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Social Security appeal statistics obtained by Law Centre NI reveal how outcomes can be improved

The Law Centre has renewed its call for the Department for Communities to publish data on an annual basis relating to social security appeals in Northern Ireland.   

Recent statistics obtained by the Law Centre through a Freedom of Information request to the Appeals Service have highlighted the volume of social security appeals lodged and heard last year, as well as their outcomes.  

The data – which covers the period from April 2023 to March 2024 – reveals that people appealing against a social security benefit decision have a greater chance of success if their appeal is in person (56.7%) and if they have representation (73.8% for PIP appeals and 63.4% for Universal Credit appeals).  

Why is the Law Centre calling for the annual publication of this data? 

We currently obtain data relating to Social Security Appeals by submitting a Freedom of Information request on an annual basis. It is important that detailed statistics on appeals against social security decisions by the Department for Communities are published annually to highlight not only the volume of appeals being dealt with, but also the outcomes.  This would indicate where the system can be improved, while also driving improvements by informing people’s choices.  

The statistics: what do they show us? 

Attending Hearing 

As is consistently the case, the statistics show improved outcomes for those that request an oral hearing compared to those that select an appeal that is decided only on the papers.  

Interestingly the statistics also demonstrate increased success rates for those who attend their hearing in person when compared to those that opt for a remote hearing.  

In 2023-24, in person appeals across all benefit types had a success rate of 56.7% compared to a success rate for remote appeals across all benefit types of 49.7%. Success rates for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeals are higher at 66.8% for in person hearings and 60.3% for remote hearings. 

The improved outcomes for oral hearings suggest that it is beneficial for the Tribunal to meet an appellant face-to-face, hearing their evidence directly and drawing out answers which they would not be able to do with a paper-based appeal.  


Again, success rates are improved with representation. In both Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Universal Credit (UC) appeals, the success rate was much higher (73.8% for PIP appeals and 63.4% for UC appeals) in appeals where a representative was present.  

Tribunals can be stressful, and the data indicates that having a representative who can support you to answer questions relating to your appeal and who understands the benefits process, particularly if your case is complex, can have a positive impact on the outcome of the appeal.  


The number of appeals being adjourned remains high, although there has been a decrease this year.  

In 2022-23, 37.2% of all appeals were adjourned. In 2023-24, this dropped to 34.8%. Of note is a decrease in adjournments for PIP appeals, which are down from 35.2% in 2022-23 to 29.0% in 2023-24.  

This may be reflective of a PIP Pilot in which Legal Tribunal Panel Members review PIP appeals in advance of hearing and issue directions inviting the appellant to provide further evidence and therefore avoid adjournment. 

Drop in appeals  

The statistics demonstrate a significant drop in appeals that have been heard when compared to 2022-23. The number of PIP appeals heard had dropped by 48% from 6,098 in 22/23 to 3,175 in 23/24.  

Overall, the number of appeals heard dropped by 36% from 10,471 in 22/23 to 6,687 in 23/24.  

The Appeals Service has said that several factors have impacted the number of appeals heard. This includes a reduction in the number of appeals received, improvements in adjournment rates for PIP appeals and efforts to clear older cases.   

Pending appeals 

As of 1 April 2024, there were 3,468 appeals awaiting hearing.  


Owen McCloskey, Head of Social Security, Law Centre NI

Head of Social Security at Law Centre NI, Owen McCloskey, said:

“Open and transparent data is vital in helping us to learn from people’s experiences of the social security appeals system, identify gaps and drive improvements. We would like to see the Department for Communities publish these appeal statistics annually, which would allow us to recognise significant trends and help to ensure that everyone has equal access to justice.”