ESA tribunal tips (List)

Are you nervous about your ESA tribunal hearing?

In this article, you will find the best ESA tribunal tips to make you feel more confident about appealing the DWP’s decision. 

Preparing for ESA tribunal tips

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  1. Ask for professional help

You can get help with your appeal from a specialist welfare rights adviser at your local Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, an independent advice agency or your local authority’s welfare rights service, if they have one.

You can usually find details of local services in the telephone book, Yellow Pages or on the Internet.

Professional help is recommended as people who have more experience with tribunals would be able to advise you for a higher chance of winning. 

  1. Get supporting evidence

Always try to get evidence for your appeal. You can send evidence with your appeal form, but don’t worry if you can’t get the evidence in time.

You can send it after you’ve sent the form. You can give evidence to the tribunal on the day of the hearing, but it is best to send it before.

If you have a lot of evidence – on the day the tribunal panel will need time to read it, and this could delay the hearing.

The tribunal will not contact your GP, psychiatrist or any other medical professional to ask for evidence.

You need to speak to them yourself and ask them for evidence. You can ask them for a letter or report that backs up your claim.

Be aware that some medical professionals will charge you for a letter or report.

If you can’t afford this, or it would be difficult to pay then make this clear to the medical professional.

If a carer or relative has information about your condition they can also send this to the tribunal before the hearing.

Remember to make copies of the medical evidence and bring them with you to the tribunal, just in case anything is missing on the day.

  1. Write a submission for a benefits tribunal

To be successful at your hearing you need to show the tribunal that you meet the criteria for the benefit.

By explaining in writing how you meet the criteria, you can make your situation clearer than if you only explained in person.

Try to avoid criticising the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or the service that assessed you.

You should stick to facts, keep things neutral, and explain why the decision is wrong.

When writing your submission, do not feel that you have to complete it in one go. Splitting the submission into different issues and focusing on one at a time can help.

The tribunal panel will only look at evidence and examples about your condition at the time the decision about your benefit was made.

 For example, if the DWP made their decision in December 2016 and your hearing is in May 2017, the tribunal can only think about how your health affected you in December 2016.

If your illness has gotten better or worse since then, try to think about how it was at that time.

Tips for writing your submission

  • Look at the criteria for the benefit you are applying for,
  • Explain what you disagree with the DWP’s/ LA’s decision and why,
  • Split up your submission so that it deals with each of your points one-by-one,
  • Point out supporting evidence that backs up your argument, and
  • Write in plain, simple English and don’t use legal jargon. It should be clear and make sense.

Always send your submission to the tribunal service before the hearing.

  1.  Other arrangements for the ESA tribunal tips

If you would like a friend, carer, or relative, to come with you to your tribunal, ask them a few weeks before so they can make sure they are available.

If you need a translator or have any communication problems, mention this on the appeal form or tell the tribunal a few weeks before your hearing to give them time to arrange support.

If you need a translator or have any communication problems, mention this on the appeal form or tell the tribunal a few weeks before your hearing to give them time to arrange support.

It is important to plan how to get to the tribunal.

Make sure you know where the venue is and you have worked out how you will get there before the day.

The day of the hearing – ESA tribunal tips

Your letter from the tribunal will say when and where your hearing is. You should tell reception when you arrive.

You may have to wait in a separate room. The judges involved in the tribunal will try and make sure that hearings run on time but there can be delays.

You could bring something to read and some snacks. There might not be anywhere to buy food or drink.

A tribunal clerk will ask you if you have any last-minute evidence that you want to give to the judges.

If you’re feeling confused or have any questions about procedures for the tribunal, you can ask the clerk behind the desk.

A tribunal is not like going to court and is much less formal. The people who decide the case are called ‘the panel’.

They will be wearing suits, not robes or wigs. The tribunal is not in a courtroom and there will be no witness box or jury.

The tribunal will sit around a table. The panel may have computers on the table. There may be a tribunal clerk who sits at the back of the room.

 For Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeals there will be:

  • A judge, and
  • A doctor

They will ask you questions and take notes about what you say.

The panel is trying to work out the facts and will not be aggressive or accuse you of anything.

If your appeal is complicated, there might be someone from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at the hearing.

They are called a presenting officer and their job is to represent the DWP and put their case across.

They can ask you questions about your condition, illnesses or situation. You have to answer any questions they ask you.

They can make legal arguments to the tribunal.

The tribunal will usually tell you their decision on the day. They will ask you to step out of the room while they decide.

If they cannot make a decision on the day they will send the decision to you by first class post.

If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision, ask for written reasons.

You need specialist welfare benefits advice if you want to challenge a tribunal decision because you can normally only appeal it if they have got the law wrong.


Other ESA tribunal tips

Courtesy of benefits and work factsheets available at

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 Chairperson’s 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. 

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, isn’t relevant. 

If the tribunal specifically asks you what’s the longest you’ve been able to stand recently, or something like that, then, of course, you need to answer accurately.  

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.

What you should do is watch the Chairperson’s pen.  Is it moving?

If yes, then the Chair is still writing notes. The two other panel members know better than to start asking questions until the Chair has caught up. 

So they’re just staring at you to pass the time. Watch the pen. When it stops moving and the Chair looks up, the questions will undoubtedly start again.

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In this article, we collected the best ESA tribunal tips from people who have been through this process before. 

The most important things to remember is to ask for guidance, get all the necessary evidence and make sure you are ready and confident on the day of the hearing. 

Have you or a loved one went through an ESA tribunal?

If you have any other ESA tribunal tips to share with the rest of us, it would be greatly appreciated!

Please leave any comments or questions in the comments section below. 

FAQ about ESA tribunal tips

How many ESA appeals are successful?

73% of ESA appeals are successful, with the claimant getting a better award than they originally received from the DWP.

How long is ESA appeal?

An ESA appeal can take between four to 11 weeks. You will be sent a letter by the DWP confirming this. 

On what grounds can DWP appeal a tribunal decision?

The DWP can appeal a Tribunal decision if they can show that there was an Error of Law in the making of the Decision, even if they think that this is the case, the Upper Tier Tribunal may not agree with them.

Do you still get ESA when appealing?

You can get ESA when appealing if you asked to be moved to the work-related group.

However, you will not get ESA when appealing if you claimed another benefit during the reconsideration.

Instead, you’ll stay on the other benefit unless you withdraw your claim for it. 

How many points do you need to be put in the ESA support group?

You need to score 15 points or more, to be put in the ESA support group.

If you have 15 points or more, you’re thought to have limited capability for work and are entitled to ESA.


  1. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  2. Positive Behavior Supports for Adults with Disabilities in Employment, Community, and Residential Settings
  3. How to Write An Appeal Letter / Plan of Action 
  4. Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits
  5. Insider’s Guide to Government Benefits


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