If you’re getting a benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and your circumstances change, the DWP can decide to change the original decision that was made on your claim. This is called a supersession (the DWP also call this process ‘a change of circumstances review’).   

The DWP can also use supersession to change a decision in other circumstances. For example, if the law changes or if they receive a new medical report about what sort of work you’re able to do.

This page explains more about how supersession works, how to ask for a supersession and what happens if you don’t agree with a supersession decision.

What is a supersession decision?

A benefit decision is a legal decision that can only be changed if the law allows. One of the ways that a decision can be changed is by supersession. A supersession decision changes the benefit decision from the date the change happens, rather than the date when the decision was made.

There are only certain reasons why a decision can be changed by supersession. The main reasons when a supersession decision will be used is:

  • if you tell the DWP your circumstances have changed
  • if the DWP become aware your circumstances have changed

If your circumstances have changed

The main reason why you would ask the DWP for a supersession will be if your circumstances have changed in some way and you think your benefit should be re-calculated. Reasons for asking for a supersession include:

  • you have had a new baby
  • you have got a job or are working more hours
  • your health condition or disability has got worse or improved
  • your savings have increased or decreased
  • you now have limited capability for work

Find out more about challenging a benefit decision if your circumstances have changed

When the DWP can make a supersession decision

The DWP can also make a supersession decision if they find out about a change to your claim. They might make a supersession decision if:

  • you’re sanctioned and your benefits are reduced or stopped
  • the law changes
  • they’re given new medical information that changes your benefit decision.

Which decisions can be changed by supersession?

You can ask for a decision to be changed by supersession or the DWP can decide that it needs to be changed without you asking. The law says that the DWP must show there are grounds to change the decision.

Decisions which can be changed include:

  • the original decision
  • a revised decision
  • a Tribunal decision
  • an Upper Tribunal or Commissioners decision.

How to ask for a supersession

Apply to the DWP office that made the decision. You can apply by phone or in writing. It is best to apply in writing so you have proof. Keep a copy of your letter and a note of the date you sent it.

If you apply for a supersession within one month of your change of circumstances – the new decision on your benefit will apply from the date your circumstances changed.

If you apply after 1 month, the new decision will usually apply from the date you applied for the supersession. You might be able to get the month time limit extended for up to 13 months if you can give good reasons why you missed it – for example, because you’d spent some time in hospital.

You’ll need to write to the DWP benefit office to explain why you need the time limit extended. You can send a letter to the address on your decision letter or write a message in your Universal Credit online account, if you have one. You can talk to an adviser if you need help asking for an extension.

If you’re owed any extra benefit, you’ll get it from the date the DWP first knows about your circumstances changing. If your letter asking for a time limit extension is successful, you might get any extra benefit you’re owed backdated up to 13 months.

Extending the supersession application time limit

If your client applies after the 1month time limit and wants their decision to start from the date their circumstances changed, the DWP can give an extension of 13 months.

Your client will need to include an application for an extension in their supersession letter. The application for an extension must contain:

  • details of their change of circumstances
  • the reasons why they failed to tell the DWP in time
  • why they think it’s reasonable to get an extension
  • the special circumstances that meant they couldn’t tell the DWP about the change within 1 month

The DWP will look at your application and decide if there’s enough information to make a decision. They can ask you for more information or evidence if they need it.

You’ll have at least 1 month to provide more information or evidence. You can ask the DWP to give you more time if it will be difficult for you to provide the information within 1 month, but they don’t have to agree to this.

If you don’t provide information by the date you’ve agreed with the DWP, they’ll make a decision based on the information they have.

If you want to challenge a supersession decision

If you’re not happy with the new decision, for example it doesn’t give you everything you asked for, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called a reconsideration. The DWP call it a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You must do this within 1 month of the date the decision was sent to you. This time limit can be extended by 13 months in most circumstances.

If you’re not happy with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can appeal.

Next steps