background to the PIP appeal process

How to Appeal PIP: Navigating the Process

Click the play button to listen to me reading this blog post

I’m embarking on a very loaded topic today…(drum role please….) we’re going to be tackling….Personal Independence Payment appeals! aaaaaggggghhhhhhhh!!! This blog definitely classes PIP and PIP Appeals as  Life Lemons, so let’s bounce them around, break them down and own their asses. For many of us the topic of PIP fills us with absolute dread. I’ve gone through this painful process, and appealed my initial award, working on my case with an awesome legally-qualified CAB representative and winning my appeal at the 1st Tier Tribunal. As such I want to share with you all that I learnt about this potentially intimidating experience through a series of blog posts, shedding some light on the whole thing, downgrading that intimidation into a set of manageable blobs, and spreading some vital knowledge about how to present your case in the best way you can.

So firstly, let’s cover a bit of background to this appeal malarky: There are up to 3 steps to an appeal of your PIP award; Mandatory Reconsideration, Appeal to the 1st Tier Tribunal, and appeal to the Upper Tribunal. At any stage they may award you what you deserve. And they might not. My advice is to see the whole process as an interesting (questionable adjective?!)  ‘journey’ rather than piecemeal refusals for the reasons I’m going to be covering in Part 2 of this blog series. For us, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. To them, it’s just numbers, and the lower their numbers the more content they feel. So (and I cannot vouch to have ever gotten over this part, but…) it does not reflect on you, or what you deserve, or their apparent dismissal of your very real hardships. Keep it in the ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘process’ box people. Nowhere near your ‘my sense of worth and aceness’ box, nor the bin of voodoo dolls you’ve made of ignorant or arrogant idiots you’ve had the misfortune to cross paths with (at least, not until the end of the process. Then sew away!).

Mandatory Reconsideration:

You must have requested a mandatory reconsideration from the DWP, and it reach the DWP within the time limit of 1 month from the date of your award letter, before proceeding to appeal (if needed). So if you are not satisfied with the DWP’s decision, get that Mandatory Reconsideration request in very tout suite! If you get a response of no change to your awarded points, and especially if this happens spectacularly quickly, do not get downhearted – these refusals seem to be standard for a lot of people and from my experience don’t reflect on the strength of your case.

Appeal to the First Tier Tribunal:

A tribunal is completely separate from the DWP. Their job is to look at the evidence from both sides as an independent party. I’d recommend submitting an appeal even if it’s just to get your hands on your PIP records from the DWP.  Your file contents make for a very interesting (used that adjective again, feel free to hit me) read with no strings attached – you can pull out of the tribunal process at any time up until your hearing. Also, even if you don’t feel up to the process at the moment, getting yourself in the system within the deadline means that you will then have quite a few weeks to umm and arrh over what you want to do. Time is a great healer as they say and may well strengthen your resolve. In summary, you don’t loose anything by submitting an appeal to the tribunal service. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has a summary of what to expect and the Benefits and Work website has a wonderfully comprehensive guide that includes example appeal submissions. Either before or after you submit your appeal to the tribunal service,  I’d highly recommend looking into getting some representation, from, for example, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or a Law Centre.

Appeal to the Upper Tribunal:

If you believe the 1st Tier tribunal made a mistake in their application of the PIP criteria in terms of the law, you can then take your appeal to the upper tribunal. This is where the ‘meat’ happens. Any rulings at this level can and should be adhered to by judges at 1st Tier tribunals. It’s well worth keeping up to date with any Case Law rulings in preparation for your own lower or upper tribunal case. These rulings represent the current interpretation of the PIP award criteria. Often these rulings can be in your favour, but occasionally they can be detrimental. Again, I’d highly recommend getting some representation if you take your appeal to the upper tribunal.

Next Steps:

So now that we’re savvy with the different steps involved, we’re ready to move to part 2, my top 12 tips for appealing your PIP award, which I will be posting in a week’s time.

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  • Reply Debbie April 21, 2016 at 7:22 am

    I enjoyed reading your blog about the process of appeal. I now what to do in this case as beforehand I never knew. It is a lovely read and it has opened my eyes to the whole process.

    Thank you

    • Reply Many Lemons April 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Glad you’ve found the post so useful Debbie, I hope it gives you some context and confidence.

  • Reply Tremulous April 24, 2016 at 2:47 am

    Respectfully (as they like to say), in the hope that it may be helpful, can I offer just a few quick suggestions?

    (1) If possible it’s better to avoid the appeal process altogether. This means completing the PIP application form with the greatest care. Go on-line and find a copy of the PIP activities and descriptors, then refer to them while filling in the form. This will help you keep your information relevant and on point. It may also help you to avoid clumsy errors that might unfairly be held against you at the appeal stage.

    (2) The Citizens’ Advice site tells you not to worry if you don’t have a representative. I strongly disagree. Dr Lemons(!) is quite right: seek advice and/or representation if you can. A good education in other fields does not in itself prepare you to deal with a system that can be, for some, shockingly ruthless. Many representatives are not legally qualified but know the benefits system fairly well and can offer at least some measure of help.

    (3) The Upper Tribunal is a superior court of record and has a similar status to the High Court within its own, more limited, jurisdiction. You can only appeal to it with permission and only on a point of law. Your chances of getting there without legal help are remote. Try to get your case right at the First-tier Tribunal because that’s where it will almost certainly end.

    • Reply Many Lemons April 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Tremulous thank you for your thorough and wise advice, I completely concur. Getting your application done as accurately as possible with the descriptors in mind and an understanding of how they are interpreted is the best thing you can do for yourself. I’ll be covering this in future posts, in detail.

  • Reply Ken Lamb April 29, 2016 at 8:48 pm


    I and a couple of others run a Facebook page for people with MS in our local area, would it be allowable to copy and paste your articles on our Facebook page as they will prove most useful.


    • Reply Many Lemons May 5, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Hi Ken, really glad that the posts are useful. Whilst you cannot copy and paste the content in the articles, please do feel free to link to the articles – it would be great to share, and I’d love to reach as many people as possible. Do feel free to email me on

  • Reply Denise Clarke May 17, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Hi I agree totally with Tremulous, getting the form completed correctly can save you all the stress of an appeal. from past experience I would recommend Fightback4justice which is a non funded CIC organisation, they have a website and a facebook page and help with form completion, appeals and tribunals with a very high success rate with qualified lawyers. I got straight through to support group with no medical and awarded enhanced on both for Pip.

  • Reply Victor February 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    I have been encouraged by all the information and comments on this subject. I am about to start an appeal.
    I am a bag of nerves, just thinking about it has raised my anxiety to levels. I do not have a coping strategy for this.
    I hope someone who has already gone through this process can tell me if it worth having a representative to put the case put forward to the Judge.
    I have no confidence in talking to any of the appeal board. My memory fails me and recall is negligible.

    Any help or suggestions will be gratefully received.


    • Reply Denise Clarke February 13, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Victor I have been through this process many years ago for Dla and had representation from Welfare rights however this isn’t available now. When or if my time comes to appealing Pip I will most certainly be asking someone to represent me, Pip is not the same as Dla and the criteria is so much stricter, I will want to know I am giving myself the best opportunity to have the decision overturned. Hope it works out well for you

      • Reply Victor ZEBEDEE February 14, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        Denise – thank you. After searching and pondering I rang local CAB, they said they would give me all the help they could and that they will provide someone to represent me. Really pleased….
        I will try and keep you updated.

  • Reply Sandra Hurl April 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Hi, I take heart from the many comments on this post, have just requested a mandatory reconciliation following the decision letter for PIP. Received higher rate motobility for 20 years, and now whilst acknowledging I have difficulty, the ‘decision maker’ has made some what I consider erroneous remarks. The assessment, well, aghast at a minimum, to be asked what education I received……what has that to do with the price of eggs. Intend taking this to the end point as a matter of principle…….assessors do not seem to get it??? or is it just me. I agree send everything by recorded, or signed for, as it is now called, photocopy everything, and fight for what you believe in.

  • Reply Alison October 6, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Really struggling to even write a response for my mandatory consideration. I’m exhausted and disheartened to the point I can’t read or recount it without getting overwhelmed by anger dismay and tears.
    I’ve just asked for one. Only made it by 2 days! I have however put my energy into fighting th e complaint department at dwp and autos. I’ve gone to s find stage as more lies were adddd on reply to first stage. I’ve asked for all video footage and a meeting with managers assessor and receptionist. My guess is it won’t happen. I have exhausted my energy and emotional strength as well as thinking capacity just on the complaints process. And ado e welcome to blast this out of the game with the mandatory reconsideration? Xx

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