The First Tier Social Security Tribunal deals with welfare benefit appeals and is completely independent of the DWP, HMRC, and the Local Authority. It has a duty to act justly and fairly, ensuring that you get a chance to fully participate.
Whether your appeal is with the HMRC or the DWP – your case will be heard at the First Tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber). The Tribunal Appeals Service will give you the option of an oral hearing or a written hearing. At an oral hearing, you will be able to attend the tribunal hearing in person and be able to give oral evidence. Your lawyer will be able to make representations on your behalf. For a written appeal the tribunal considers your appeal based on the paperwork they have before them without any oral input from you or your lawyer.
Research shows that you have a higher chance of success at the tribunal if you ask for an oral hearing. This will allow you or your lawyer to explain things directly to the judge or medical panel in person.
It is up to the DWP, HMRC, or Local Authority to file a bundle of evidence including information about their case to the First Tier Social Security Tribunal and to you and your lawyer. Once the appeal bundle has reached HM Courts and Tribunal Service they will schedule your case for a hearing at the First Tier Tribunal Appeal. This can take a few months, In readiness for this, you should also prepare a submission of your own giving your side of the events.
If relevant you may also provide expert medical evidence from your GP or other medical consultants.
You will be notified of the hearing date around 2-4 weeks before the hearing. You should always be given at least 10 days’ notice of a hearing at the First Tier Tribunal Appeal unless you have agreed to a short-notice hearing. A short notice hearing is not advised as you may need further time to submit more evidence of your own such as medical records.
If for some reason you cannot attend the First Tier Social Security Tribunal hearing on the date that your appeal tribunal has been listed it is important that you contact the HM Courts and Tribunal Service as soon as possible and ask if the hearing can be postponed. You will have to put your request in writing and explain clearly why you are unable to attend on that date. The Tribunal Judge will consider your request – unless you are categorically notified that your request for a postponement has been granted you should always attend the hearing. If you do not turn up on the day of the hearing the tribunal may decide to proceed in your absence.
The hearing with First Tier Social Security Tribunal can be particularly informal. It is not usually like a court hearing in that, it normally takes place in a simple room with just a table between you and the Tribunal. Although some tribunal hearings are now conducted in magistrates and county courts.
Constituents of the First Tier Social Security Tribunal will vary, depending on the type of benefit which you are appealing. An Employment and Support Allowance appeal will usually have two people, a Judge, and a Doctor. Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Appeals usually have 3 people; a Judge, a Doctor, and someone with experience of disability. Other non-medical Tribunals usually just consist simply of a Judge. When the judge asks you to answer questions or give evidence you can address him/her as Judge. Other panel members can be addressed as Sir or Madam.
During the hearing, the Clerk to the Tribunal may also be present. He or She will be there to administratively assist you and the Tribunal. The clerk will usually meet you in the waiting room when you arrive. They will have a list of the day’s hearings and will ensure that you are on the list. They will ask you if you have any extra evidence to provide to the Tribunal and will explain how to claim back your travel expenses. You should keep any travel documents such as taxi or bus receipts and let the tribunal clerk know that you wish to claim your travel expenses. Details on how to claim expenses will also be in the letter you receive notifying you of the hearing date.
Depending on the type of case you are appealing there may also be a Presenting Officer from the DWP or Local Authority. Although they are paid by the DWP or Local Authority their role in the Tribunal is to assist the Tribunal. Thus whilst they may outline the DWP or local authority’s case, their presence is to ensure that all evidential and legal issues are made clear to the Tribunal.
Usually, when you arrive at the Tribunal they will have already read the papers which the DWP provided as part of the Tribunal bundle. They will also have read anything that you sent in – You should make sure any evidence you wish to rely on is sent to the tribunal 7 days before the hearing. If you send in evidence less than 7 days before the hearing, you should check with the Tribunal (or the Clerk beforehand that those documents are with the Tribunal. You may also take spare copies of the evidence as the Clerk may not have access or resources to photocopy large amounts of evidence.
Generally, the First Tier Social Security Tribunal will have a good overview of your case. It will not usually have made a final decision, but the Tribunal may have decided which areas it wants clarifying so may start by asking you a specific question about your case. Make sure you answer as accurately as possible. Try and keep to the point you have been asked about and try not to talk for too long on any particular point.
When the Tribunal has asked all their questions the Judge will usually ask you if you have anything to add. This is your chance to mention anything that you do not feel has been covered by the Tribunal or perhaps not in sufficient detail.
Once the Tribunal feels that all issues have been covered you will usually be asked to step outside whilst it makes its decision. You will then usually be called in to inform you of the decision and you will be handed a piece of paper called a Decision Notice that very briefly outlines the decision and possibly a little about the reasons behind it.
Sometimes the Tribunal will want to consider your case for longer and may tell you that it will make a decision later. This is called a “Reserved Decision”. Usually, the Tribunal will still make the decision on the same day so you will usually get the decision sent to you in the post within a day or Two.
In the event that you do not agree with the outcome of the Social Security First Tier Tribunal’s decision, you can challenge the decision in two main ways.
You or your representative were not present at the hearing (and you had indicated that you wanted this)some other procedural irregularity
Essentially if you cannot understand how the Tribunal came to its decision or you feel that the Tribunal was in some way unfair, you may be able to show that the Tribunal erred in Law. In order to do this you will need to know the reasoning behind the Tribunal decision – thus you must request a statement of reasons for the Tribunal decision. Any request for a statement of reasons must be made within one calendar month of the Tribunal sending you or informing you of its decision.
You can ask the Tribunal to extend the time to issue a statement of reasons if you have a good reason for requesting one late, but the Tribunal does not have to grant your request. You should also ask for the Record of the Proceedings. This will be the Tribunal Judge’s handwritten notes of the hearing. These must also be requested within 1 calendar month.
If you require assistance in appealing a benefits decision to the Social Security Tribunal I can help by attending the hearing and by drafting a tribunal submission appealing against the DWP’s decision. I will make sure that the correct and relevant case laws and regulations are used. This will give you the best chance of success at the tribunal hearing.
I can provide assistance with First Tier Social Security Tribunal Appeal and regularly deal with cases regarding Benefit Fraud and Overpayments, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit Appeals, Employment Support Allowance Appeals, and Personal Independence Payment Appeals.
I have over 20 years of experience in dealing with welfare benefits appeals and I am one of a few qualified solicitors in the country that specialises in this area of law. I take on clients from all over England and find that most of the work can be done over the phone and email, I required I can offer virtual meetings via Zoom or Microsoft teams but if a face-to-face appointment is needed this can also be arranged.
Because legal aid is no longer available for welfare benefits appeals I offer a fixed fee service so that you can rest assured of the amount that you will be charged from the outset and you will not receive any unexpected surprise bills at the end of your case.
As a fully qualified and regulated solicitor, my services are offered through award-winning national firm Scott-Moncrieff & Associates Ltd Solicitors
I would be delighted to help you with your legal matters.
For a free initial consultation please call 0203 9729011 or email me using the contact form below.