Social Benefits - The Hearing

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Location and Transportation Costs
What is the Law?
The Next Steps

What Will the Hearing Be Like?

A tribunal hearing is not the same as a court hearing, but it is more structured than an Early Resolution Process (ERP) session.

The hearing is led by the tribunal member, who introduces everyone in the room and explains how the hearing will take place.

Both parties will have a chance to present their side of the story. The case presenting officer will go first and explain why Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) made the decision it did. The appellant will have a chance to present next. Both sides will be able to ask the other side questions, and the tribunal member may also ask questions.

Who Can Attend a Hearing?

There are 3 main parties at the Tribunal hearing:

  1. The tribunal member. There may be more than one tribunal member. This is the person who will hear your story and the other party’s story. The tribunal member will make a final decision after the hearing.
  2.  The appellant; and
  3. The respondent (the case presenting officer).

There might also be others at the hearing:

  • Witnesses
  • Lawyers, paralegals or support persons that the appellant wishes to bring to the hearing
  • Language interpreters
  • Service animals

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Location and Transportation Costs

The tribunal can hold hearings all across Ontario. A hearing can be held in the appellant’s community or in a community close by. It is your job to let the tribunal know if a location is difficult for you to get to. You should let your ARO know as soon as you receive your Notice of Hearing if you think it will be a problem for you to get to the hearing.

If you need money to pay for travel costs to get to your hearing, it might be available from the tribunal. You should let your appeals resolution officer (ARO) know as soon as possible if you need money to help you travel to and from the hearing.

How Long Will it Take?

The hearings usually take 1 to 1.5 hours, but if witnesses are involved, more time might be needed.

Interpreters and Sign Language

Hearings are conducted only in English or in French. If an appellant does not speak English or French, he or she can bring an interpreter. This could be someone from a community organization, a family member or a friend.

If you are not able to arrange for your own interpreter, contact the Tribunal Contact Centre or your ARO as soon as possible, and the tribunal will arrange for an interpreter.

The tribunal will also arrange for American Sign Language (ASL) or Quebec Sign Language (QSL) interpretation, if needed. If you need this service, you should make the request as early as possible.

When Will You Receive the Tribunal’s Decision?

The decision is not made at the hearing. The tribunal member will look at all of the facts and evidence presented at the hearing, and send out a written decision some time later.

A copy of the decision will be mailed to all the parties.

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What is the Law?

The tribunal follows:

  1. Legislation;
  2. Regulations; and
  3. Practice Directions.


The Ontario Disability Support Program Act

The Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA) is the law. This says what your ODSP office and the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) can and cannot do. It also explains how to appeal an ODSP decision that you are not happy with and what type of decisions you can appeal.

The law (ODSPA) explains what steps the ODSP office has to follow when a person has been denied assistance, or when their assistance has been cancelled, reduced, or placed on hold. 


There is also a set of regulations that guide how your ODSP office makes decisions. 

Practice Directions

The Social Benefits Tribunal also has 8 rules called Practice Directions. These rules are created by the tribunal itself and focus on how it operates in a number of different ways.

Practice Direction 1 -  Interim Assistance
Practice Direction 2 - Reconsideration Request
Practice Direction 3 - Rules for Electronic Hearings
Practice Direction 4 - Rescheduling of Hearings and Adjournments
Practice Direction 5 - Early Resolution Program - Practice tips on how the Early Resolution Pilot Program can work for you.
Practice Direction 6 - Procedure Regarding Human Rights Issue or Challenge
Practice Direction 7 - Currently not applicable
Practice Direction 8 - Pre-Hearing Conferences
Customer Service Policy of the SBT

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The Next Steps

How Will the Tribunal Decide?

After both sides have presented their case, the tribunal member will look at the facts and evidence to make a decision.

Facts, Evidence, and the Law

The tribunal member carefully looks at the facts of the case, evidence at the hearing, and the law to help him or her reach a fair decision.

Timeline of the Tribunal Process  

This is a review of all of the important steps involved in the tribunal process:

A steps review of the tribunal appeal process

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