Preparing for a tribunal
The tribunal's job is to investigate the facts of your benefit claim by looking at the evidence.
You can attend the tribunal with a representative and/or you can bring a friend or relative for support.
Sometimes, a presenting officer represents the government, but this is rare. The presenting officer is there to explain why the government made its decision.
The procedure for each appeal is decided by the tribunal judge. For example, the judge may ask everyone to present their case in turn or may ask direct questions to both sides. You and your representative will have an opportunity to speak.
The tribunal that hears your appeal will be made up as follows:
- Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance - a tribunal judge (who is a lawyer), a doctor and a person with knowledge of disability (because they are disabled, a carer or work with disabled people)
- Employment and Support Allowance - a tribunal judge and a doctor
- Industrial Injuries Benefit - a judge and one or two doctors
In most other cases, a judge sitting alone hears the appeal.
Putting forward your case
A submission is a statement to the tribunal. You or your representative can do this in writing, verbally or both. It is a good idea to make a written submission wherever possible. This can result in:
- a quicker hearing - your main arguments have been made and the tribunal need only investigate the detail
- a shorter verbal submission - perhaps just directing the tribunal to the main points in the written submission
- a more accurate record of your arguments for the tribunal when they make their decision
A written submission does not need to be in any particular form - a detailed letter will do.
This can take many forms including:
- verbal evidence from you or your carer
- signed statements from friends, relatives or witnesses
- medical reports from doctors
- letters from professionals such as health or social care workers
- financial documents such as bank statements, accounts, receipts, deeds of sale
Medical evidence is often essential to show that you satisfy specific legal tests, for instance that you:
- are likely to have care needs sufficient for an award of Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance
- have a limited capability for work
- have a recognised industrial disease
Medical evidence is information from a doctor or other suitably-qualified person about your medical conditions and their effects. It can take several forms including:
- a report from a medical examination
- a letter from a GP or specialist
- X-rays, scan results, blood test results
- medical records or extracts from a medical file
- a computer-printout prescription list
- a fit note (form MED 3)
Medical professionals can charge for information. GP practice managers and hospital consultants' secretaries can tell you how much this is likely to cost.
Some doctors do not charge or will waive their fee for a person on benefits. Often, if you make an informal approach to your doctor, you may not be charged.
You can claim expenses to help you attend an appeal hearing. Usually these are costs of travel by public transport or by taxi if you cannot use public transport.