What is a tribunal for appeals? (First Tier Tribunal)

This article is for those wondering what is a tribunal for appeals and what is the procedure one has to follow in order to win an appeal.

What is the First Tier Tribunal?

The First-Tier Tribunal is responsible to deal with all the appeals against tax benefit or tax credit decisions.

But, what is a tribunal? Tribunals are independent institutions, completely separate from the benefit or tax credit office that made the decision you are appealing against.

They provide local hearings for benefit and tax credit appeals, they are more informal and have less complicated procedures than courts and are completely free to use.

What is a tribunal’s purpose?

A tribunal has as the main goal to discuss and understand the appellant’s reasons for appealing a decision made by the DWP.

Considering the evidence, only the Tribunal panel has the necessary authority to change the DWP’s decision.

How to start an appeal

If you are appealing against a decision by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), you start your appeal by completing an SSCS1 form.

If you are appealing against a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) decision, you can also submit your appeal online on the Gov.UK website.

Along with the form you have to include a copy of the mandatory reconsideration, any evidence regarding your health status, and any other requirement you might have for the tribunal.

When the Tribunals or Appeals Service receive your appeal, they will send you or your representative (if you mentioned one on your appeal form) confirmation which will contain:

  • Contact details for the Tribunal
  • Your unique appeal number to be quoted by you if you contact them
  • The information they have about your appeal 
  • An inquiry form, which you will need to fill in and return within two weeks.

The Enquiry form

The inquiry form that you will receive and must return helps the Tribunals or Appeals Service to arrange your appeal hearing.

You will be asked if you want your appeal dealt with as:

  • an Oral hearing where you appear in person to answer questions about your claim; or
  • a Paper hearing where the Tribunal just looks at the evidence on paper without you present.

You may have a better chance of winning your appeal if you attend the hearing.

If you would like to attend and have accessibility needs, you should mention this on the inquiry form.

The Tribunals or Appeals Service can cover the cost of transport so that you can attend your appeal.

The clerk at the tribunal can refund these expenses on the day of the hearing.

If you will need a translator or a signer, you should also mention this on the inquiry form so it can be arranged in time for the hearing.

The inquiry form also asks you to provide any further information or evidence to support your appeal.

You should provide as much new relevant information as you can.

This could be:

  • A medical report from your GP, consultant, occupational therapist or social worker
  • Bank statements
  • Extracts from relevant Council Tax legislation
  • Case law to support your appeal.If you are waiting for evidence, such as a letter from your doctor, put this on the form.

If you choose a paper hearing, you should send as much relevant information and evidence as possible.

Make it clear what you think the decision should be and why, as this is all the Tribunal will see when making their decision.

The appeal hearing

The tribunal will hear your appeal as soon as possible after receiving your appeal form and will give you at least four weeks’ notice of the hearing date.

If you can’t go to the hearing on the arranged date, you should contact the tribunal office.

If you have a good reason for not being able to attend, they should be able to arrange another date.

An Oral hearing

An oral hearing means that you and your representative (if you have one) can attend, or your representative can attend the hearing without you.

A representative can be anyone you think knows your case best, including a relative, friend, carer, lawyer or social worker.

On the day of the hearing, don’t be late, and when the panel will be ready for you, you will be called into the room.

The people on the tribunal panel will already have seen all the information and evidence about your case that has been sent to them.

The person that sits in the middle of the panel is the Chair or Judge. They are legally qualified and should know a lot about benefits.

One of the other panel members is a doctor, the other is someone who knows a lot about disability.

The panel should introduce themselves and explain what will happen. 

When your case is heard you or your representative will be given a chance to explain in your own words why you think the decision is wrong.

The benefit or tax credit office representative will also be able to explain how they came to their decision.

The tribunal panel can ask you questions about your case. If you have questions for the benefit or tax credit office representative you can ask these as well.

When the tribunal panel thinks they have all the information they need, they will ask you if you want to say anything else to support your case.

They will then ask you to leave the room so they can consider all the evidence and make their decision.

You may be told the final decision in just a few minutes. 

Following the hearing, you will then receive the decision in writing within one month.

A paper hearing

A paper hearing means that the tribunal judge and panel will only consider the written evidence in private and you and your representative do not attend a hearing.

You will not be told when the private hearing is taking place and you will be sent the decision in writing after the paper hearing. 

The tribunal’s decision

If the tribunal agrees that the decision made by the DWP regarding your benefits claim was wrong, you will receive a letter from the benefit or tax credit office confirming that the decision has been changed and the amount of any benefit or tax credit payment that may be owed to you as a result.

If the tribunal decides it can’t change the decision, you will receive a letter confirming this.

Terms you might hear and what they mean 

Appeal: A proceeding, taken by a party to a case who is dissatisfied with a decision made, to a court having authority to review or set aside that decision.

Appellant: That would be you. The one that appeals from a judicial decision.

Hearing panel: The judge, a doctor and somebody who knows a lot about disability.

Respondent: Is the term used for the DWP representative.


In this article, we found out what is a tribunal’s purpose and what should one do in order to be successful with his appeal.

If there is something we left out, please let us know in the comments section below.

Also, make sure to check our FAQ section in case you still have some unanswered questions.

FAQ about What is a tribunal

What is the difference between a court and a tribunal?

The difference between a Court and a Tribunal is that courts decide most disputes and criminal cases.

Meanwhile, tribunals deal with more specialized matters and are less formal than courts.

What happens at a tribunal?

At a tribunal hearing the main goal to discuss and understand the appellant’s reasons for appealing and to assess the evidence that exists.

Also, the respondent has the right to argue his decision.

What is a tribunal in law?

The legal definition of a tribunal is An officer or body with the authority to pronounce judgment on a matter based upon the evidence. 

How do you address a tribunal judge?

A tribunal judge can be addressed as “Sir/Madam”. 

What does the Upper Tribunal do?

The Upper Tribunal is a superior court of record, giving it equivalent status to the High Court and meaning that it can both set precedents and can enforce its decisions, including those of the First-tier Tribunal.

Who sits on a tribunal panel?

There are three members of the tribunal panel, who will decide on your case.

They are an employment judge who will run the proceedings, a person representing employer’s organizations and a person representing employee’s organizations.


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  1. Tribunals and investigations-Citizens Advice
  2. Challenging a PIP decision, the tribunal hearing – Citizens advice
  3. Appeal a benefit decision: How to submit your appeal – GOV.UK