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ESA - Appeals Part 11 (Read 46 times)
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ESA - Appeals Part 11
23.08.12 at 18:41:09
Notice of a hearing
Once you have returned the enquiry form you will probably hear nothing until you get a letter giving you the date, time and venue of the hearing. This may take five months or more and you will not usually get much more than two weeks notice of the actual hearing. Indeed, as the Tribunals Service are only obliged to send out the notice 14 days before the hearing date you may actually get less than two weeks notice. The letter should also tell you the name of the doctor who is to sit on the panel. If you know the doctor you should contact the Tribunals Service straight away. The Tribunals Service will then either to arrange for the doctor to be replaced, if that is possible at short notice, or have the hearing postponed.
When you get the date, check it is one you, and your witnesses if you have any, can attend on. If itís not, and it was a date you put down as being unable to attend, then contact the Tribunals Service immediately. They should offer you a new date instead. If they refuse to change the date write to them immediately asking for the hearing to be postponed and explaining why. Your letter should then be passed on to a tribunal judge. If they still carry on with the hearing in your absence you will have to get help in applying for a set aside, assuming you are unhappy with the tribunalís decision. As always, keep copies of everything and make notes of names and dates when you speak to people on the phone.
If the date is one that you told the Tribunals Service you could attend then you will need a very compelling reason for wanting it changed and there is no certainty that the Tribunals Service will agree to do so. If you are too ill to attend, inform the Tribunals Service by telephone and follow it up with a letter. If they do not postpone the hearing, make sure you get a doctors letter saying that you were too ill to attend and seek advice on trying to get the tribunalís decision set aside if you are unhappy with it.
What to do at the hearing
Because tribunals have very few rules of procedure, almost anything can happen on the day. However, in this section we try to give you some idea of what may happen and what you might do about it.
Arriving at the hearing
The clerk will be popping in and out of the waiting room and should approach you not long after you arrive. They will explain to you how the appeal system works and check if you have any expenses. Go through the following things with the clerk:
-      if youíve brought any witnesses, introduce them and explain that they are attending as witnesses;
-      ask how late are the hearings are running, this will give you some idea of how long you might have to wait;
-      ask if they received any additional submissions you sent: compare bundles with the clerk;
-       give the clerk copies of any further evidence that you didnít post to the Tribunals Service; for example, last minute medical evidence;
-      ask if a presenting officer (see below) will be attending; the answer will almost certainly be no Ė but itís worth checking.
If there are problems: if things are running late, if you get sent home because they wonít have time to hear your case, donít take it out on the clerk. Tribunal clerks do a very difficult job for not very good money and sometimes have to take the brunt of peopleís fury at having to attend a hearing or, worse still, losing their appeal. They manage nonetheless, to be courteous and helpful.
Being shown into the room
The two tribunal members sit together on one side of a table. The clerk will show you and any witnesses to seats opposite them. Tribunals are public hearings, so in theory the public can  attend. In practice they donít. Sometimes someone from the DWP or a Citizens Advice Bureau who is learning about tribunals may wish to observe, however. The clerk will normally have told you if anyone else is attending and you can ask for the hearing to be held in private, though the final decision is the judgeís.
Who must be present
The tribunal itself consists of two people. A judge, who is legally qualified. This may be a retired solicitor or a younger solicitor hoping to work their way up to becoming an upper tribunal judge. Some are very pleasant and courteous; some businesslike and efficient and some, sadly, can seem very stressed, irascible and anxious to shut you up and get you in and out as quickly as possible. A doctor who may also carry out medical examinations for the DWP. Again, some can be pleasant, whilst others seem most interested in trying to catch you out. Some doctors seem to have pet conditions that they are very sympathetic about and other conditions, say ME/CFS or back pain, that they are very sceptical and undermining about.
Who may also be present
In addition, there will very rarely be a representative of the DWP, the Presenting Officer, who will put their case. A clerk may also be present, but they will probably come and go throughout the hearing and they take no part in the proceedings.
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