Appeals toolkit: the tribunal

Basic representation level page 3

Before the tribunal

You should receive the bundle of appeal papers, including all the documents relevant to the decision.

As a representative, you may wish to prepare a written submission setting out your case. This is a brief statement of the argument you are making, and how the relevant facts and evidence in the appeal papers support that. There is nothing to say you must have a written submission, and you may prefer to make it verbally at the hearing. However, in practice tribunals find it helpful to have a written submission sent in advance of the hearing, and it may help you to clarify your arguments. It is also an opportunity to deal with any points raised by the decison maker in their written response to your appeal. There is no form to use but on the right hand panel is a suggested format.

What happens at a tribunal?

The tribunal has an inquisitorial role. This means it is has a role in investigating the facts, rather than acting as a referee between two sides.

A tribunal may be made up of:

  • A legally qualified Judge, a medically qualified member and a layperson with experience of disability in appeals about disability living allowance or personal independence payment
  • A judge and a medically qualified member in appeals about capability for work
  • A judge sitting alone in other cases

There may be a representative (a presenting officer) from the DWP or HMRC to put their case.

The clerk deals with the administration of the appeal.

Proceedings may be recorded, either in writing by the Judge, or audio.

The tribunal has a set of rules it must abide by. These include its 'overriding objective' to deal with cases fairly and justly, which includes:

  • dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate to the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues, the anticipated costs and the resources of the parties;
  • avoiding unnecessary formality and seeking flexibility in the proceedings;
  • ensuring, so far as practicable, that the parties are able to participate fully in the proceedings;
  • using any special expertise of the Tribunal effectively; and
  • avoiding delay, so far as compatible with proper consideration of the issues.
After the tribunal

After the hearing, the tribunal gives its decision. This is a short written statement, usually given shortly after the hearing, but in some cases it may be issued by post a few days later. There are three possible outcomes:

  • You win the appeal
    If you win the appeal, the decision made by the DWP/HMRC/local authority is changed and replaced with the decision made by the tribunal. The tribunal’s decision is sent to the department that deals with your benefit, and it is usually implemented within about four weeks. This may mean that arrears of money owing to you while you have been waiting for the appeal should be paid, and your ongoing payment may increase. In some cases, the DWP/HMRC/local authority may wish to appeal to the Upper Tribunal on a point of law – if so, payment owed to you will be suspended.
  • You lose the appeal
    If you lose the appeal, the decision made by the DWP/HMRC/local authority is not changed. This may mean that your benefit changes or your payment is reduced. In some cases, you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal on a point of law. However, this is complex and specialist advice and representation is required.
  • The appeal is adjourned
    If the appeal is adjourned, another hearing will be arranged. This may happen if the tribunal decides there is not enough evidence to make a decision. The tribunal may direct for further evidence or information to be provided by either party. The new tribunal must be made up of different members from the one which heard the first appeal.