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Benefit Appeals and Disputes Adviser

Each issue, a different professional shares their expert advice and gives information to help you support your child. This time Sue Davis, Benefit Appeals and Disputes Adviser here at the National Deaf Children’s Society, shares her insights.

What is a Benefit Appeals and Disputes Adviser?

We represent families of children under 16 at benefit appeals if their child has been refused Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and deaf young people aged 16 to 25 if they’ve been refused Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

How would you support a family or deaf young person through an appeal?

Benefits appeals are decided by independent tribunals. Appealing to a tribunal is a lengthy process and we support the family or young person throughout. We discuss the needs of the child or young person, explain the complex rules and advise the family or young person on what level of benefit they should qualify for. We then begin by drafting initial letters requesting mandatory reconsideration of the decision refusing benefit.

What happens if the application is still refused?

The next stage is to appeal to an independent tribunal. We advise the family or young person on the large bundle of appeal papers prepared for the tribunal, identify any further evidence that may be needed, and support the family or young person to get this. We write a submission giving the legal arguments to the tribunal. We also prepare the family or young person for the questions they will be asked there.

How would a family or deaf young person access your support?

They can contact our Helpline or they might be referred to us by one of our Children and Family Support Officers. The Children and Family Support Officers can help with filling in PIP and DLA forms, then they will refer it on to the Appeals and Disputes team if the claim is unsuccessful.

How can a family support you to get the best outcome for their case?

They should try and approach us as soon as they get a decision they’re unhappy with. There are tight deadlines on benefit decisions and our team is very busy, so don’t put off contacting us! They should also keep copies of all letters about benefit decisions.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

The work we do to prepare the case has hardly changed but now we’ll meet the family online rather than in their home. Tribunal hearings have changed massively. Before March, they were all face-to-face in court buildings but since then they've been mainly held remotely.

What advice would you share with parents of deaf children and deaf young people?

Never take the word of the Department for Work and Pensions or Department for Communities that your child or you as a deaf young person don’t qualify for DLA or PIP. They very often get the decisions wrong and a high proportion of appeals are successful. Always get advice from us before accepting their decision.