything in the time limits, if this isn’t possible then provide some reasons for lateness.
  • Top 20 Tips for complaning gives more advice on how to write a complaint


  • If you are unhappy over treatment you have received from a statutory agency you can complain. This may be appropriate in cases of delay, where standards expected fall below what they should be or where you believe you have been mistreated or treated unfairly.   Write to the Customer Complaints Manager of the department concerned and set out your complaint to provide a brief history followed by specific grounds under different headings followed by a summary and an idea of what you consider to be a suitable remedy.  Remember to be clear between the process of disputing/appealing and complaining otherwise your appeal may get lost in the wording of a complaint.  Break your letter down in to concise sections setting out the complaint in such a way that it is relevant, easy to follow and likely to draw attention to what’s gone wrong and who you consider to be at fault.  Set a timescale in which you should expect a reply.  Refer to any guidance of the department as to their complaints procedure.  You can always complain to MPs and other statutory bodies if you remain dissatisfied with trying to sort things out with the agency involved.
  • Contact details for key personnel responsible and for the DWP can be found here.


  • Some agencies and disputes, often concerning tax credits for instance, may be subject to a discretionary code where you don’t have a formal right of appeal. This doesn’t apply in all tax credit cases but for the majority you will need to follow the HMRC Code of Practice (COP 26) and set out your dispute in writing, you should argue your dispute and seek to persuade the agency on using their discretion to resolve it in your favour, it’s always good to cite the code and illustrate how it applies.

Caution when complaining Caution!

In cases involving a large loss of money, where the impact on you is serious, when being investigated or where issues of law arise you should always seek proper professional help.

Just a note from the site editor – heck of a lot of comments on here asking for help without a “please” or “thank you”. These words will get you a long way when a) asking for help and b) trying to get your complaint heard. People are less likely to want to help you if you don’t have any manners when speaking to them regardless of how appalling the situation.

If you are in debt please contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice. Also Debt Camel is a great website for covering all things debt.

Further resources for information and advice about benefits
Advice Now is a great self help website for benefits (and lots of other things).

The yourable forum is good. It is a forum so answers to questions may not always be answered.

About the author
Nick Dilworth is a welfare benefit specialist of over 20 years full time experience, alongside his day job in the advice sector he wrote for the popular online website where’s he’s received over 2 million views for his many articles tracking the chaotic reforms of the DWP and taken apart many government statistics to enable people to get a better concept of what’s really going on in the world of welfare.

Iain Duncan Smith
Helen Dewdney who runs this blog went to a couple of surgeries with IDS when he was in charge of the fiasco known as the DWP to challenge him and recorded the meetings. You can see:

The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail and

Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS

Other sectors


For help with consumer rights and how to complain in other sectors such as energy, telecoms, retail, finance etc. do look round the blog and for more with template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!



By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

110 replies on “Holding the DWP to account and how to complain when your benefits go wrong”

A small update..

My wife contacted the assessments line who told us that the form for why I didn’t attend would be sent out and in the mean time no benefit would be cut, my wife then rang the DWP complaints line and after finally being answered not only was she told there is NO complaints line despite it being made clear on the website and that my benefits would be cut ASAP, the best I could do was complain to my MP as “they make the rules” or go to a Jobcentre plus and get my evidence for why I didn’t attend scanned which would shorten the time. Basically I’m guilty until I can prove I’m not and as it was all happening at the same time I could not get an appointment to see my doctor which means the evidence must be in by today (5th) again with zero chance to see a GP and get a letter.

All I can say is that there was a level of almost hatred towards us from the DWP so called complaints line, my wife was treated like scum while I just sat going out of my mind in the room, they offered NO help apart from making an appointment at the Job centre for the evidence knowing full well I have no way of getting it in the time, even when being told that my wife was worrying about my sanity and that I was incredibly low the lady on the phone just mocked it by saying “call your MP”.

Utterly heartless people, clearly its a policy to dump as many people as they can while offering zero understanding of any situation, I was too ill to go yet by being too ill I am now being treated like a criminal and going to have my illness related benefit cut, I wish I could laugh at the irony shown by the DWP, sadly it may be the thing that I remember last..

This is my experience too. I have now been told I am virtually lying about my conditions despite medical support letters, 3 spinal operations, a shoulder operation, 2 heart operations, multiple osteoarthritis and various othe health issues. I have attempted to complain formally since the farcical assessment where reports were inaccurate and decisions using this reached by too may errors and assumptions etc. My PIP awarded was removed in Dec 2016 after an occupational therapist had awarded me with PIP when a SRN who knew nothing about my conditions as stated reported wrongly and so my benefit was removed! Still fighting but as stated tried to foramlly complain yet DWP told me I was not complaining about the DWP staff but the decision. Incorrect, they did not adhere to the rules and regs. set out from the start, evidential papers I sent were not forwarded to the court and I too was sarcastically told to contact my MP who is not really interested. My mental health is suffering, to be told I am not as ill as I make out when I am in so much pain etc. etc and medical people agree with me is so unacceptable. Are these rude sarcastic people not accountable to anyone?

I am over 60 years of age, worked for over 30 years continuously full time until a serious RTA caused so much damage, I had to cease reluctantly resulting in several serious operations. I take exception as definitely not a criminal despite what the DWP say that people have to send a letter proving why they were not present and be told I am telling lies about my conditions despite support from the medical people. Especially when these so called people are less than half my age! What is it coming to?????

I am in the process of needing to be assessed for PIP’ however I am a blind person, under my GP with depression and other conditions. The blind organisation completed the form at my home which taken 3 hours, was filled in to a very high standard with a number of up to date GP reports, list of all tablets taken Daly were my carer provides me with one to one support at all times.
I do feel that my form hasn’t been assessed correctly as I got a letter in one week after sending form off to DWP before 20/12/2017 the cut off date when the form need to be back and informing me that I need to attend assessment in one of their centres, however it was put on the form I need the assessment within my home. Forgot to mention before assessment letter around 10/12/2017 I also received a
letter from DWP think saying we haven’t received your form yet and this was before the closing date.
Paul from Blind organisation contacted DWP regarding the way they are treating my PIP and made out they wasn’t aware of needing a home assessment or a letter was sent out before 20/12/2017, however Paul was informed that another letter will be sent out regarding home assessment or over the telephone, however I haven’t received nothing as yet. I am aware how they treat disabled people now and totally it’s unfair having to be assessed after all the information that as been provided to DWP and no one didn’t take anytime at all to open / read my form. I do also know they will STOP my DLA and will not receive PIP as its their way of getting disabled people off benefits, no keen of I come to live and making people homeless, because there isn’t no other way out for me as I am unable to hold a job due to my health / disability.
Could you please help with this unfair way of being treated ?


Please see post above and links within. When you write to appeal/complain make sure you don’t use all capitals as very difficult for person receiving to read.

can you please help me i am blind in one eye partially sighted in the other,I have never been in debt but since i cannot work and become entangled in the benefit world i am over £3000 in debt and still receiving no help.I have a condition called pixi i have had surgery on my outer skin with necroitis but my heart has had to have stents and i awoke one day with zero vision in my right eye and my left has aganoid streaks.I ask for recipets and evidence of correspondence, as of yet i have not been able to achieve this plus the total ambiguaty of the kendal job center.I have a job the only one i can do now,i used to be the head chef at a prison.I now clean toilets at 5am in asda 6 days a week.I am rely happy to be working and just having a reason to go out is good enough but i feel i have been insulted ridiculed and yesterday was told to look at a pc monitor even tho i told the person 3 times i cannot see that and she even read that i was classed as blind.I have asked the job center for help filling in forms i was told this was against there intrest i have asked for proof of corrispondance also told this is not in there intrest,i just wonder what is going on ? tax payer still paying tax scrubbing shit,yours honestly Mr Peter Hawthorne Cardiff.

The post above should help with the links for complaining about the way you have been treated by DWP. For debt problems please seek advice from Citizen’s Advice Bureau and I have just added another really good website regarding helping people with debt.

I’ve just discovered from DWP – Job Seekers that for 2 years there has been a nominee on my account. I have not signed any forms, I had no visits and am more than capable of taking care of myself and my 2 children. They will not tell me the name of this person, nor if any post about me has been forwarded to this person. JS say they are investigating, but I am feeling quite violated and am wondering what I should do next.

I think you have to wait until they have finished their investigation. Keep chasing (in writing) and provide a deadline.