What to say at ESA tribunal (Advice from winners) 

In this blog post, we collected some ESA tribunal success stories that are meant to inspire and encourage you to appeal the DWP’s decision if you think you were wronged.

After reading this article you will feel more confident about what to say at ESA tribunal for a higher chance of winning. 

What to say at ESA tribunal in order to win?

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 ESA tribunal hearings can be very stressful and can make you anxious.

This is why we collected some success stories from people who went through similar circumstances, in order to highlight the best advice on what to say at ESA tribunal to secure your win. 

The first success story

“First off, don’t be worried as its only a room with a doctor and judge and court clerk in the corner.

You get taken to the room by the clerk when it’s your turn. The judge will say hello and introduce him or herself and also the doctor.

She put me at ease by explaining that she deals with these claims every day and knows about ATOS and what goes on.

In my case, ATOS had lied and made up so much stuff that it was a joke.

First off but maybe a bit late if you are reading this, get the ATOS fake medical recorded.

This helped me a great deal as I could write on the mandatory reconsideration about their lies and also have proof.

It is important to be there and not let them decide without your attendance. Twice as many people win if they turn up.

Up until now its been like banging your head against a wall with ATOS and DWP.

Before you go make sure you know the descriptors or have them printed out so you can explain why you should be awarded for the descriptors that ATOS has awarded 0.

The judge wants to hear how your disability affects your daily living and does not care what has gone on before with ATOS and DWP.

The judge will ask the doctor to ask you some questions.

In my case, it was decided I should have 15 points straight away.

I was ready to go into all the other descriptors, but the judge stopped me and said its ok, I don’t need to. They asked me to wait outside.

5 mins later I was called back in and told I had won. The judge, doctor, and clerk were all very pleasant during the hearing.

This has been exactly 2 years since I first claimed ESA at a reduced rate.”

The second success story

“My daughter made a successful ESA appeal and was awarded 18 points instead of the 0 she was previously awarded. 

We were told that the DWP could appeal, but if not then I assume she will be eligible for some backdated benefit.

[..] I’d also like to make some observations about our experience of the tribunal process itself on the day.

We didn’t actually give any additional evidence; the questioning explored in a lot more depth most of the areas that we thought the original assessment had skimmed over.

I did try to add some at the end but was immediately cut short by the judge saying he didn’t need to hear anything else from me.

I thought about challenging this but bit my lip as I somehow had a feeling that we might have a good result. It only took about 20 minutes.

The room layout was very formal, almost confrontational in layout, one long table down one side with the two-panel members behind it, with us sitting behind another long table down the other side of the room and a large space between the two tables.

I’d like to know who is responsible for setting these rooms out.”

The third success story 

“One of the hardest decisions I had to make after appealing a DWP refusal to accept my mandatory reconsideration was should I actually attend the tribunal.

I have suffered all my life with chronic anxiety and panic attacks so it was a situation I would obviously normally avoid. 

However, I felt that a judge could really not appreciate my situation by written reports alone.

I had to wait a horrendous 7 months for my hearing, but at that time, I utilized all the help I could from the citizen’s advice and from my local community mental health social support worker. 

On the day of the hearing, I was in a permanent state of panic and my support worker certainly had her work cut out! In the tribunal – which was over in minutes – The judge and doctor were very kind, understanding and patient.

The judge basically said after a couple of minutes he could see the distress I was in and directed a few brief questions to my support worker and I just had to acknowledge I understood what was being said. 

I won the appeal and upon leaving burst into tears as the accumulated stress of nearly a year’s process had been lifted off me.

I’m sure not everyone wins their appeal but I feel it went a long way in my case because I attended. If you are facing one soon and have support I would recommend attending.

The more people that manage to go then the better the judges actually get to see how distressing the whole process is.”

More advice on how to prepare for the ESA tribunal

Remember that you are trying to convince the tribunal that you meet the rules for Employment and Support Allowance.

Any evidence that doesn’t help with this is useless, and, sometimes, annoys the tribunal.

Evidence that might help includes the following:

  • A recent letter or report from your GP, or another medical professional, describing your health problems or disabilities. It’s important for them to give details about how severe your problems are: it’s not much use, for example, if they just say you have asthma, but it would be very useful if they said that you had particularly severe asthma that made your life especially difficult and was not being well controlled
  • Documents from other official organizations sometimes help:  proof that you’re registered blind, for example, or a letter showing that you have been given high priority for housing, or have been given aids or adaptations for your home.
  • A supporting letter from someone who looks after you, if it’s written clearly and gives their perspective about your problems.
  • Sometimes, especially if your condition is very variable, a sort of diary written by yourself can be helpful. For example, If you keep stumbling or falling over note these dates, and then write them out in a list.

Evidence that is unlikely to help:

  • Letters or reports from doctors that are very old: the tribunal is not interested in how you were in 1993. There are some exceptions: for example, if you have a very unusual diagnosis of a permanent condition and this isn’t recorded elsewhere, it might be a good idea to show this to the tribunal
  • Letters or reports that indicate that you don’t meet the rules: for example, if you are saying you can’t walk more than 50 meters, it’s not much help if your GP says you need to rest after half a mile (If he’s right, you might not have a very good case, but it might just be that he doesn’t know you very well).
  • Documents that the Jobcentre Plus already has: ‘sick notes’, for example.

The Tribunal Service like to get extra documents at least a week before the hearing because they have to send it out to the tribunal panel members and to the Jobcentre Plus.

If you don’t manage to do this, they may accept it on the day of the hearing, although the longer the pile of papers you provide the more annoyed the tribunal is likely to be.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.


In this blog post, we presented you three success stories that are meant to inspire and encourage you to appeal the DWP’s decision if you think you were wronged.

We hope that you now feel more confident about what to say at ESA tribunal for a higher chance of winning. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have in the comments section below. 

FAQ on what to say at ESA tribunal

What happens at an ESA tribunal?

At the ESA tribunal, your case and all the evidence supporting the case will be discussed by the tribunal panel.

There are usually three people on the panel for Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment appeals (Judge, Doctor, and a Disability Adviser) and two people for Employment and Support Allowance Appeals (Judge and Doctor).

What happens if I win my ESA tribunal?

If you win your ESA tribunal you will start receiving a new monthly payment.

You will also receive back pay from the day that you claimed ESA for the first time. 

How many ESA appeals are successful?

73% of ESA appeals are successful overall.

The Tribunals Service statistics show that claimants are winning PIP and ESA appeals at the highest rate ever recorded. 

What do you wear to a tribunal?

At a tribunal, you have to wear smart clothes.

The employment tribunal is a public, legal hearing.

Don’t go to too much trouble to dress up, but you shouldn’t wear casual clothes like jeans and trainers.

Don’t chew gum and switch off your mobile phone when you go into the hearing.

Does ESA get backdated after tribunal?

ESA will get backdated after the tribunal if you win your case.

The payment is going back to the date of the original decision.

If you’re still not happy with their decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

How long does the ESA tribunal take?

ESA tribunal takes four to 11 weeks.

Usually, regardless of whether you request an appeal or a reconsideration, you will be sent a letter by the DWP stating that they are reconsidering the decision regarding your Employment Support Allowance.


  1. Providing Employment Support for People With Long-Term Mental Illness: Choices, Resources, and Practical Strategies
  2. Argument Structure: Secrets of the World’s Best Debaters: Master the Structure of Arguments
  3. The Art Of Critical Thinking: How To Build The Sharpest Reasoning Possible For Yourself
  4. National Company Law Tribunal and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal
  5. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  6. Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case






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