What is a Mandatory Reconsideration?
Mandatory Reconsideration is the new first stage of the appeals process which was introduced from 2013. It applies to disputes about all benefits paid by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and also for Tax Credits and Child Benefit. It does not apply for benefits paid by a local authority ie Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support (also known as Council Tax Reduction).
This new process means that if you disagree with a decision made by the DWP the first stage of the dispute process is a mandatory reconsideration and this has to be completed before an appeal can be lodged. This is an internal process and gives the DWP an opportunity to look again at their decision. Many DWP decisions are incorrect and it is often worthwhile to challenge a decision. You should exercise caution when you challenge a decision which was partially in your favour as the new decision could be worse than the one you are disputing eg if you have an award for a standard rate of Personal Independence Payment but feel you should have had enhanced rate. In this situation it is best to seek advice on your chances of success before lodging the mandatory reconsideration.
Most decisions can be looked at again but if you are told that the decision you wish to dispute cannot be looked at again you should seek advice.
The Mandatory Reconsideration should normally be lodged in writing within a month of the decision. If a mandatory reconsideration is lodged by phone you should confirm in writing afterwards to ensure that there is a record of this being lodged as sometimes these requests can get lost in the DWP system. It also means that you have a record of the points you are raising. A late mandatory reconsideration can be made within 13 months of the decision having been made but the DWP do not have to accept a late mandatory reconsideration. If it is late, you should explain why it has not been done earlier. Good reasons might be that you have been ill or a close family member has been ill, you have been trying to query the decision or you were given misleading information by DWP or someone else you thought you could rely on or you needed help to write the letter etc. If a late mandatory reconsideration is refused for being late a recent decision means that you can challenge this at tribunal
If you want a decision that was made more than 13 months ago to be reconsidered you should seek advice. This is possible in limited circumstances.
What to put in the letter?
The letter should give as much detail as possible about why you disagree with the decision. If it is a medical decision you should explain the details of your medical condition which you feel have not been fully considered. You can send in copies of any evidence you have to back up what you are saying. If you aren’t sure how to write the letter you can ask an advice agency to help with this. You should keep a copy of the letter you send.
What happens next?
There is currently no time limit within which DWP has to carry out the Mandatory Reconsideration but it would be normal to receive a reply within a month and it would be best to ring up within a month of the decision notice if possible in case they argue they have not received the request. It is possible that DWP will introduce deadlines for their response.
The response the Mandatory Reconsideration is called a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice and they should send 2 copies of this. This notice should explain the new decision and give reasons for it and give you a right of appeal if you disagree with the decision. There is a high rate of success with many appeals so you should always consider this if you still feel the decision is wrong. Appeals have to be lodged within one month of the date of the notice although a late appeal can be done within 13 months and again reasons should be given for why it is late as for the mandatory reconsideration. It is always best at this stage to seek assistance with the appeals process.