This video gives an idea of what to expect at a Social Benefits Tribunal hearing.
The Social Benefits Tribunal hears appeals from people in Ontario who disagree with a decision by Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. The decision could have denied them social assistance or disability benefits, reduced the amount of the benefits they receive or canceled them altogether.
There are some abbreviations in this video that you might hear used at your hearing. The Social Benefits Tribunal is called the SBT for short. Ontario Works is called OW for short. And finally, the Ontario Disability Support Program is called ODSP for short.
Your SBT hearing could be held in one of three ways – in person, by phone or by video conference.
This video shows a hearing held in-person for a disability appeal.
An in-person hearing could take place at our hearing centre in Toronto, at a Social Justice Tribunals Ontario office or other venue in London, Hamilton, St. Catharines or Ottawa, or a hotel or government building in other parts of the province.
On the day of your hearing, please arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time.
The address for your hearing will be on your notice of hearing. If your hearing location has a receptionist or security guard, they will be able to help direct you to the room. If there's no one there to help you, wait outside the room until you are invited in.
More than one hearing is usually scheduled for the morning or afternoon, so you may have to wait for another hearing to finish before yours begins.
An SBT hearing is much less formal than a court trial and there is no dress code. You do not need to have a lawyer or paralegal with you.
In this video, the appellant is saying that they have a disability that prevents them from working and the Ontario Disability Support Program office is saying they don't.
Let's take a look at who is at the hearing:
These people may be at the hearing too:
Now, let's discuss how the hearing unfolds:
The hearing starts with the member giving an introduction. They will say that the hearing will be recorded and will explain what will happen during the hearing. They will also ask everyone in the room to introduce themselves.
Then, everyone who will give evidence will be asked to promise to tell the truth. This promise is sometimes called an affirmation.
The member will say what the issue being appealed is. The member might ask you and the case presenting officer if there are any facts you can agree on.
Remember that the member has to stay neutral. They can't give you legal advice during the hearing or tell you how to present your case.
The member will ask you to tell your story first. This is your opportunity to tell your story, and explain why you feel the decision that the ODSP or OW made was wrong. If you don't have a lawyer or paralegal, the member will often ask you some questions to help you bring out the information that they need to make a decision about your appeal.
Next, you or your legal representative should question your witness. Your witness will usually have to stay outside the room until it's time to testify.
Start by asking your witness to say their name and how they know you. Then, ask questions to help the witness explain what they know about the facts and events that support your case. You should prepare your questions in advance and give your witness time to answer, in their own words, without interrupting.
The member and the representative from the ODSP may ask your witness questions to understand your story better or clarify any inconsistencies. This is called cross-examination.
After you have finished presenting your case, the ODSP representative will also have a chance to present their arguments and any witnesses they have. If they do have witnesses, you will have the chance to ask them questions.
After both you and the other side have presented your evidence and your witnesses, you can give a submission, which is sometimes called a closing. In your closing, you should give a summary of the information you presented and your arguments. Explain why you disagree with the decision that was made.
When the hearing is over, the member considers all the evidence and arguments, makes a decision, and writes their decision in an order.
The SBT member will not tell you their decision at the end of the hearing. You and the social assistance office will usually receive a written decision within 60 days.
If you win your appeal, the SBT will order the ODSP to correct what the SBT found was wrong with its decision. For example, if the member finds that you are "a person with a disability", the Disability Adjudication Unit will send you a letter that confirms this.
If you lose your appeal, the SBT will not order any changes to the ODSP or OW office's decision.
For more information, visit our website at sjto.ca/sbt, or call:
Bell relay: 1-800-855-0511