Advice Column: Appealing For Common Sense

Thursday 3rd May 2018

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on our research into social security tribunals.

 I read that you have completed an investigation into social security tribunals. What was this about, and what were the main findings?

 Our report, Appealing for Common Sense, reveals the injustice and wastefulness inherent in the benefit application and appeals process. We found that many people are having their applications for personal independence payment (PIP) or employment and support allowance (ESA) rejected, only for the decision to be reversed on appeal many months later.

PIP is currently the single biggest issue people turn to us for help with, followed by ESA. We advised on almost 1,500 problems with PIP and more than 850 ESA-related issues in the past year. Anyone trying to get on with life while coping with a serious illness or disability deserves a quick and accurate experience.

We are calling for the Government to tackle the flawed system which determines whether people are eligible as a result of a disability for benefits. It’s vital that Government pays close attention to these issues and takes meaningful action to tackle the ongoing flaws with the process which stop people getting the help they need to live their lives.

When people apply for PIP or ESA, initial assessments are carried out by private contractors on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. Points are awarded based on an applicant’s ability to perform a range of daily living and mobility activities.

Our investigation has exposed fundamental flaws in the way that eligibility to receive these benefits is being assessed. Many people give up after hearing that their application has been unsuccessful, but we find that where people are willing to endure the long and often distressing appeal process, tribunals are awarding the highest rates possible when the original assessment did not support any entitlement.

This is simply wrong and the system needs a fundamental overhaul so that decision makers get it right first time and don’t subject those living with serious illness or disability to lengthy and often traumatic delays which risk them getting into financial hardship.

A copy of the report can be found at:

For more information and advice about appealing benefit decisions go to

Look out for our column next week when we focus on pension jargon.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit