We welcome Govt decision not to proceed with single member appeal panels as default

Wed,8 February 2017
News Benefits

The Government has published its response to its “Transforming our justice system” consultation’.

View our response to the consultation

View the Government’s response

DR UK welcomes the Government’s decision not to proceed with proposals to introduce single member panels as the default for unified tribunals.

In our response to the consultation we highlighted that social security appeals are increasing and are predominately being made by disabled people. And that the value for disabled people of attending tribunal hearings is having impartial clinicians and experts ask them about the impact of their condition, in order to fully assess whether the initial ESA or PIP decision was correct.

We also raised concerns that a move from in-person face-to-face hearings to online hearings could result in some disabled claimants not being able to present their case effectively and with tribunal panels not being able to effectively assess the claimant’s case.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that paper channels will be maintained for those that need them and research and testing for service users before digital reforms are implemented.

About the consultation

The consultation sought views on two areas:

  • tribunal panel composition;
  • assisted digital facilities.

Tribunal panel composition

The Government says that respondents indicated a high level of concern around the proposal to introduce a default of single member panels in the unified tribunals, particularly in jurisdictions where there may be a high proportion of vulnerable users.

It concludes that:

“Whilst we do not consider that there is anything in our proposals which would result in decisions being made without the appropriate expertise being drawn on where required, or users being left without the support that they need, we recognise the concerns at the proposed approach. We therefore do not intend to proceed with the proposal to introduce a single member panel as the default position in the unified tribunals.”

Assisted digital facilities

The Government says that respondents were concerned that Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service would be unable to provide the level of support needed, which would disadvantage those who are vulnerable and reduce their access to justice.

Those designing assisted digital services would need to ensure it meets users’ needs and give more consideration to how people of different genders, ages and backgrounds interact with digital services.

The Government commits to the following:

“We will work with third party providers to provide a national network of accessible, quality assured assistance. Telephone and webchat services will also be available and clearly signposted for those who already have access to IT but require extra support, and paper channels will be maintained for those who need them, as necessary.

As well as providing assisted digital support, HMCTS will make sure that its online services are easy for users to understand and navigate.

HMCTS is researching the expected users for each service to identify their needs, and will test each service with these groups. The findings from research and testing will be fed back into the service design process, resulting in a higher level of accessibility”.