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Telephone Hearing

Max789Max789 Member Posts: 5 Listener
Hello everyone.
The first thing I feel I need to do is offer my apologies to the forum members. I joined last year, and at the time my mental health was not good at all. I believe (and in fact know), that a few of my postings became quite personal to involved people, and if this caused any hurt or inconvenience to anyone out here, I offer my genuine apologies. I assure you it was definitely not intentional.
If I am forgiven, then I am hoping I can receive help with the following;
I currently help people in a voluntary capacity, to apply and gain PIP. I did used to attend Tribunal and represent people, but I cannot take the stress build up and the actual stress of the hearings anymore, and therefore I do my best to help people understand what is possibly facing them at a hearing. However, I have heard that the new pilot scheme of telephone hearings will be rolled out nationally next year. I also understand that this new system will be carried out once a reconsideration request has been refused, and before a oral hearing can take place. To be honest, for some of the people I try to help, this could actually be a Godsend, as many of them currently ask me to do a Paper Hearing for them, which vastly reduces their chances of winning. My question is; Can a person insist on a telephone hearing for their own case at the moment? I ask because I have a number of people I am helping who actually dread the thought of an oral hearing. A number of people would rather withdraw their case than go to a hearing in person. I have been advised (not sure if it is right), that a refusal of a telephone hearing could be a breach of the Equality Act, but I don't really want to become embroiled in all kinds of legalities. I know there are a number of very knowledgeable Welfare Rights workers on this forum, and I am hoping that perhaps they may have an insight into this kind of situation.
Thank You.


  • cristobalcristobal Member Posts: 966 Disability Gamechanger
    @Max789 - I'm not a lawyer, fortunately, but I wonder if it might be quite difficult to distinguish between those who refuse a telephone hearing for a 'good' reason - such as hearing impairment or similar, and those who just prefer not to talk on the 'phone?

  • Max789Max789 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    Hi cristobal. Thank you for getting back so quickly. The people in question actually have illnesses such as severe anxiety. Two other ladies have conditions that can flare up at any time, and if that happens, they could actually miss an oral hearing. I am just hpoing there is perhaps some way to "insist" on a telephone hearing without getting their backs up.
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger

    It depends on the circumstances of the claimant and how their conditions affect them. This CPAG link maybe helpful.

    Community champion and proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice i have given to members here on the community.
  • Max789Max789 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    Thank you Poppy. Much appreciated. I have just looked at the link. It is exactly what I have been looking for.
  • Max789Max789 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    This is a strange one to be honest. I have looked at the link again and there seems to (as per usual with Commissioner Reports), a couple of ways to look at it. I am leaning towards if a person can show they have anxiety issues, then the Tribunal Service has a Duty of Care to provide the correct setting for such a person. However, the issue will then be turned round if a person is going to a hearing because they disagree with an Atos report saying they have no anxiety issues. It is a tricky one, and I will just try to ensure that any request for a telephone hearing is backed up as much as possible with support information from other involved sources, thus making an Atos report, questionable and open to doubt (hopefully). That is my thinking anyway. I would welcome any further advice on this subject.
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    A Tribunal is totally independent to the assessment providers and DWP. HMCTS will always prefer a claimant to attend their hearing where possible and they will prefer this to a telephone hearing and a paper based hearing. The reason is because they will want to see for their self how the claimants conditions affect them. if a claimant has anxiety issues and they attend their hearing it will not go against them.
    Community champion and proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice i have given to members here on the community.
  • worried33worried33 Member Posts: 399 Pioneering
    edited August 2019
    Max you are correct I think, especially if one goes to hearing by themselves, sadly people do get judged and assumptions get made, even at tribunals.

    e.g. if you state you have anxiety, issues communicating with people, and cannot reliably walk more than 20m.

    Yet you go to a hearing by yourself where the building is on a pedestrianised area, room on second floor (with broken lift), and also at end of long corridor (described my tribunal building right there), you are already up against it as you will likely have to explain how you managed to get there.


    I was asked do I think I walk at normal pace, I explained during the first part of the walk a member of the public stopped me and asked if I was alright (did happen), I then pointed out there must have been something unusual about the way I was walking visible otherwise he wouldnt have approached me, (I was obviously lucky that happened), and that it only got wot worse from that point on in regards to pace and the manner I walked.  This was literally probably within 20 steps of getting out of the taxi.  The rest of the journey I explained I had to keep stopping, sitting down, if it was a bench I used it, if it was a wall I used it.  If there was nothing I stopped and leaned on a lamp post.  I stated it took me about 20 mins to walk what would be about 1-2 mins for a normal person.

    I was also asked my mental state whilst walking there by the disability specialist, the first thought that came into my head was "it was hell on earth" basically a living and breathing nightmare.  This was my DLA tribunal a fair few years ago now, I wasnt after any anxiety related points so nothing related to that was been judged.  But if I was after the anxiety related descriptors I think attending the hearing by myself would have been a problem.

    There is obviously different types of anxety, my anxiety is I have problems around large groups of people, especially in social situations, all of my family and myself believe I have autism, but it was never diagnosed as a child, so obviously I am potentially carrying a mental disability without the normal support that disability would entail.  Its hard.  When I was a child I went to a special school instead of pre school and first year of infants but someone obviously decided to push me down the normal route, and all through my childhood I was bullied for "been weird", I have struggled in social situations exactly like someone with autism would be expected to do.  However with my issues if I am in one to one formal type situations, and even in something like a 1 vs 3 tribunal situation I can handle myself.  This leads to judgements been made I must have no problems of significance.  I am pretty sure a tribunal would come to that conclusion if I ever had to go there fighting anxiety descriptors all by myself.

    I have been judged in hospitals as well, I dont consider this exclusively a benefit related problem, its just an issue with society.

    I wasnt even aware of telephone hearings, they seem a great option, and probably a best option for many people I reckon, makes it harder to claim people are mobile and dont have anxiety issues, whilst also allowing you the advantages of making your points which you cant really do in a paper hearing.
  • Max789Max789 Member Posts: 5 Listener
    Hi worried33 and poppy 123456. I have to say that I have my own doubts as to whether a Tribunal is totally independent. I have taken people to hearings in the past, and I just know as soon as we find out who the Judge/Chair is that the case is as good as lost. It really has happened many times. I always remember taking 2 twins with the same issues to 2 separate hearings. One was at the beginning of the week, and the 2nd one was the week later. The first lady was awarded (what was then ), MRC and LRM. As soon as I got to the venue for the 2nd hearing and I heard who was the Chair, I knew it was gone. Sure enough, we were not awarded. When I questioned how this could be after the award the week prior for the same illness, I was simply told "We are not bound by any other Tribunal's findings." I do believe claimants are pre-judged, and a favourite trick by a DWP Presenting Officer is to let the panel know if any other members of the claimant's immediate family are on benefits. There can be little doubt that this is done in order to try to make the claimant look like she/he is a burden on the State and possibly "winging" it. What other explanation could there be?
    Whilst you are obviously a very knowledgeable lady poppy, I do lean towards the thinking of worried 33 in these situations. No offence meant.
  • worried33worried33 Member Posts: 399 Pioneering
    edited August 2019
    Well I do believe they are independent as an entity, I stand by that.

    However I also accept that different people sitting on these tribunals will also be influenced by their own opinions of the benefit system itself, so e.g. if someone thinks people are lazy scroungers and most claimants are fraudsters, then they more likely to not award descriptors.  That is something that can probably never be changed, but of course the check in place to try and ensure unbiased fair decisions is the fact one can appeal a tribunal decision to the upper tribunal.

    Interestingly reading some of these upper tribunal reports shows that when they over turn the lower tribunal, it can be because they believe claimants were pre judged and the line of questioning was to prove that judgement.

    For reference Max, the tribunal I mentioned above where I got grilled quite heavily by the tribunal, I did win the award HRM (as it was on DLA), I did have to explain how I got there, and was asked some quite tough questions, felt I Was really put on the spot with the one about my mental state, they may have pre judged me and I turned it around, I dont know.  But I do know the judge was not happy with the DWP, he told me right near the start after I discredited the HCP and pushed aside all their evidence, telling me the decision would be based on my evidence in the hearing.

    I just find it very hard to believe that someone with anxiety representing themselves would not be affected by that.  You either be anxious and barely say nothing which you may as well make it a paper hearing, or make your case which can be used to say you dont have significant anxiety. I do feel thats a lose/lose, and anyone arguing anxiety descriptors really needs someone with them in my view.
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