What happens at a PIP tribunal. 

                              PERSONAL EXPERIENCE COURTESY OF SHERAN TAYLOR.

Before the tribunal.  
Before the tribunal the DWP will send you a ‘bundle’ of papers.  Use this bundle to write a note or letter to the court directing them where you feel that the decision is wrong ‘a submission’ and which of the descriptors you feel that you ought to have been awarded points. 
This bundle is also yours, if you have a representative then they will also have their own bundle.  Read through the bundle and make notes of any evidence that you feel has been missed.   A few weeks but usually months later you will get a letter telling you what date and time the tribunal is on.  Seek out any more evidence that you may have and send it in as soon as you can to the address on the tribunal letter.  
You must also need to CALL THE COURT if you need to make arrangement to use a disabled parking space on the day.  They will also explain the access arrangements for this.  
You do not need to be represented in the tribunal, the whole set up is so that you can go unaccompanied but if you do have a representative it is a good idea to call them a fortnight before and make your arrangements for the day.  If you have to go by taxi, make sure this is agreed in advance by calling the number on the tribunal letter.  

On the morning of the tribunal.  
Don’t forget to take your bundle, some identification (in case you need it) and your appeal letter.   Leave with plenty of time to get there.   Ideally with enough time for a calming cup of coffee (or drink/smoke) before you go in.  

Keep your phone switched on – it is not rare to receive a call the morning of the tribunal informing you that the tribunal has been cancelled because someone is sick, or the GP is from the same practice you are at and no one has realised until that morning.  If this happens every effort is made to get an alternative date as quickly as possible.  
If you have any last minute evidence, take it with you.  If you can copy sufficient for the tribunal (4 copies) then that is appreciated.  Try not to take too much evidence with you on the day – if there is too much then the tribunal could be postponed to allow the tribunal judges to read it.  

ON ARRIVAL AT THE COURT.  
When you arrive you should present your papers to the security guard and expect to be thoroughly searched including with a metal detector (If you have a pacemaker make sure you bring the paperwork with you to avoid this and expect to be frisked instead).   You will have to sign in.   You will be shown to a waiting room.  If for psychological reasons you can’t wait in a waiting room, please tell the courts and they will make alternative arrangements for you to sit in an alternative room or sit in the corridor. 

IN THE WAITING ROOM. 
In Exeter there is no where in the waiting room to get drinks, so it is a good idea to take a bottle of water with you.   Try to get there about ten minutes in advance.  The clerk of the court will come out into the room and ask who you are and who is with you.  You can bring your representative and someone to accompany you.  If you have any witnesses to attend you can also bring them as well (but this is rare it is usually just three – you,  your friend (if you have one to go with you) and your representative (if you have one). 

The clerk will explain who the people are on the panel that day and explain that they are totally independent of the DWP.  They will also tell you if a DWP person is coming into the court today.  They will also give you an indication of if the court is running to time.   The clerk will take your names and check spellings.  They will then ask you to look at your bundle and tell them the last number of your bundle so that they can check that the tribunal jury has the same number of pages.   The clerk will then ask if you have any last minute evidence, which can be handed then and leave. 

Remember to switch off your mobile phones now.  

THE CLERK LEAVES AND WILL COME BACK TO TELL YOU TO COME IN. INSIDE THE TRIBUNAL COURT.  
The room is set up like an interview or maybe a wedding.  On the top table as you enter the room will be three people sat.    
                                   DOCTOR                 JUDGE                          LAY PERSON  

You sit opposite on a separate table about 8 to 10 feet away.  You tend to sit in the middle with your partner one side and your representative on the other.   There will be tissues and water available.   Sit down and put your papers on the table complete with any notes or anything you want to bring up. 
Keep a piece of paper and pen on the desk so that your representative if you have one can make notes if during the course of the interview you have forgotten to mention anything.   The judge begins by explaining what you are there for (a PIP appeal) and reassures you that the tribunal is completely independent of the DWP and will be making their own decision based on the law, your testimony and the evidence in your bundle.   They will be kind.  
They will introduce the other panel members and explain that they will ask questions (they might also explain that the judge is writing things down so to speak clearly and slowly).   The clerk you met in the waiting area is also in the room on a computer.  They sit down the side.   The judge will look at your submission and explain that the doctor will be questioning you about mobility and the lay person daily living. 

EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT QUESTIONING MOBILITY AND DAILY LIVING THE DOCTOR AND LAY PERSON MIGHT STILL HAVE AND ASK QUESTIONS.  
The judge will explain that they will want to ask you some questions (although if you have an appointee then they will be able to answer on your behalf).  They will also explain that it is important that you answer although if you can’t answer some judges will ask your friend/family member to elaborate on your behalf or even the representative to talk on your behalf.  
They will also remind you that the appeal is based back on the original date you filled in the paperwork and ask if your condition has deteriorated since then (if it has they will ask you to remember what you were like and answer the questions based on what you were like then rather than now).   If your partner/friend/representative answers questions on your behalf without the permission of the judge, it is not unusual to be warned not to do it.  They will get the opportunity to ask questions, address the tribunal panel at the end.   The judge is a professional law person.  You might wish to address the judge either by their name (they will introduce themselves as Mrs .. Miss or Mr …) or you can use Sir or Ma’am if you feel better doing so.  They act very informally and will call you Mr, Miss, Ms, Dr etc rather than ‘Sam or Paul’.  

THE DOCTOR.  
The doctor is a medical professional who is specially trained for tribunal purposes. They will have been expected to have read up on your condition and done their own research into it.  This is important if you have a rare condition.   

They will ask questions about your mobility such as;  
How did you get here today?  
How long did it take you to walk …?  
How many rest breaks did you have?   Explain what you mean by (if you have described your walking as painful)?  
How breathless do you get?  
What medication are you on?   Does it work?  
They will use words such as ‘tell me’ or ‘I don’t quite understand what you mean by … ‘ they will base their questioning around descriptors so listen very carefully to what they are saying. 

Be completely honest about how far you can walk and how uncomfortable it is.  This is not the time to be brave. 
They understand that the questions they ask might be painful for you to answer and that you might cry and get upset. 
In fact it is my opinion that they almost expect you to be upset which is why they provide tissues, water and as many breaks as you need.   The doctor will be watching you though, so if you have fibromyalgia for example and are in pain with your arms but are bending down quite happily and flinging your arms about they might ask you why.  
If you have taken tons of painkillers to get there today – let them know how many you have taken and when.  
If you have addiction issues and have had a drink or taken some drugs before attending that morning – let them know.  
If you were reluctant to attend that morning – let them know.  
This is not the place to be shy or dignified this is the place to let these people know just how hard it is to be you and what your difficulties are.  

THE LAYPERSON  
The layperson has a background in disabilities or caring but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to ask awkward or embarrassing questions!  
They will ask what the impact is on your daily living so expect to discuss your meal times, therapies, washing dressing and toileting needs with this person.  
They might ask what you do to eat?  
They might also ask what you are going to do if your children or grandchildren are hungry?   They might ask you what you do to prepare food and what equipment you need?  
They might ask about your therapies and how you are handling them?  
They might ask you how often you soil yourself?  
How often you change your clothes?  
If you don’t bath, shower, eat, cook or go out of the house because you lack motivation to do so .. let them know.  
If you haven’t showered for the past 11 weeks – let them know.  
If you thought about killing yourself last night because of this – let them know.  
No matter how sensitively asked these questions are difficult and embarrassing but these people have heard it all before.  
It doesn’t matter if you get upset, there are tissues and water and if you get too upset them they will give you a break, stop the questions.      
The judge will then sum up and ask any questions that they might have – they will then ask you if there is anything you have missed.  
Your representative might be asked to talk on your behalf at the beginning of the session depending on how good the submission is (and the judges personal preference) – but will be asked now if they wish to make a final statement.  
A good representative will then either make a statement if they believe any of the facts have been missed (or to explain a further point) or may simply just say I stand by my submission.  

Remember that PIP is based on laws and how you meet descriptors and you need an award of 8 point for a standard daily rate and 12 for enhanced.  

Warning:  Very rare but can happen.  
IF AT ANY TIME IT LOOKS AS IF THE TRIBUNAL COURT ARE GOING TO CHANGE THE CURRENT AWARD YOU HAVE AND AWARD LESS OR NOTHING THEN THEY WILL TELL YOU WHETHER YOU WANT TO CONSIDER WITHDRAWING YOUR TRIBUNAL REQUEST.  
IF YOU GET SUCH A WARNING, THEN CONSIDER THAT YOU MIGHT LOSE YOUR CURRENT AWARD. 
IF YOU ARE UNREPRESENTED THEN THE JUDGE WILL ASK YOU TO MAKE A DECISION.   YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IF YOU HAVE ONE WILL THEN HAVE TO ASK THE JUDGE TO WITHDRAW YOUR TRIBUNAL REQUEST.  LISTEN TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.  
The judge will then thank you for coming today and ask you to retire whilst they consider their verdict.   The clerk will show you back into the waiting room.  
The decision can take up to half an hour if the tribunal court has lots of law to consider and it’s a complex case.  Sometimes they decide that there is insufficient time to make a decision on the day and will send you home. 
THIS DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU HAVE FAILED TO WIN YOUR TRIBUNAL.   Otherwise you will be called in and given your decision.  A written statement of reasons is provided for you to take home.   You and the DWP then have an additional 28 days to appeal this decision but only if there is a point of law. 
There are separate files on this.   If they haven’t made a decision then you should expect a letter in the post to arrive the next day (or at the latest the day after) with a statement of reason.  
If you win … the award will be backdated to the date on the original paperwork.  Don't forget to let ESA know, JSA know, tax credits, council etc know and claim for anything you are now entitled to such as SDP, bus passes etc.  

If you lose – you can apply again or maybe go on if there is a point of law to appeal this decision.  (Separate files).     You can then leave the court.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE COURTESY OF SHERAN TAYLOR.