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You may wish to appeal or complain about a decision that has been made.
If your application for state benefits (including Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) has been turned down or your award is lower than you think it should be, you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered. To do this, you need to contact the office dealing with your case within one month of the decision date on the letter.
Similarly, if you disagree with a tax credits award or other decision, for example, being asked to pay back an overpayment, ask the officer dealing with your claim to review their decision - a direct phone number will be on the decision letter.
If you’re still unhappy with the decision about your state benefits or tax credits, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. You must normally do this within one month of the date on letter giving the revised decision, but up to 13 months in special circumstances.
If you’re unhappy with the service you get from a government department, you can complain to the office dealing with your case. If you’re still not satisfied, you can work through a formal complaints procedure and, if the matter is still unresolved, refer it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
If your complaint is about the service you’ve received from a local council in England, you should complain to that council. If you’re unhappy with the response, you can take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
In Scotland, complaints about central government and local council services and certain public bodies, such as the NHS, should be made to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman. The equivalent body in Wales is the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and, in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.
For more about challenging a state benefit decision, see the leaflet GL24– If you think our decision is wrong. You can get a copy from your local Jobcentre or from the Direct.gov| website.
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can download a copy from the NI Direct website| or get one from your local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office.
For more information about challenging a tax credit decision, see the fact sheet How to appeal against a tax credit decision| from HM Revenue and Customs or call 0845 300 3900.
For information about taking a case to the independent tribunal, visit the HM Courts and Tribunals Unit websit|e or call your nearest tribunal office - details can be found on the website.
For help appealing against a state benefit or tax credit award, call the Macmillan Support Line| or look to see if there is a local Macmillan benefits adviser| in your area.
If you have a complaint against a firm that has sold you or given you advice about financial products or services - such as loans and credit cards, insurance, savings, investments and personal pensions - first complain to the firm. If you’re not happy with its response, say that you want to use its formal complaints procedure.
The firm should give you its final response within eight weeks. If you’re unhappy with the firm’s decision or it has not got back to you within that time, you can take your case to the free, independent Financial Ombudsman Service|.
The Ombudsman can order the firm to put matters right, which could include paying you compensation up to a maximum of £150,000 from 1 January 2012 (£100,000 for complaints referred to the Ombudsman before then).
As an alternative to using the Ombudsman or if you are unhappy with the Ombudsman’s decision, you can take your case to court. But this could be an expensive and lengthy process.
If a financial firm goes out of business owing you money, you may be able to get compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
For more information about making a complaint get the leaflet Making a complaint from the Money Advice Service website| or call 0300 500 5000. Contact details for your local county or sheriff court are in the phone book.
For information about the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, visit their website| or call 020 7741 4100 or freephone 0800 678 1100.
For a complaint about State Pensions, see the information above about state benefits and tax credits.
If you have a complaint about an occupational pension, first contact the pension administrator for the scheme. If your complaint is about a personal pension, contact the provider or adviser concerned.
If you can’t get a satisfactory response from the firm, ask for free help from The Pensions Advisory Service|. They will try to mediate between you and the pension scheme or provider. If that doesn’t work, you can take your case to a free, independent ombudsman.
If your case is about the way a personal pension was sold or marketed or advice you were given, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. If your complaint is about the running of an occupational (company) pension scheme or personal pension, contact the Pensions Ombudsman.
If a personal pension provider or adviser goes out of business owing you money, you may be able to get compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
If you stand to lose pension from an occupational (company) pension scheme because
it can’t meet its pension promises or money has been lost from the scheme because of dishonesty, you may be eligible for compensation. The organisation running the scheme, rather than you, will sort this out.
The letters and literature about an occupational scheme will have contact details for the pension administrator. If you currently belong to the scheme, the HR or personnel department where you work can help.
If you have lost the details of an old pension scheme, the Pension Tracing Service may be able to help you find the contact details. Visit the pensions and retirement pages of Direct.gov| or call 0845 6002 537.
For more on The Pensions Advisory Service website| or call 0845 601 2923.
For details of taking a case to the Pensions Ombudsman, see the booklet Pensions Ombudsman: how we can help you with a complaint about a pension. You can read or download the booklet online|, or call 020 7630 2200.
Your trade union or staff association, if you belong to one, can help you with a complaint against a pension scheme at work.
If you have a dispute about your tax bill, first contact the tax office that normally deals with you (its contact details should be on letters and forms you have received). There is a formal complaints procedure to work through. If you’re still not happy with the response, you can take your case to the free, independent tribunal if you are disputing the amount of tax or the Tax Adjudicator if you’re unhappy with the way you’ve been treated.
If you don’t feel confident dealing with your tax office yourself, consider getting help from an accountant. If your income is low and you can’t afford an accountant, you may be eligible for free advice and help from TaxAid| or TaxHelp for Older People|.
For more information about tax complaints, visit the HM Revenue and Customs website| or call 0845 900 0444. For information about taking a case to the independent tribunal, visit Justice.gov| or call 0845 223 8080. To find out more about the Tax Adjudicator see adjudicatorsoffice.gov.uk or call 0300 057 1111.
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The Financial Ombudsman Service and the tribunal and adjudication services described previously are designed to give you a free and relatively quick way of pursuing a complaint. You generally have the option to take your case to court if you prefer, but this is likely to be a more expensive and slower process. However, if your income and savings are low, you may qualify for help with your costs through the legal aid system.
For advice on taking a case to court and whether you would qualify for legal aid, contact a solicitor. For general information about the legal aid system and to find a solicitor that takes with legal aid cases, contact the Community Legal Advice (England and Wales), the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Scotland) or the Legal Services Commission (Northern Ireland).
Content last reviewed: 1 August 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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