Benefit appeal hearings

Benefit appeal hearings are held by an independent tribunal. These are organised by the Appeals Service.

Tribunals

You will be asked to choose between two types of tribunal hearing:

  • oral hearing - where you and/ or your representative can attend to discuss your appeal
  • paper hearing - where you or your representative do not attend the hearing and the case is decided on the written evidence

Tribunal hearings are held in a range of venues, including some courthouses across Northern Ireland. The videos below will help you prepare: 

Preparing for your tribunal

Papers sent to you will set out the case you have appealed against as the office which issued the decision sees it. They will include the documentary evidence it is using to support its decision.

You should study these papers carefully. You may disagree with the facts or the office’s understanding of the law.

You should consider what evidence you need to support your case. This includes:

  • what you can tell the Tribunal yourself
  • what others can tell the Tribunal – you can bring witnesses to the hearing, for example, if your appeal concerns problems you have looking after yourself due to a disability, you may wish to bring your carer to tell the Tribunal about the help you need
  • documents – for example, if your appeal concerns savings you have, you may wish to produce bank statements covering the period in question

Documents to support your case

If you have documents to support your case, send them to the Appeals Service as early as possible. Do not wait until the hearing. Producing key documents at the last moment may result in the Tribunal adjourning the hearing.

It is your responsibility to get any evidence you feel is relevant to your appeal, this may include financial or medical evidence.

If you are obtaining further evidence in support of your appeal, please ensure you are aware of the time scales that may be involved in getting it, and do not delay in making your request to the appropriate individual or organisation.

Please note - any additional/further evidence or documents provided by you will be copied and shared by the Appeals Service in full with the department in accordance with tribunal practice and procedures.

Confidentiality in Child Support and Child Maintenance cases

If you have asked the Child Maintenance Service to keep your location confidential, your address or information which could lead to your location, will be withheld from the appeal papers being sent to the other party.

Medical records

The Appeals Service are unable to request medical records from your GP on your behalf. If you wish to provide the tribunal with any information on your medical records you should request these from your GP or hospital, consider the evidence you wish to provide, and forward it to the Appeals Service or bring them on the day of your hearing.

If you are obtaining further evidence in support of your appeal, please ensure you are aware of the time scales that may be involved in getting it, and do not delay in making your request to the appropriate individual or organisation.

Please note - any additional/further evidence or documents provided by you will be copied and shared by the Appeals Service in full with the department in accordance with tribunal practice and procedures.

The appeal hearing

The Tribunal will have up to three members, depending on the case. Members will have a particular expertise, for example, in law, medicine, disability or finance.

The hearing takes place around a table and most last between half an hour and an hour. You are not allowed to record the hearing.

Even if you have a representative, the Tribunal will probably want to ask questions directly to you.

After the hearing

You will be given a copy of the Tribunal’s decision within three days of your hearing.

If you lose the appeal

Your decision letter will tell you what to do if you are aren't satisfied with the decision. You will have one month from the date the decision is issued to ask for an explanation.

If you don’t agree with the reasons given, you can apply to the legal member of the tribunal for permission to appeal to the Commissioners. You can go directly to the Commissioners if permission is not given.

You can only appeal to the Commissioners on a point of law. You cannot appeal to the Commissioners about questions of facts or a tribunal’s medical findings or conclusions.

Advice and help with your appeal

For help and advice about your case, or someone to help you present your case to the Tribunal, contact:

Using an interpreter, signer or induction loop

If you would like an interpreter or signer at the hearing or to use the Induction Loop (AFILS) system, tell the Appeals Service as soon as possible. 

The Appeals Service will arrange an interpreter or signer for you. You cannot use a friend or relative.

Expenses

You can claim for some expenses. The Clerk at the hearing will give you a claim form and a giro cheque will be sent to you later by post.

Travel expenses

You can claim back public transport costs or if using your car, you can claim  mileage at 12 pence per mile.

In exceptional circumstances a taxi fare may be paid. This must be arranged beforehand with the Appeals Service and one of the following must apply:

  • you can provide written evidence from your GP that your disability stops you from using public transport
  • you can provide details that there are no suitable bus times / schedules to allow you to make your hearing on time (this will be checked by the Clerk)
  • you live outside Northern Ireland (contact the Clerk before making travel arrangements)

Subsistence

To claim subsistence you must be away from home for more than five hours and have travelled more than a 10 mile return journey to get to the hearing.

Compensation for loss of earnings

You may claim for earnings lost on the day of the hearing. There is a maximum daily amount. Compensation will not be paid for a full day if you could reasonably have worked before or after attending the hearing. You should make arrangements with your employer so you lose as little working time as possible.

Compensation for loss of earnings cannot be paid for more than three consecutive days in any one week.

Caring expenses

You may claim to cover the cost of employing someone to look after your children, or an elderly or infirm close relative while you go to the hearing. There is a maximum amount and you must provide a receipt or letter from the carer showing the amount you paid.

If someone comes with you, for example an escort, witness or representative, that person may also be entitled to expenses.

If you claim for loss of earnings, you can’t claim child minding expenses.

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