Challenging a DLA decision - the tribunal hearing
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.
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 or a hearing centre. Any letters you get will call it the tribunal centre.
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 (eg 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 are away 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
2 copies of any new evidence (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, eg travel by public transport, your taxi fare if you can’t use public transport, childcare costs etc
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 member and 2 other independent people, including a doctor.
Someone from the Disability and Carers Service 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 legally qualified member 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 legally qualified member 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 Disability and Carers Service is there, the legally qualified member 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 (eg 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 (eg to go to the toilet) you can ask for a short break.
ask the panel members to repeat any questions you don’t understand
correct anything that isn’t right, eg if the legally qualified member 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
- make sure you’ve said everything you want to say
You can watch a video to see what happens at a DLA tribunal. You can also read more about appealing against a benefits decision at nidirect.gov.uk.
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 Disability and Carers Service wishes to challenge the decision further - this only happens in a small number of cases).
The Disability and Carers Service 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, called appealing to the Social Security Commissioners, 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.