There has been a significant change to the way in which Appeal Tribunals are dealing with paper cases, that is cases decided by the Tribunal panel using only the paper file, rather than by a oral hearing that you attend.
Until recently, HMCTS gave paper cases for Tribunal hearings a specific date for the hearing just like oral ones. The papers were sent to panels in advance and each paper case had an allocated time slot for the panel to consider the case and reach a decision.
This has now changed. HMCTS is not listing paper cases for a specific hearing. Instead, paper based appeals are now being allocated to specific courts and if a tribunal panel has time, because a case has been postponed or taken shorter than imagined, they are asked to look at one or two paper cases to fill the vacant slot in the court schedule for that day.
What does this mean to you?
The time available for submitting further evidence will be very much reduced, therefore people who are going to elect for a paper based hearing must start collating any new evidence as soon as they decide that it is likely that a need for an appeal hearing is likely. This may be as soon as a need to do a Mandatory Reconsideration has arisen.
Waiting times for paper cases could be much longer than the waiting time for oral cases. This is because paper cases will only get heard when there is time to do them. However you will not know that this is going to be the case as your case could be heard anytime from 14 days of being notified that your case has been accepted into the courts system. (See note above about need for getting evidence into the court system at the earliest opportunity)
Tribunal panels will always be as fair and even-handed as possible, however it is highly likely that they will have less time to consider paper cases than oral ones, because they have to both read the papers and make a decision straightaway
A much higher percentage of people win after an oral hearing than after a paper hearing. Now, because of these changes, it is even more important to go to your Tribunal hearing if you possibly can.
A benefits Tribunal hearing isn’t anything like a criminal hearing, It’s more like a question and answer session around a table. There will be very focused questioning and it can be a difficult and upsetting experience, but the vast majority of claimants say that the panel was knowledgeable, unbiased and wanting to make a decision in the claimants favour wherever possible.
If you have any questions about what type of hearing to request, please ask for help from one of the BASE adviser team.