If you think you have been wrongly refused a social welfare payment you can appeal this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You can also appeal if you are unhappy about any decision of a social welfare Deciding Officer or Designated Person (in the case of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme). You must appeal within 21 days of the notification of the decision on your claim.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) operates independently of the Department of Social Protection. It aims to provide an independent, accessible and fair appeals service with regard to entitlement to social welfare payments and to deliver that service in a prompt and courteous manner. The Office is headed by a Chief Appeals Officer and has its own Appeals Officers who make decisions on appeals.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office also deals with appeals for some payments under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. However, it does not deal with the discretionary elements of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
If you have been refused a social welfare payment or you disagree with a decision of a Deciding Officer or Designated Person you must appeal within 21 days of the decision. In exceptional cases, appeals received outside of this period may be accepted. You must set out in your appeal why you think the decision was not correct and include any evidence and documents you want to be considered by the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
You must also enclose a copy of the letter you got from the Deciding Officer/Designated Person that informed you of the decision you now wish to appeal. You must always be given the reasons for the decision in writing and the letter should be written in language that you can understand.
You can request an oral hearing at this stage. (See also ‘How to apply’ below.) The Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) will send you a letter to let you know that they have received your appeal.
In some cases the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) receives an appeal and, on review, decides that the reasons for the decision were not fully understood by you. In these cases the SWAO will refer the letter of appeal to the relevant scheme area of the Department of Social Protection and ask for the decision to be clarified to you. You are informed of this. If you are still not happy with the decision following the Department’s clarification you can appeal the decision to the SWAO.
Once an appeal has been lodged the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) notifies the Department of Social Protection of the appeal. This notification requires that any files or documents relevant to the appeal are forwarded to the SWAO.
When the Department of Social Protection receives notice of an appeal it reviews the original decision to decide whether it should be revised in your favour. In some cases, this means that new evidence is reviewed by a medical assessor or a social welfare inspector. If the decision is changed by the Department at this stage you will be informed.
If the decision is not changed by the Department, your case will be examined by an Appeals Officer.
In general appeals are dealt with in the order in which they have been received. However Supplementary Welfare Allowance appeals (including Rent Supplement) are prioritised for attention as soon as the file and submission is received from the Department. The Appeals Officer may decide your appeal on the basis of written evidence. This is called deciding the appeal summarily.
Your appeal may be heard at an oral hearing—either because you have requested one or because the Appeals Officer decided that this is appropriate for your appeal. You will be invited to attend this hearing. It is informal and you can bring a representative to the hearing with you for support or assistance. A representative may include a friend, colleague, public representative or trade union official. You are also free to bring legal representation if you wish—but this is not a requirement. Hearings are held in private. If you live in Dublin or the surrounding areas hearings are held at the Social Welfare Appeals Office (see address below). Outside Dublin hearings are held at a venue as near as possible to where you live.
Generally, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final. However, an Appeals Officer may revise their decision if new evidence, new facts or any relevant change of circumstances come to light after a decision is made.
The Chief Appeals Officer may revise a decision of an Appeals Officer if it appears that a mistake was made in relation to the law or the facts. In either case you should send a written request for a revised decision and enclose the new evidence. It is important to state the grounds on which you are seeking a revised decision.
If you are seeking a review by the Chief Appeals Officer, you must give specific reasons why you believe a mistake has been made regarding the law or the facts.
If you disagree with the final decision of the Social Welfare Appeals Office you can request the Office of the Ombudsman to examine your case. The Ombudsman can examine complaints about the actions of the SWAO and can also investigate complaints about the everyday administrative activities carried out by the SWAO.
You may appeal to the High Court on a point of law or seek a judicial review in the High Court if you think that the appeal was not fairly conducted. You should however get legal advice in this situation.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office does not deal with schemes that are not on a statutory basis - for example, the Household Benefits Scheme or the Free Travel Scheme. There is no formal appeals system for these schemes. However, if you are not satisfied, you should ask for the decision to be reviewed by the section in the Department of Social Protection that dealt with your application.
The Social Welfare Tribunal is a special statutory appeals system for people
who are refused Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance because of an
industrial dispute at their place of employment. It provides a second level of
appeal after an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. However, you can
also appeal directly to the Tribunal without first going through the Social
Welfare Appeals Office.
There is no fee for making an appeal about a social welfare decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
If you have to travel to attend a hearing, the Social Welfare Appeals Office will compensate you for any reasonable travel expenses. You can also be compensated for any loss of earnings if you have to take time off work to attend. The Social Welfare Appeals Office may make an award to a representative such as a solicitor if they accompany you to the appeal.
You make your application on the special Social Welfare Appeals form (pdf), also available from your Intreo centre or social welfare local office or the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Alternatively, you may set out the grounds of your appeal in a letter to the Appeals Office or by email to email@example.com. The important thing is that you set out your case fully.
You must include the following information in your appeal:
You may request an oral hearing when you submit your appeal. Usually people request oral hearings because they wish to elaborate on some aspect of the evidence or they consider that they can make their case better if they appear in person to present their evidence. In some cases, the Appeals Officer decides to hold an oral hearing.
You can get help with making an appeal from your Citizens Information Service.
Further information is available in Social Welfare Appeals Office - An Introduction (pdf). Information and advice is also available from your Intreo centre, local social welfare office or from the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
Department of Social Protection
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.