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At the hearing

Photo: You can always ask for a short break if you feel nervous or upset

When you go into the room there will be a big table in front of you. You, and anyone who goes with you, will sit at one side of the table and the panel will sit on the other side.

The panel will have read the schedule of evidence bundle which will help them know which questions to ask to help it decide if you’re legally entitled to the benefit. By answering the questions as fully as possible you’re helping the panel do its job and are more likely to get a positive decision.

It’s natural to feel nervous and the panel will be used to that so try not to worry. If you get upset at any point you can ask for a short break.

Whatever you tell the tribunal is evidence and therefore must be true. Your evidence should be believed unless there are reasons not to. For example if the panel find it contradictory or unlikely. Before reaching this conclusion they should ask exploratory questions to help them understand. You should address the panel as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.

The appeal will be heard by an independent panel which has three members. The person that sits in the middle of the panel is the judge – they’re legally qualified and should know a lot about benefits. One of the other panel members is a medical professional, but they won’t necessarily be an expert in deafness. The other panel member is someone who should know a lot about disability – they may be from a disability charity or have a disability themselves but they may not necessarily be deaf or know a lot about deafness.

The DWP may send someone called a presenting officer to explain why the DWP made its decision and to assist with questions of law. They are not at all hearings and will depend on their availability in your area.

The presenting officer won’t be the person that made the original decision about your claim. They’re not allowed to be confrontational and sometimes they even support claimants’ appeals.

If you get some of the benefit already and are asking for a higher rate, you could be at risk of the tribunal deciding to remove your existing benefit.

If the panel is considering a reduction of an existing award then the judge will usually warn you and ask if you want a few minutes to consider your options. If this happens you should ask for an adjournment to seek legal advice. You should then speak to a specialist benefits adviser or call our freephone Helpline for advice.

The panel will usually make the decision that day. You’ll be asked to go to the waiting room while they discuss your case, this usually takes 10–30 minutes.

It doesn’t have to be a unanimous decision, you only need two of the three panel members to agree.

You’ll then be asked back into the room and told the decision. The panel will give you a written outline of their decision as well.

Sometimes the panel won’t give you the decision straight away, usually if they’re running behind schedule. If this happens, they’ll post the decision to you instead. It should arrive within a week of the hearing.