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‘I’ve been put in the work related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance and I want to be in the support group’
> ‘Please tell me about preparing for and attending the appeal hearing’

The thought of taking your case to a tribunal sounds scary: to be honest, sometimes you’re right to be scared. But knowing what’s going on helps, and so does knowing how to deal with tribunals.

The first thing to remember, and keep remembering, is that tribunals are not criminal courts: you are not on trial! Admittedly it does not always feel like that, but you need to keep reminding yourself that you are not in the dock.

Social Security Tribunals are part of the civil court system, and, like all civil courts, is, when you strip away all the flim flam, simply act as honest brokers, getting involved when people don’t agree. If you are splitting from your partner and the two of you can’t agree who gets what, a divorce court gets involved and decides for you. If you buy a washing machine and it breaks down three days later and the shop refuses to refund you, you might take the shop to the small claims court. And if you think you are entitled to a social security benefit but the Department for Work and Pensions thinks you’re not, you can take your case to a social security tribunal.

In all these situations the court is there to listen to both people or organisations (the two parties), consider all the evidence available, and then make a decision. That decision is normally final, although sometimes cases do get taken further up the legal tree. The tribunal that hears you case is not on your side: but equally it is not on the DWP’s side (although it doesn’t always feel that way).

Now choose one of the following options:

‘Tell me how to prepare for a hearing’
‘Tell me about actually going to the hearing’
‘How do I maximise my chances of success?’
‘What happens at the end of the hearing?’