If you think you have been wrongly refused a social welfare benefit 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. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an independent agency. It is not part of the Department of Social Protection.
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.
You have 21 days to make an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. If you have been refused a social welfare benefit or you disagree with a decision of a Social Welfare Deciding Officer you should appeal within 21 days of the decision. In exceptional cases, appeals received outside of this period may be accepted. The Social Welfare Appeals Office will send you a letter to let you know that they have received your appeal.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office will first ask the Department of Social Protection for their comments on your case. At this stage, the Department of Social Protection may revise their decision as a result of new evidence presented. If however their decision remains unchanged, your case will be examined by an Appeals Officer.
The Appeals Officer may decide your appeal on the basis of written evidence. However, the Appeals Officer may hold an oral hearing of your appeal and you will be invited to attend this hearing. This hearing is informal. 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.
Generally, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final. However, an Appeals Officer may revise his or her 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. It is important to state the grounds on which you are seeking a revised decision.
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 has the right to consider the fairness of any decision made by the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
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 free schemes. 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.
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. You can also set out the grounds of your appeal in a letter addressed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. In your appeal, you must include the following information:
Further information about the Social Welfare Appeals Office is available in Social Welfare Appeals Office - An Introduction (pdf). Information and advice is also available from your local social welfare office or from the Social Welfare Appeals Office directly.
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.