When we deal with your application for Housing Benefit and Council Tax reduction we will send you a decision letter, which will show the information we have used to work out your entitlement. You should check this letter carefully.

Request an explanation (Statement of Reasons)

If you think something may be incorrect or if you want to know more about a decision made following an application for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction you should get in touch with us and ask us to explain it. 

  • Get in touch by telephone, in writing or by making an appointment at one of our Council Offices.
  • We'll send you a letter explaining how and why we made the decision on your claim. This is called a Statement of Reasons.
  • If you want to know more about our decision, get in touch with us within one month of your decision letter date.
  • If it's later than one month when you get in touch we'll still explain the decision to you but may not be able to look at the decision again if you think it's wrong.

Challenge a Housing Benefit decision

If you disagree with a decision we made in the assessment of your Housing Benefit, you can challenge this in a number of ways:

  • ask us to look at the decision again (request a reconsideration)
  • write to us with reasons you disagree with the decision (make an appeal)

There are some decisions you can't ask us to look at again and these would include the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies in the area you would like to live in.

Request a reconsideration online

If you disagree with a decision we made about your application or award of Housing Benefit you can ask us to look at it again. This is called a reconsideration.

  • Your request must describe what you think is wrong with the decision we have made.
  • Include any other evidence that supports your request.
  • Your request must be made in writing and the best way is to use our online form.
  • You can get help to make your request at any of our Council Offices.

Request a review of your benefits decision

Appeal a decision or reconsideration

If you feel our decision is incorrect, even after a reconsideration, the next stage is to appeal.

An appeal involves asking an independent body called the Tribunals Service to look at the decision and confirm whether it is correct or incorrect. We've provided some guidance about the appeal process.

  • Your request for an appeal must be made in writing but this could be a letter from yourself, or someone like the Citizens Advice Bureau, on your behalf. 
  • You can also visit any of our Council Offices for help. While we can help you we can't write it for you so you may prefer to seek independent advice for help or support in making an appeal.
  • Any appeal you make must be signed by you or someone helping you with your appeal. If it's not signed by you we'll need evidence you've authorised them to deal with your appeal.
  • You have one calendar month to make an appeal from the date of our reconsideration letter, or the decision notification letter if you've gone straight to an appeal.
  • The Tribunals Service may consider an appeal made outside this time limit in special circumstances, they can't consider an appeal if it's more than 13 months from the date of the original decision notification letter.

Learn more at the Tribunals Service website.

Who can appeal

Anyone who is affected by the decision may appeal, including:

  • the person making the claim
  • someone who is appointed by the courts to act on behalf of the person making the claim
  • someone whom the council agrees is appointed to act on behalf of the person making the claim
  • a landlord may appeal only about who benefit may be paid to
  • an agent may appeal only about who benefit may be paid to
  • any person from whom an overpayment is to be recovered

What happens at the ribunals Service

The Tribunals Service will decide your appeal at a tribunal hearing. The tribunal is independent of the Council. The tribunal judge will usually be an expert on the issues involved in your appeal and will be legally qualified.

If your case is passed to the Tribunals Service you will be sent a copy of the Council's case. The Tribunals Service will send you a form asking you whether you wish your case to be dealt with in writing or in person. You must return the form within 14 days or your appeal will stop.

At the hearing, the Tribunals Service will look at the evidence, the law and the circumstances at the time we made the decision in order to decide whether the decision is correct. People attending their hearing in person usually do better because they can deal with any questions or issues that arise.

Decisions are notified in writing. Decisions can be made on the day of the hearing but in complicated cases it will happen later.

Learn more at the Appeals Service website.

Appeal a Council Tax Reduction

The process to appeal a Council Tax Reduction is slightly different to Housing Benefit appeals

You cannot appeal to the Valuation Tribunal against your council tax reduction decision unless you have already contacted us about the same issue and asked us to look again at our decision. If you have asked for us to look again at the decision and we have not contacted you within 2 months or we tell you that we cannot change our decision you can then contact the Valuation Tribunal directly to appeal against the decision.

What happens at the Valuation Tribunal

The Valuation Tribunal will offer you a hearing so that you can explain your point of view on the matter in question. Although the Tribunal is independent of the Council, it will use the Council's Reduction Scheme to make its decision.

The Valuation Tribunal Service will send you a form to ask you whether you want to attend a hearing. You will need to return this form to them for the hearing to go ahead.

Learn more at the Valuation Tribunal website.

If you're unhappy with how your claim has been handled

If you're not happy with how we've dealt with your claim you have a right to complain, the steps are:

  • complain to the Council in writing, by email, by telephone or in-person and you'll get a reply within 14 days
  • if you're not happy with the response you can ask for the manager to respond to you.
  • if you're not happy with the manager's response the Council's chief executive will look at your complaint and the responses you received and respond accordingly.
  • if you're not happy with the chief executive's response you can refer your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Contact the Benefits Team

When contacting us about an existing claim, please remember to include your reference number in your email.

Address: Oxford City Council
PO Box 10
Oxford
OX1 1EN

Telephone: 01865 249811