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ESA - Appeals Part 10 (Read 48 times)
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ESA - Appeals Part 10
23.08.12 at 18:39:29
Preparing yourself for the hearing
Attend a hearing
If you have never been to a tribunal before, one of the most effective ways to prepare yourself is to attend one. They are scheduled to last just 40 minutes, so if you spend a morning at the tribunal offices, you should be able to watch several. This will mean that when you attend your own hearing you will know the layout of the building and have a much clearer idea of how the tribunal is likely to be conducted. If you are able to watch an experienced representative you may also pick up some useful pointers.
Contact your regional Tribunals Service office to get details of where your nearest tribunal venue is and when ESA hearings are held. They may also be able to tell you whether there are any claimants attending with representatives on the day you wish to attend, and at what time.
Alternatively, you may be able to phone the clerk at the local venue itself, if it’s used regularly. When you get to the hearing venue introduce yourself to the clerk, explain why you are there and ask them to speak to whoever is going in next about your attending their hearing. Strictly speaking, appeals are public hearings, although the judge can decide to exclude the public in some circumstances. However, if particularly personal details are being discussed the appellant may say they’d rather you didn’t attend.
Practice saying ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’.
From November 2008 tribunal chairs have been given the title of judge. They should therefore be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ (unless the judge tells you differently). For some people this is not a problem at all, for others it may feel a little strange, if not entirely objectionable. So, if you think you may find this awkward, practice calling people Sir and Ma’am until it trips off your tongue as if you’d been doing it all your life.
Mark up your papers
If there are things in the papers you want to draw the tribunal’s attention to, make sure you can find them quickly and easily. Use post-its, highlighter pen and marginal notes liberally. Doing this means that the tribunal won’t get increasingly impatient as you scrabble through the bundle muttering “Sorry, I’ll find it in a minute . . . I’m sure it’s here somewhere”. In addition, you can direct the tribunal to the pages you want them to look at and give them less opportunity to go hunting around for things you might be less keen on them spending time on: “At page sixteen of the bundle, the doctor states . . . however at page 7, the decision maker says . . . and if you’ll turn to page 93 . . .”
Draw up a checklist of evidence you think it is vital for the tribunal to hear
One of the worst feelings is to walk out of a hearing and then start thinking of all the things you intended to tell the tribunal but forgot about. If the hearing is not successful you’re going to be left wondering if those extra bits of evidence would have made all the difference.
So make brief notes of each point and example you think the tribunal needs to hear, then at the hearing tick them off as they are dealt with. During the hearing add any further points that come up. Then when you’re asked for any final comments, you can check through the list and briefly give the tribunal the extra information they need.
Draw up a checklist of things to take to the hearing
On the day of the hearing you may well be feeling a little nervous and you may not have slept terribly well – or at all. So in the days beforehand it’s very well worth making a list of all the things you need to take to the hearing. For example:
- Appeal papers
- 3 x copies of additional evidence.
- Originals of GP’s letter.
- Copies of letter to GP asking for evidence.
- Tribunal office number.
- Notebook and pens.
- List of points that need to be made.
What to wear
Dressing smartly demonstrates respect and ‘respectability’. However, if in your claim you have said that you have to wear slip on shoes, elasticated waists or other clothing dictated by your condition then you should either:
- wear that clothing, because the tribunal will definitely notice if you don’t and are entitled to draw conclusions from it; or
-  wear smart clothes but actually point out to the panel that this is not what you normally wear and explain any extra help required or discomfort involved.
Tribunals are entirely accustomed to claimants turning up with rings under their eyes, looking extremely anxious and uncomfortable and stuttering and stammering their way through the hearing. And if it takes you two minutes and much discomfort to walk to your seat at the hearing then the tribunal will just have to wait patiently.  
These are not problems. But if you take additional pain killers, tranquilisers or other drugs to help you cope with the ordeal, this can be a disaster, because the tribunal are entitled to take into account their observations of you at the hearing. So it’s worth trying to stick to your normal medication regime. Otherwise, if for example, you have said that you suffer pain when walking more than a few yards but walk into the tribunal without any apparent discomfort, because you’ve taken a double dose of pain killers, it could do your case a great deal of harm. Similarly, if you suffer from anxiety attacks, but attend the hearing in a state of benign detachment due to taking extra tranquilisers, you may well make a very unconvincing witness.
Getting to the hearing
You are likely to be asked by the panel how you got to the hearing. For this reason it is not a good idea for you to use public transport on the day, unless you regularly use public transport and have no difficulties doing so. There is often an assumption that people who use public transport have less serious health problems because they are able to get to a bus stop and stand for long periods, as well as coping with the crowding, jolting and frequent stops and starts. If you do have to use public transport you will need to explain to the tribunal in great detail any problems that the journey caused you and any problems it may cause you for the rest of the day or following days.
On the other hand, if you come by car, you may be asked where you parked and how long it took you to walk from the car park.
A taxi is often a good option for attending a hearing, if you are able to afford it.
In the tribunal building
As well as being observed when you are in the hearing, you may be seen by panel
members as you move around the tribunal building. Or you may be asked about how you managed walking along the corridor, whether you used stairs or a lift and so on. If you have visited the tribunal venue, you will know the layout and know whether there will be any difficulties for you. For example, is it a long walk from the waiting room to the room in which the hearing is held? If so will you be able to walk it or is there a wheelchair available for your use?
Postponement, adjournment or no decision
If your hearing is listed for late in the afternoon, prepare yourself for the possibility of being sent home unheard if the hearings are running late. In addition, sometimes hearings begin, but are then adjourned because, for example, the tribunal decides it needs extra medical or other evidence or because the tribunal have been given the wrong papers or incomplete sets of papers. Finally, there is a slim possibility that although the hearing will be heard in full, the tribunal will be unable to reach a decision on the day and you will be sent home not knowing the outcome. The decision will be sent in the post to you some days later.
Inviting witnesses
You need to give the matter careful thought before inviting people to be witnesses. Could the potential witness actually give their evidence in a letter instead? Clearly it is better and more persuasive evidence if the witness is there in person to be asked questions by the tribunal, but the hearing is a short one, less than an hour, and there is not time for a stream of witnesses.
If you do intend to have witnesses, remember to check their unavailable dates and pass them on to the Tribunals Service. If someone can give wide ranging evidence because they are a carer, partner, live with you or something similar then it may well be worth them attending as a witness. However, make sure that the witness is prepared to take your advice about dress and how to give evidence. If they turn up in deeply distressed denim and harangue the tribunal about the dreadful way you have been treated they may do more harm than good.
Witnesses are not generally called, as such. Usually they simply sit alongside you and are invited to speak on relevant issues by the tribunal judge. However, some judges may insist that witnesses wait outside until they are required.
You need to be careful if your witness is a parent or partner who has got into the habit of speaking on your behalf. Tell them that at the tribunal the panel will want to hear from you first every single time and that if they jump in first the tribunal may well feel that the evidence being given is unreliable. Lay out clear ground rules: the witness should never interrupt anybody, should wait to be invited to give evidence either by the tribunal judge or by you and, as far as possible, should only give the evidence agreed between you beforehand.
You don’t have to inform the tribunal beforehand that you’re bringing witnesses, but tell the clerk when you arrive at the hearing that they are there as witnesses rather than just to observe.
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