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Challenging a PIP decision - the tribunal hearing

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’ve asked for a hearing in person, you’ll get at least 14 days’ notice of the date. It’ll 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 the appeal hearing, but no one will be trying to catch you out - it’s your opportunity to explain how your condition affects you and show them why you should get PIP.

You can print out our PIP appeal help sheet [ 110 kb] to help you remember everything you need on the day.

Preparing for the hearing

Before the hearing, you should:

  • phone straight away if you want to change the date - it should be for a good reason (eg a hospital appointment)
  • read through all the information the tribunal service 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
  • check the venue has everything you need, eg if you asked for a sign language 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

Things to take with you

Gather together the things you need to take with you, including:

  • the appeal papers that were sent to you, and make sure you’ve read them
  • any new evidence (you’ve got to hand this in when you arrive at the tribunal centre)
  • notes covering all the things you want to say - you can refer to these during the hearing
  • receipts for any expenses you need to claim back that the tribunal service have already 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 tribunal hearing is informal - 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. They’re called the tribunal board. Someone from the DWP might attend too but only to make their case - they won’t be involved in the final decision.

This is what you can expect at the hearing:

  • the judge will introduce the tribunal and explain what it’s for - they might call you ‘the appellant’ and the DWP ‘the respondent’
  • they’ll ask you questions about your reasons for appealing, and get you to describe things like what you do on an average day
  • 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 - so if there’s anything you want to add or clarify, you can
  • you'll be asked to leave the room while a decision is made
  • you’ll be called back into the room and told the decision, although occasionally you may have to wait 3 to 5 days to get a decision letter in the post

On the day:

  • arrive in plenty of time - if you’re late, 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, translation or access and it’s not available when you arrive, you can insist on having the appeal hearing held on another day

When you’re being asked questions

Try not to feel too anxious about being asked questions. The board won’t be hostile towards you - they want to hear more about how your condition affects you so they can make the right decision.

Don’t be embarrassed to talk about how your condition affects you - it’s really important the panel gets a true picture of your daily life.

Do:

  • ask the judge or doctor to repeat any questions you don’t understand
  • tell them if someone has helped you on the day, eg helping you to dress, driving you to the hearing or reading signs for you
  • correct anything that isn’t right, eg if the judge says ‘you have no difficulty walking 50 metres, do you?’, 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 how your condition affects you, not just the reasons you’re appealing
  • make sure you’ve said everything you want to say - don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel there’s something else important to say

If you win your appeal

If your appeal is successful, you’ll get an official notice in the post within a couple of weeks. You’ll receive your new amount of money every 4 weeks.

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 your options. 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, but you can’t appeal just because you disagree with the result.

If you’re thinking about challenging the decision, get advice from your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or in Scotland to check if you have grounds to appeal again.

You can reapply for PIP and start the process again, but unless something has changed you’re unlikely to get a different decision.

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