Last week we had what was supposed to be our tribunal hearing for Husband’s PIP claim.
We had a letter through the post, giving us a time and date to come to the court for the tribunal. It also asked us to send through anything else that could be used as evidence so the court had it at least 7 days before the tribunal. They also asked us to bring the appeal papers we had been sent (the huge wad including the DWP report about Husband) to the tribunal. Further back it explained how we could claim expenses if we needed to for transport and food and drink but none of that was relevant to our claim.
I duly went and got copies of two of Husband’s letters from his epilepsy consultant, and one letter from his therapist and one from his employment support worker supporting his claim, and sent them to the court using recorded delivery.
A few days later I had a reply from them confirming they had received our paperwork.
The night before our tribunal date, I went upstairs and got all our paperwork out. Beforehand I had bought a large ring binder and a big pack of punched pockets, and I sat and meticulously put every page of our claim and anything I had photocopied out in there in chronological order to make it organised and easy to find.
I also found out something smart-casual to wear, and our passports in case we had to identify ourselves while at the court. I had never done this before and was not quite sure what to expect.
The day of the tribunal hearing, I got up early and got myself ready and made us something to eat, letting Husband sleep as long as I could. We set off in good time and got there in advance to meet Husband’s mother and the lady who is representing us from the advice service.
At the court, we had to go through a metal detector and we had our bags x-rayed. My bag was pulled aside as the security guard had spotted liquids in there, which turned out to be my nose spray. I had been told we were not permitted to bring drinks in so I didn’t. Our representative had to leave her bottle of perfume at the desk and reclaim it once she left.
Once inside, it was as hot inside as outside which was really affecting Husband and making him feel ill. There was a small cafe so we went to get a drink and sat down outside in the foyer, waiting for Husband’s mother and the representative to come.
There was a notice board where the cases being heard that day were listed and I found ours quickly enough. Two cases were being heard before us that morning.
Husband’s mother and our representative arrived and we went up to the court room to wait outside. We were told that the second case was being heard then and that they were quite behind on schedule.
At this point the reality of what was happening really hit home for Husband. Combined with it being too hot for him, he started becoming increasingly distressed. The way he does this is by withdrawing into himself, and not speaking and making eye contact. He went and sat himself somewhere quiet to try and calm down, while I sat down and was told what to expect by Husband’s mother and our representative.
She explained who the people in the room would be and that we must not jump in or interrupt, as the panel would be interested in hearing what Husband had to say and his side of the story. The panel would give us a chance to say anything we felt was lacking by asking ff if we had anything to add, so we were told to take notes.
She did say however that she felt we have a strong case because of the discrepancy between what we have said and written, and what it says in the DWP report about Husband.
By the time it was finally our turn to go in, we were 40 minutes late. Husband was at this point very distressed, not making eye contact most of the time and barely speaking.
It was a smallish room, with a big table and three chairs on either side. There was a desk in the corner where the clerk sat. She brought water and cups into the room as you are not permitted to bring your own food or drink into the court room.
Presiding was a judge, a GP on her left and a lay person on the right. Interestingly there was no representative from the DWP present.
The person representing us asked the judges to pay particular attention to several points in our claim where the discrepancies were quite big.
Before we even got into the claim, the panel wanted the GP to ask Husband some questions and specified that they wanted to hear the answers from him, and that we would get a chance to add anything we felt was appropriate once he had answered.
The GP asked Husband about his part time job and how he gets to work, and if he goes anywhere else in the community. She was patient and spoke to him in a friendly way but at this point I could tell Husband was visibly shaking and so he spoke very little, making no eye contact at all. He did manage to say that he doesn’t go anywhere else when asked if he would go anywhere else apart from work or the local shops.
This went on for about ten minutes before the panel said they wanted a break to confer and sent us out.
We waited outside the court room, when the clerk called me and Husband’s representative back in. The panel informed us that they felt that because of the way Husband presented and due to the discrepancy between our claim and the report from the DWP, they wanted to access his medical records to get a fuller picture. Therefore the court would adjourn for the day. Our representative pointed to the detailed report from the psychiatrist who diagnosed Husband with Asperger’s Syndrome and asked if this would not be sufficient, but no, this was not enough in their view.
The court now has 30 days to get the medical records to view and we will then be called in again to continue with the hearing.
We queried this with the representative after we had left the court premises; she was quite surprised as she had never experience this happening before, but did explain to us that there would be a new panel reviewing the case and everything within it. She also explained that although we had to consider if returning would cause Husband to become distressed again and if that was worth it, she had to make us aware that the success rate for PIP tribunal hearings is higher when the claimant is present. Her prediction was also that we would be seen quite promptly once the medical records had been obtained. In addition to this to lessen Husband’s anxiety she would request that we would be the first hearing of the day, not the last, in case the previous two overran. This will hopefully save us waiting around, making Husband anxious.
Husband has thought it over and although he does not like the thought, he is nevertheless prepared to go back and attend the second tribunal hearing.
TL;DR: We’re still waiting.
If you want to read my previous posts about our quest for Husband’s PIP claim, you can do so here: