7.2. Panel Structure and Approach

ESA and PIP appeals have differently constituted tribunal panels (see right). The doctor often takes the lead in the questioning.

The hearing atmosphere is informal, and most of the time is spent asking the Appellant questions about their health and daily functioning. The panel are, the majority of the time, very friendly and approachable towards the Appellant. Hearings last around an hour.

If an interpreter is in use, the Appellant should be asked if they and the interpreter understand each other fully. If there is any dispute about mutual understanding (e.g. due to dialect differences) or the panel feels an interpreter is needed but has not been arranged, the hearing should be adjourned.

No. Members Who decides?
  • Judge
  • Medical member
  • Judge
  • Medical member
  • Disability qualified member
Majority of 2

In addition to the panel, a DWP Presenting Officer (PO) may be present, whose role is to represent the DWP’s position in the case. They may ask questions of the Appellant after the panel have finished their questioning. Frequently however they contribute very little.

It has long been accepted that the Tribunal is non-adversarial in nature, and that the panel should take an inquisitorial approach. As a consequence, the PO is expected to act as a “friend of the court” and to aid the panel in towards their goal of determining the correct and just level of award. The approach of the Tribunal is also described as enabling; the panel is meant to investigate in order to help the claimant identify relevant information, a position mean to compensate for the imbalance in power between the claimant and the DWP.

Role of the Representative

The Rep has a different role in the Tribunal than in most other courts. In some cases, the judge may ask the Rep to formally present the case in order to open the Tribunal. In all cases, there will be an opportunity after the panel have finished for the Rep to speak. They may bring matters to the attention of the panel, ask the panel to question the Appellant about a particular issue, or ask the Appellant questions directly themselves. The Rep should follow the panel’s questioning and keep track of any points that need to be expanded upon or clarified at the end. However, in some cases, if the panel has been thorough, there may be nothing for the Rep to add.

Last updated on February 22nd, 2019 at 04:12 pm