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Date: 16.03.2010
From: monica

Subject: DLA tip 3

Hi All

Here is a tip if you have to go to a tribunal.
Monica

The thought of having to go to an oral appeal hearing and face a
grilling from three strangers can be pretty scary. But if you use our
DLA appeals guides youll have a very clear idea of what’s going to
happen and be extremely well prepared for it.

Below are three useful tips to get you started.

Travel
The panel will almost certainly ask you how you got to the hearing.
For this reason, think carefully about how you do this.

If you regularly use buses and have no difficulties doing so, that’s fine.
But there is often an assumption by tribunals that people who use
public transport have less serious health problems.

They assume that you are regularly able to get to a bus stop and stand
for long periods, as well as coping with strangers, crowding, jolting and
frequent stops and starts. If you do have to use public transport, as you
have no other way of getting there, you may need to take the initiative and
explain to the tribunal in great detail any problems that the journey
caused you, and may cause for the rest of the day, and what arrangements
you have made for getting home.

On the other hand, if you come by car, you may be asked whether
you drove yourself, where you parked and how long it took you to
walk from the car park. Again, you may have no choice but to do this,
so you will need to explain any difficulties you had.

Obviously, if you do have the kind of problems described above, it’s
far better to get a lift or a taxi that can drop you at the tribunal door to
avoid unnecessary difficulty or pain.

Dress appropriately
Tribunals are very formal and most people want to look smart for them.
However, if in your claim pack you have said that you have to wear slip
on shoes, elasticated waists or other clothing because of your condition,
then you should either:

wear that clothing, because the tribunal will definitely notice if you
don’t and may draw conclusions from their observations; or

wear smart clothes but actually point out to the panel that this is not
what you normally wear and explain any extra help you needed with
dressing or how long it took and how much it hurt.

Watch the Chairpersons pen
Any lawyer will tell you that the best policy when answering questions
in judicial proceedings, which is what tribunals are, is to do so accurately,
concisely and without straying from the point.

So, were not suggesting you should attempt to lie or hide the truth at
your hearing. But the best policy is definitely to answer each question
as best you can and then . . . keep quiet.

Claimants often get themselves into difficulties by talking too much.
They will accurately explain the problems they have with, for example,
standing for more than a few minutes. But then, because there is a long
silence after theyve given their answer they will add something like:

‘I did have to stand for 10 minutes at the shop to get the electricity meter
key charged the other week. My husband normally does that, but he was
ill that day and we would have had no heating that night if I hadn’t gone.

The decision about your DLA is based on how you are the majority of
the time what you can manage on the occasional better day, or what
you had to do in spite of the pain that it caused, because you had no choice,
isnt relevant. If the tribunal specifically asks you whats the longest
you’ve been able to stand recently, or something like that, then of course
you need to answer accurately.

But bringing up things that you haven’t been asked prolongs the hearing,
can make tribunal chairs tetchy because they start running late and, unless
the tribunal takes the time to gather more evidence, can leave a misleading
impression about your condition.

It’s undoubtedly true true that if there are long pauses and panel members
are staring at you its hard not to blurt something out, just to fill the silence.

But what you should do is watch the Chairpersons pen. Is it moving? If
yes, then the Chair is still writing notes. The two other panel members are watching
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