Challenging a DLA decision - the tribunal hearing

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Going to a hearing is not like going to court - it’s less formal and you can take a friend or family member with you for support.

Court hearings by phone or video call

The court will tell you what kind of hearing you’ll have. Check how to prepare for a hearing by phone or video call.

If you asked for a hearing in person, you’II be sent a letter giving you at least 14 days’ notice of the hearing with the time and place.

The hearing will probably take place either in a court building, a hearing centre or a law centre office. Any letters you get will call it the tribunal centre.

Worth knowing

It’s normal to feel anxious or nervous ahead of an appeal hearing. But remember the hearing is your opportunity to explain how your child is affected by their condition and why they should get DLA.

You can get help to prepare for the hearing from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Preparing for the hearing

Before the hearing you should:

  • phone straight away if you need to change the date or time - it should be for a good reason (for example, a hospital appointment)

  • read through all the information the tribunal sends you so you know what to expect

  • send any new evidence to the tribunal - try not to turn up with lots of new evidence on the day

  • arrange for a family member or friend to go with you for moral support, if you feel it would help you - finding representation for the hearing from an agency can be a struggle

  • check the venue has everything you need, eg disability access, if you asked for an interpreter - check they will be there

  • check what expenses you can claim and how to claim them - the tribunal service will give you this information

  • arrange for someone to care for your child while you're at the hearing - the tribunal will not expect you to attend with your child

Things to take with you

Remember to take:

  • the appeal papers that were sent to you - and make sure you've read them

  • any new evidence, 2 copies (you need to hand this in when you arrive at the hearing) - keep a copy for yourself

  • notes covering all the things you want to say - you can refer to these during the hearing

  • receipts for expenses you are claiming back that the tribunal service has approved - for example, travel by public transport, your taxi fare if you can’t use public transport or childcare costs

What to expect at the hearing

The appeal hearing is informal - no one wears wigs or gowns - and you won’t be in a courtroom full of people.

The hearing panel will be a legally qualified judge and up to 2 other independent people, including a doctor.

The DWP might attend too but only to explain why they made their decision - they won’t be involved in the final hearing decision.

This is what you can expect at the hearing:

  • the judge will introduce the tribunal and explain its role

  • they’ll ask you questions about your reasons for appealing, and ask you to describe things like how your child is on an average day

  • the judge will explain that the tribunal can only consider your child’s condition up to the date that the decision you’re challenging was made

  • if someone from the DWP is there, the judge will also ask them questions

  • if someone goes with you, they might be asked if they want to say anything

  • once everyone has had a chance to speak, you will be asked if there’s anything more you’d like to say

  • you’ll be asked to leave the room while the decision is made

  • you’ll be called back into the room and told the decision or it may be posted to you soon after

On the day:

  • arrive in plenty of time - if you’re late, phone the tribunal as the hearing might start without you

  • don’t make a special effort to look smart - it’s important the panel sees you as you are on a normal day

  • if you asked for help with communication (for example, an interpreter) or disability access and it’s not available when you arrive, you can insist on having the appeal hearing held on another day

How to deal with questions

Try not to feel too anxious about being asked questions.

The panel are generally easy to talk to. They just want to get a full picture of your child’s condition and how it affects them, so they can make the right decision.

Remember it is your appeal. If you get upset or need time out - for example, to go to the toilet - you can ask for a short break.

Do :

  • ask the judge or doctor to repeat any questions you don’t understand

  • correct anything that isn’t right - for example, if the judge says “your child has no difficulty walking, do they?” make it clear if they’re wrong

  • use your own words and don’t feel you have to use medical language

  • be prepared to answer questions about all aspects of your child’s condition and how it affects them, not just the reasons you’re appealing against

  • make sure you’ve said everything you want to say

If you win your appeal

If your appeal is successful, you’ll usually get the written decision notice on the day of the hearing or sent to you within a couple of days.

You’ll start receiving your money every 4 weeks (unless the DWP wishes to challenge the decision further - this only happens in a small number of cases).

The DWP will also have to pay you everything they should have been paying you from the date of your claim. It normally takes 4 to 6 weeks for this money to come through.

If you lose your appeal

You’ll be sent a guide with an official notice that explains what options you can take.

Sometimes it’s possible to appeal to a higher level of tribunal, called the 'upper tribunal', if you think your tribunal made a mistake in law. You can’t appeal just because you disagree with the result.

If you’re thinking about challenging the decision, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice to check if you have grounds to appeal again.

You can reapply for DLA and start the process again, but unless something has changed with your child’s condition you’re unlikely to get a different decision.

Other benefits help

It’s a good idea to check what other benefits you can get.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.