|Committee Recommendations: Progress
|Eighth Report: The Modernisation of Social Security Appeals (HC 581) Published: 2 November 1999
Government Reply: (HC 182) Published: 19 January 2000
||Committee Response/Follow up||Further Government Action
|We intend to keep under review the progress made by The Appeals Service in reducing the unacceptable delays for appellants in having their appeals heard.
||We welcome the Committee's scrutiny of the progress made by The Appeals Service in reducing the length of time appellants have to wait for their appeals to be heard. The levels of delay experienced by appellants over the last few years have been entirely unacceptable - to Ministers, to The Appeals Service and, of course, to appellants themselves.
Since early 1999 The Appeals Service has adopted a twin strategy of tackling its backlog of older cases (appeals lodged before 1 October 1998) and making progress in reducing waiting times for newer cases. Details were set out in the memorandum submitted to the Committee by the President and the Chief Executive (page 29 of the Evidence in the Committee's Report). This strategy has so far proved successful:
At the end of February 1999, the backlog contained over 70,000 cases. At the end of November 1999 it had been reduced to just 9,454 cases, 5,000 of which must await lead decisions at a higher court before they can be dealt with. The Appeals Service is confident that the majority of cases which can be dealt with will be cleared by April 2000
The Appeals Service has also made good progress towards reducing waiting times for hearings. At the end of November 1999, the average waiting time for all appeals (including those in the backlog) was 31 weeks. However, the average waiting time for appeals received after 1 April 1999 was just under 16 weeks from the date the appeals were received by The Appeals Service.
Progress made in tackling delays is allowing The Appeals Service to focus more on the quality of its service. However, waiting times will remain a priority and will be a key feature among the targets which Ministers will be setting for the new agency and which will be published in the agency's Business Plan for 2000/01.
In addition, all agencies will be required to measure the part of the process for which they are responsible. Agencies making decisions at the first-tier will be required to produce quarterly progress reports to the Chief Executive of The Appeals Service who will report quarterly to Ministers on progress towards reducing appeals clearance or waiting times.
| ||The total outstanding caseload at the end of August 2000 was just under 74,000 and the average waiting time for an appeal to be heard from the date of receipt in the Appeals Service was less than 14 weeks.|
For 2000/01, a target has been set for the Appeals Service - by March 2001 no more than 10 per cent of cases will have been outstanding for more than 26 weeks.
|The Committee considers that a reduction in the number of administrative staff in the coming year would hinder the ability of The Appeals Service agency to produce the modern customer-focused service we all want to see. We recommend that the numbers of staff and the grading of staff relative to the tasks they are expected to perform should be kept under review; and that each annual report of The Appeals Service agency should set out the number of staff in post, broken down into permanent and casual staff, and should give details of the training delivered to staff in the year, and the number of staff who have benefited from the different types of training.
||The Government is fully committed to the development of a modern, client-focused appeals service. It will be key to the success of the new agency that there are sufficient staff in place to administer appeals effectively and efficiently and that the staff are fully equipped and empowered to do their job. The Appeals Service achieved Investors in People accreditation in November 1999 and is looking to invest in its future to bring about improvements in the way the service is delivered. As an Investor in People, The Appeals Service evaluates and accounts for the training it delivers each year to ensure that success through this investment is achieved. Information on numbers and training of staff will be included in the agency's annual report.
|We recommend that the capital budget of The Appeals Service agency should be increased to support a comprehensive IT development strategy for the Agency. We recommend that the business plan for the new Appeals Service Agency should set out its IT development strategy and that the annual report of the Agency should give details of expenditure on IT development in the year.
||The development of IT systems to support the effective delivery of the appeals system is a key element of The Appeals Service's drive to improve standards of service.
The capital budget of £0.1m for 1999/2000, as set out in the Appeals Service's memorandum (page 27 of the Evidence) and quoted in paragraph 20 of the Committee's Report does not reflect the total expenditure on IT improvements for this year. As part of the decision making and appeals changes, additional funding of £1.774m has been provided for The Appeals Service to upgrade its supporting IT and Telecommunications infrastructure to provide better client access. In addition, £0.195m of the 1999/2000 total budget allocation has been allocated to IT capital purchases. For 2000/01, The Appeals Service has initial capital expenditure of £293,000 for such items as Intranet servers and replacement PCs. Any further capital investment will be identified within the agency Business Plan and may require the transfer of funds from running costs to capital costs.
The Appeals Service's memorandum (page 32 of the Evidence) set out their IS/IT strategy to ensure that IS/IT improvements support the drive for service improvements by enabling greater flexibility of working, improved efficiency and better management information systems. Further details of the IS/IT development programme planned for 2000/01 will be included in the agency's Business Plan, and details of expenditure on IS/IT development will be provided each year in the Annual Report, as recommended by the Committee.
|We recommend that the Annual Report of the President of appeal tribunals should give details of the number of persons appointed to the panel by the Lord Chancellor, by the nature of their qualifications, by whether they are full-time or part-time staff, and by Region.
||The President has a statutory duty to provide the Secretary of State for Social Security with such reports and information on the carrying out of appeal tribunal functions as the Secretary of State may require. It has been agreed that the President will not produce a separate Annual Report on panel appointments and appeal tribunal functions. These, and other issues with a judicial interest, will be set out in a section of The Annual Report of The Appeals Service, as recommended by the Committee at Recommendation 17 of their Report. The Annual Report will provide details of the number of appointments made to the panel by the Lord Chancellor, the nature of panel members' qualifications, whether they are full-time or part-time appointments and the regions to which panel members have been assigned.
|| ||By the end of March 2000, over 2,000 persons had been appointed to the Lord Chancellor's panel. Details of the panel members are included in the 1999/2000 Report of the Independent Tribunal Service/Appeals Service which is due to be published shortly.
|We recommend that The Appeals Service and the Department of Social Security should carry out a cost benefit analysis of switching to a system where the majority of appeals were handled by full-time chairmen rather than part-time chairmen.
||The President and the Chief Executive are keen to ensure that the right balance of full-time and part-time members is in place to ensure optimum productivity and quality decision making. In his evidence to the Committee, the President clearly indicated his view that, although the number of full-time chairmen was increased this year, further work to identify the potential benefits of a new balance in the ratio of full-timers to part-timers would be welcome. Such work would need to take the form of a cost benefit analysis of the type recommended by the Committee. The Appeals Service is currently collecting data which will help to inform an analysis.
|| ||In the light of information collected from key indicators to assess the effectiveness of panel members, the Appeals Service is undertaking further research into the relative cost and performance benefits of full and part-time members. This research is likely to be completed by March 2001.
|The induction training offered to new panel members does not seem to us to allow sufficient time to master the knowledge and skills needed to make important judgements on social security questions affecting people's lives. We recommend that the period of induction training should be extended.
||The President is committed to addressing fully the training needs of all categories of panel member. The induction programme for new members actually runs for two days, and not one day as erroneously stated in the memorandum (page 31 of the Evidence) prepared for the Committee by The Appeals Service. The induction training includes general issues such as an introduction to the benefits system, decision making and tribunal skills. It also includes specific issues on incapacity and disability for medical panel members and overpayments and security when sitting alone for legally qualified panel members. The induction training is followed by one and a half days of observing tribunals in action.
The induction training is followed by individual monitoring and mentoring by District Chairmen to enable newly appointed panel members to develop the skills, knowledge and judgement required to hear and decide appeals effectively. Initially, District Chairmen make prearranged visits to tribunals and provide support to newly trained members. As part of the ongoing monitoring and mentoring process, District Chairmen subsequently make unannounced visits where they observe tribunals, examine tribunal documentation and discuss issues arising from the proceedings. The period of monitoring and mentoring varies according to the needs of individual panel members.
|We are concerned that the amount of on-going training available to panel membersparticularly those sitting part-timemay not be sufficient to enable them to perform their judicial duties to the requisite standards. We recommend that the President's Annual Report should give full details of training delivered to panel members in each region during the course of the year, and details of annual expenditure on training.
||The on-going training needs of new and experienced panel members are a priority of the President of appeal tribunals. During the autumn of 1999, an extensive programme of two-day residential training conferences was provided for panel members. The conferences included training in the decision-making and appeals changes, disability assessment, incapacity and mental health issues and the work of Social Security and Child Support Commissioners. Panel members who did not attend the autumn conferences will receive their training before the end of the 1999/2000 financial year.
For the year 2000/01, The Appeals Service is developing a programme of corporate and regional training for panel members. The programme will include Equal Opportunities and Treatment, implications of the implementation of the Human Rights Act in October 2000 and substantive legal changes, for example those arising from the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill 1999. Details of the training received by panel members will be included in the Annual Report of The Appeals Service, as recommended by the Committee. The Annual report will also include details of expenditure during the year.
| ||The 1999/2000 Report of the Independent Tribunal Service/Appeals Service, which is due to be published shortly, details the cost and type of training given to panel members up to 31 March 2000.|
By October 2000, the vast majority of panel members had received training on the implications of the implementation of the Human Rights Act.
|We recommend that prospective panel members should be tested for their suitability for judicial appointment. Consideration should be given to such measures as psychometric testing to achieve this.
||The judicial appointments process is already designed to test rigorously the suitability of applicants for appointment to the panel. The Lord Chancellor does, however, keep the process under review. In July 1999 he asked Sir Leonard Peach, formerly the Commissioner for Public Appointments, to conduct a scrutiny of judicial appointments selection procedures. Sir Leonard reported at the beginning of December 1999. His recommendations include a pilot scheme for a one-day Assessment Centre and the commissioning of psychometric and competencies tests.
|| ||The Lord Chancellor's Department has been developing arrangements for the commissioning of a pilot assessment centre. Activities might include interviews, individual technical exercises, appropriate psychometric and competence tests and a group activity. Plans are in hand to run the pilot scheme in the summer of 2001 but no decision has yet been taken about which particular competition will be covered by this pilot project.
|We consider that equal opportunities and anti-discrimination training should be part of the basic training of every panel member, and should also be integral to all continuing training courses. We are critical of the lack of importance attached to this aspect of training.
||The issues of anti-discrimination and equal treatment feature prominently in the President's plans for panel members' training. The President's letter of the 25th October 1999 to Andrew Dismore outlined his strategy to address equal opportunities issues across the board, including a programme of action for equal opportunities and anti-discrimination training for all members. The training will take place in 2000/01. The issue of discrimination is introduced in the induction training of all new panel members.
|| ||The Appeals Service has drawn up a programme of equal treatment training, which incorporates both equal opportunities and anti-discrimination, for administrative staff and panel members.
|We recommend that immediate action should be taken to ensure that, when The Appeals Service is launched in April 2000, a comprehensive programme of equal opportunities and anti-discrimination training for all staffboth administrative and judicialis in place.
||We have developed a training needs specification for the delivery of a comprehensive Equal Treatment Programme for all staff. The Appeals Service is currently drawing up three training needs analyses. The first, which is for all panel members, is complete and The Appeals Service is in the process of procuring the training. The second is for administrative staff and is currently being drawn up. The third analysis covers areas of overlap between the functions of judicial officers and administrative staff, particularly in relation to the tribunal hearing. Training on all three modules will be delivered during 2000/01.
|| ||Administrative staff will be trained between September and November 2000 and training for panel members will be delivered between October 2000 and March 2001.
|We recommend that the Lord Chancellor's Department, in conjunction with the President of appeal tribunals, should make special efforts to recruit suitable people with legal qualifications from ethnic minority backgrounds to the panel from which tribunals will be drawn.
||The Lord Chancellor's Department holds events to encourage applications to tribunal panels from suitably qualified members of ethnic minorities. A number of lawyers from The Appeals Service have participated in these events to encourage applications specifically to that service. As part of The Appeal Service's wider equal opportunities strategy, the President is committed to continuing to work with the Lord Chancellor's Department to find ways of increasing the numbers of applications from lawyers from ethnic minorities.
|We also recommend that each annual report of The Appeals Service Agency should give information on the gender and ethnicity of staff employed by the Agency.
||We actively pursue a policy of equal opportunities. Administrative staff within The Appeals Service are civil servants employed in the Department of Social Security on Civil Service terms and conditions. The provision of information by civil servants on their ethnic background is voluntary. As recommended by the Committee, The Appeals Service agency will report annually, in a way that would preserve the anonymity of individuals, on the gender and ethnicity mix of its staff as far as it is able to do so.
|| ||At the end of March 2000, the breakdown of administrative staff in the Appeals Service was as follows:
Male 299 (35%)
Female 550 (65%)
Minorities 49 (5.7%)
|We recommend that The Appeals Service should undertake ethnic monitoring of appellants, and the monitoring of appeal outcomes by ethnicity, to assist in ensuring that people are treated fairly irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds.
||The Appeals Service aims to provide high quality decisions for all appellants, regardless of their ethnic background. A comprehensive programme of equal treatment and race awareness training for all judicial and administrative staff is currently being developed and will be delivered by The Appeals Service in 2000/01. |
A new system for handling complaints will also be in place within The Appeals Service by April 2000. The President will investigate all complaints against panel members, and those which allege racism or other serious conduct will be reported to the Lord Chancellor's Department for consideration and response by the Lord Chancellor.
As part of its drive to improve customer service, The Appeals Service will be looking at the provisions of services to people in the ethnic minorities, to see if that service can be improved. This work will include a consideration of the value of collecting information on the ethnicity of appellants.
| ||The Appeals Service aims to capture ethnicity information as part of its customer survey. Appellants who leave the appeals system at different points in the process, for example, because their appeals are withdrawn, will be included in the sample. The customer survey will be carried out by the end of 2000 and the Appeals Service aims to include customer surveys as an integral and ongoing part of the appeals process.|
|We recommend that the form which is completed by an appellant prior to a hearing concerning their attendance should expressly invite the appellant to indicate whether he or she wishes ITS/The Appeal Service to arrange for an interpreter to attend the hearing.
||We are committed to helping all appellants by removing potential barriers in the appeals process. Currently, the pre-hearing enquiry form which is issued to appellants by the first-tier agencies asks those who need the services of an interpreter, but who are unable to make their own arrangements, to provide details of their requirements. However, the form does not expressly invite the appellant to say that they want The Appeals Service to make the arrangements. This will be remedied when the form is reviewed early in 2000, and the revised version is expected to be in use from next April.
|| ||The pre-hearing enquiry form (TAS 1) is currently being revised. The new form is expected to be in use from Mid-November 2000 and will ask the appellant "Do you need an interpreter or signer? If you need an interpreter, give details in the box opposite. If you need a signer, what type of signer do you need?" The notes which accompany the form explain how the Appeals Service can assist with special needs.
|We recommend that The Appeals Service should adopt Benefits Agency best practice guidance in the use of interpreters.
||The Appeals Service recognises the value of learning from examples of best practice elsewhere, and holds regular, local Tribunal User Group meetings with persons outside the Service where such issues are discussed. The Appeals Service's guidance on the use of interpreters is similar to that of the Benefits Agency.
|| ||By the end of October 2000, the Appeals Service will use professional interpreters drawn from a national register.
|We recommend that when The Appeals Service is launched, formal recognition should be given to the role of the President within The Appeals Service in the preparation and settling of bids with the Department concerning tribunal funds and in decisions concerning the allocation of funds, through a published memorandum of understanding between the President, the Chief Executive and the Department.
||The Framework Document for The Appeals Service agency will set out the aims and objectives of the agency and the responsibilities and delegated functions of the Chief Executive.
The Chief Executive is responsible and accountable for the day-to-day administrative management of The Appeals Service. The President is responsible for the judicial elements of The Appeals Service and, as a member of the judiciary, is not accountable to Ministers or Parliament for the performance of the service.
The Framework Document will clearly indicate that the Chief Executive will liaise with the President to ensure that appropriate resources are available to support appeal tribunals and will consult with the President on measures which impact on the quality of justice. We do not consider that a further memorandum of understanding is either appropriate or necessary.
| ||The Framework Document was published in March 2000.
|We recommend that the Annual Report of The Appeals Service should contain a section where the President of appeal tribunals reports on the judicial activities of tribunals, on the fulfilment of his own statutory responsibilities, and on any concerns he may have concerning procedures and working of The Appeals Service, including if necessary, matters of administration and funding.
||The President and Chief Executive agree on the importance of a section in the Annual Report devoted to the judicial activities of tribunals and any matters of administration and funding the President may wish to bring to the fore. On 1 June 1999, day-to-day responsibility for the administrative functions of The Appeals Service was transferred to the Chief Executive. The continuing close working relationship between the President and Chief Executive will be key to the future success of The Appeals Service.
|We recommend that The Appeals Service should work with the Council on Tribunals to ensure that the recruitment, organisation and training of clerks is sufficient to bring them up to the standards necessary to meet their new judicial responsibilities and that the President should be given formal responsibility for the training, guidance and monitoring of tribunal clerks in the fulfilment of their judicial role.
||The role of clerks has been extended to enable them to undertake some "interlocutory" decisions previously carried out by tribunal chairmen. The regulations governing these decisions are specific, and the Council on Tribunals was properly consulted at the time on proposed procedural changes and the regulations. Clerks will not be deciding appeals. Their extended role will include only those activities which require a simple assessment of straightforward facts where the position is clear cut. The option to refer all such matters to a legally qualified panel member will continue where there is any room for doubt.
The judicial and administrative staff in The Appeals Service have been involved in the drafting and delivery of training material and guidance to tribunal clerks undertaking these extended duties. Clerks are taking on their new responsibilities only when the President and the Chief Executive are confident that they are fully equipped to do so. The initial training of clerks will be completed by the end of March 2000.
The Appeals Service is committed, as part of a continuous improvement programme, to the continued development of the role of the clerk. Work has begun in The Appeals Service on the planning process to develop a competency framework defining the level of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour required to fulfil the role of the clerk. The Council on Tribunals will be consulted in the development of the framework which is expected to be in place during 2000/01. Responsibility for it will fall to the administrative side of The Appeals service, but there will be input from the judiciary.
| ||The Appeals Service has consulted the Council on Tribunals in discussions on the role of clerks within the service. The Council will continue to be involved in drawing up key work objectives for clerks and in developing guidance on their role. While the administrative side of the Appeals Service will be responsible for the competency framework which defines the level of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour required of clerks, the President will have judicial input to it.|
The Council on Tribunals is regularly represented on the Appeals Service's National Customer Representative Liaison Forum which meets quarterly and discusses and consults on general issues affecting the Appeals Service.
|We recommend that more should be done to encourage appellants to attend the hearing of their appeal. In particular, we recommend that the enquiry form sent to appellants asking them whether they wish to attend their appeal should include a warning on the low rate of success of appeals where the appellant does not attend.
||Literature issued by the Department of Social Security encourages appellants to attend an oral hearing. For example, leaflet GL24 If you think our decision is wrong says "If you choose to go to an oral hearing you will be able to deal with any questions or issues that arise. People who go to their hearing usually do better than those who do not".
The notes which accompany the pre-hearing enquiry form issued to appellants by the first-tier agencies set out the advantages of attending a hearing. They say "An oral hearing allows you or your representative or both to go to the hearing and explain your case to the tribunal. If you attend an oral hearing you will have the advantage of being able to deal with any questions which may arise. The tribunal members can ask you questions or explain anything that you are not clear about."
The President and the Chief Executive of The Appeals Service consider that it would not be appropriate to go further than this. While statistics may show lower success rates for paper hearings, they do not give information about individual cases, for example how strong the evidence was which the appeal tribunal had to consider.
|We recommend that the results of the evaluation of the 1996 changes regarding the requirement to opt for an oral hearing should be published, giving details of the effect of the 1996 changes on tribunal attendances and outcomes.
||The commitment to evaluate the changes made in 1996 was made by the previous administration. In the light of the improvements to decision-making and appeals which we have introduced, we believe that there would now be no value in evaluating the impact of the 1996 changes. However, the effects of the 1996 changes were taken into account in developing policy and in drafting the 1999 decisions and appeals regulations (S.I. 1999 No. 991).
Oral hearings continue to be available to appellants who want them. But it is right that people should have a choice on how their appeal is to be heard. Generally, it is in no-one's interest to arrange an oral hearing if this is not what the appellant wants, but a tribunal chairman can, if he considers it in the interests of justice, direct that an oral hearing be held. Paper hearings are a longstanding feature of the appeals system and provide an effective means for determining appeals where the appellant does not want to attend. We firmly believe that removing the choice of an oral or paper hearing would benefit neither appellants nor the system.
|We recommend that, where a deadline of 14 days exists for the return of a reply to a tribunal clerk's direction, both the direction and the pre-paid envelope for the reply should be sent by first class post.
||The Appeals Service is continually looking at ways to improve its customer service. It recognises the merit of the Committee's recommendation and intends to implement early in 2000 the use of first class post where strict time limits are involved. Those first-tier agencies who do not already use first class post for the pre-hearing enquiry form will do so from early 2000. The issue of first class post will be kept under review as part of The Appeals Service's continuous review of processes to secure value for money.
|| ||The Appeals Service has introduced the use of first class post in all cases where strict time limits are involved.
|We recommend that at the time the new Appeals Service is launched next April, a revised complaints system should be made available to all tribunal users, which sets out clear standards of conduct for all staff, both judicial and administrative, and clear means of seeking redress.
||The Appeals Service aims to provide high quality decisions on appeals and to provide them efficiently and promptly for every appellant who uses their service. If an appellant complains about the way their case has been handled, the action taken will depend on whether the complaint is about the administration of the appeal or about the judicial process. However, both the President and the Chief Executive want a complaints system which:
provides a proper means of redress for appellants;
is understood by appellants;
ensures that complaints are handled fairly, promptly and effectively; and
where complaints are upheld, provides for corrective action to be taken both in the individual case (wherever that is possible) and generally to ensure that the root cause of the complaint is tackled and does not recur.
The Chief Executive will be responsible for dealing with complaints relating to the administration of appeals. The plan is for a new complaints handling system to be in place and to be communicated to tribunal users by the time the agency is launched in April 2000. The agency's Charter Statement will outline the complaints procedure and will invite appellants to request a copy of the leaflet on which they can make a complaint. The leaflet will be available at tribunal venues. Client Service Managers will register and monitor progress on all complaints and will provide the President with a quarterly report on complaints involving judicial matters.
The principle of judicial independence, which is central to this country's constitutional arrangements, means that it is not open to the Lord Chancellor or his Department to consider complaints about judicial decisions. Any recourse from a judicial decision lies through the Commissioners or the Courts. However, the Lord Chancellor takes complaints about the conduct of judicial office holders very seriously, and expects the highest standards of behaviour from all levels of the judiciary, including members of tribunals. The Lord Chancellor seeks to guide, counsel, advise or rebuke those who fail to uphold the standards of conduct which the public expect of them.
A procedure has been agreed between the Judicial Correspondence Unit in the Lord Chancellor's Department and the President for dealing with complaints against panel members. This has been communicated to panel members in a President's Instruction. The President will respond to some complaints after obtaining comments from the panel member subject of the complaint and others present at the time. However, those complaints which allege racism, sexism, conflict of interest or other serious misconduct, and those received from Members of Parliament will be brought to the attention of the President and the Correspondence Unit in the Lord Chancellor's Department. The President will then make enquiries and forward a report to the Lord Chancellor's Department, and the Lord Chancellor will write to the complainant.
| ||A new complaints system is in place. The complaints leaflet will be available at every tribunal venue from October 2000. Client Service Managers register and monitor progress on all complaints. The President received a report on judicial complaints in July 2000 and will continue to do so on a quarterly basis.|
|We recommend that the Annual Report of The Appeals Service should give an analysis of complaints made during the year in each region and action taken in response to complaints.
||The Annual Report of The Appeals Service will contain details of administrative and judicial complaints made during the year. The details will include the nature of the complaints and the action taken in response to them, and will be reported on a national basis unless a particular problem is identified in any region. Individuals will not be identified.
|| ||A database system is in place for collecting data about complaints to feed into the Annual Report of the Appeals Service.
Details of complaints made to the end of March 2000 are outlined in the 1999/2000 Report of the Independent Tribunal Service/Appeals Service which is due to be published shortly.
|We recommend that targets should be set for the hearing of interlocutory matters such as applications to set aside a decision, or applications for reinstatement of an appeal, and for the production of full written reasons for a decision.
||The Appeals Service will comprise both the judicial element of the appeal tribunals and the executive agency to administer appeals. The Chief Executive is responsible, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Social Security, for the administrative support. The Secretary of State will set and publish targets for the new agency.
The President will retain responsibility for those functions of The Appeals Service which are of a judicial nature, including interlocutory decisions made by legally qualified panel members. The President and the panel members will retain their independent status. This independent status prevents Ministers and the Department from setting performance targets for their judicial functions.
However, the President is keen to move to a situation where the public has a clear idea of the level of performance they can expect from The Appeals Service in every area, including interlocutory matters.
The President aims to publish standards in relation to interlocutory work and to report on performance against those standards in the Annual Report of The Appeals Service. In order to achieve this, changes will need to be made to the management information systems so that the necessary data is captured - work on this will begin early in 2000 and the President will publish standards as soon as is practicable thereafter.
| ||The independent status of the President and the panel members prevents Ministers and the Department from setting performance targets for their judicial functions. However, the President has a responsibility to ensure high standards of tribunal work are maintained. Data is currently being collected on some aspects of interlocutory work. Some standards for interlocutory work - eg. length of time taken to produce a full statement - are included in the new appraisal system for part-time members (President's Protocol no. 1). Others are being considered as part of a review of all interlocutory work. Further standards will be set in due course. |
|We recommend that in setting targets designed to improve the system of appeals, the Secretary of State for Social Security should take a co-ordinated approach across the Department's Executive Agencies, thus ensuring that targets cover aspects of appeals which are dealt with by the Benefits Agency and the Child Support Agency, as well as The Appeals Service.
||The time taken to clear appeals is clearly an issue which is of pressing concern to the public. We intend to reduce appeals processing times substantially and will require commitment from all the Department's agencies to achieve this objective.|
However, we have concluded that it is neither practicable nor desirable to have a formal Secretary of State's target for the end to end appeals process. The main practical difficulty is in making any one agency Chief Executive accountable for achieving an end to end target, when different parts of the process are the responsibility of different agencies. In addition, the main driver in the first-tier agencies must be to improve quality. We are concerned that a formal target for end to end clearance times would limit the scope for quality targets. The National Audit Office endorsed this view in the high level advice they provided on monitoring the effectiveness of the Decision Making and Appeals provisions.
Nonetheless, incentives will be put in place to reduce appeals clearance times, whilst maintaining quality. There will be a formal Secretary of State target for The Appeals Service whose core business is the processing of appeals. However, for the first-tier agencies, a formal target pitched solely at appeals clearance times would not be appropriate as appeals processing work is a much smaller part of their overall business. Nevertheless, first-tier agencies will be required to report on a range of quality issues, and appeals clearance times will be one of these. They will be required to produce quarterly progress reports to the Chief Executive of The Appeals Service who, in turn, will report to Ministers on progress towards reducing appeals processing times.
| ||The Secretary of State targets for 2000/01 are published in the Agency's Business Plan. They include a target on waiting times for an appeal to be heard. Achievement against those targets will be set out in the Agency's Annual Report for 2000/01.
|We recommend that the time taken from the date an appeal is lodged with the first-tier agency to the date the appeal is determined by an appeal tribunal should continue to be measured, in order to ensure that overall performance by the Agencies involved is improving.
||We are committed to reducing the time appellants have to wait for their appeals to be heard. We have made it clear that there will be clear and demanding targets published for The Appeals Service agency and the Chief Executive will report on the results.
First-tier agencies and The Appeals Service agency will all be required to measure the part of process for which they are responsible. The first-tier agencies will measure the time from when an appeal is received by them or, where an appeal is made at the outset, the time from when the disputes process is exhausted, to the point at which the appeal is sent to The Appeals Service. The Appeals Service agency will measure the time from when an appeal is received by them to the date of hearing by an appeal tribunal. Information will also be collected on the time taken from the date a tribunal decision is issued to the date the decision is implemented by the first-tier agency.
This will provide an aggregate measure for appeals clearance times and will enable comparisons to be made between the time it took to clear appeals under the old system and the time it takes following implementation of the changes.
| ||See above.
|We recommend that the publication of quarterly statistics by DSS Analytical Services Division relating to appeals should be re-introduced as soon as possible.
||Analytical Services Division intends to resume the publication of quarterly appeals statistics from early 2000. The first publication is expected to relate to the quarter ending December 1999. The contents will be similar to the previous appeals publications and will include the number of new appeals lodged, the number of appeals cleared at hearing and the success rates.
|| ||Statistics relating to appeals for the quarters ended September 1999 and December 1999 have been published. Appeals statistics will continue to be published on a regular basis.
|We recommend that the DSS and the Lord Chancellor's Department should jointly commission a comprehensive programme of research on the impact of the decision making and appeals reforms.
||The Lord Chancellor's responsibility is to appoint persons to the panel to act as tribunal members. The Lord Chancellor's Department has no continuing locus in the live running or evaluation of the effectiveness of the changes to decision making and appeals.|
The effect of the reforms - both on achieving the policy intention of faster and simpler systems of redress and the impact on operational efficiencies and clients - will be subject to full evaluation. Clear strategic objectives, desired outcomes and critical success factors underpin the programme of reforms which we have introduced. It will take between six to twelve months for discernible effects to be analysed and evaluated. Early results will start to emerge in late spring 2000, with more detailed evidence on the client and operational impact of the changes available around October 2000. This will allow a full twelve months of live running on the high volume incapacity and income based benefits. Arrangements are being put in place for detailed monitoring of the quality of agency decision making and appeals performance for the next financial year, with Chief Executive reports available in 2001.
Monitoring and evaluation will be carried out jointly by DSS HQ, first tier agencies, the Chief Executive of The Appeals Service and the President of appeal tribunals. The National Audit Office will also conduct an independent review of the effectiveness and robustness of the new systems.
| ||The Lord Chancellor's Department has no role in the live running or evaluation of the effectiveness of the changes to decision making and appeals. This Department is currently monitoring and evaluating the changes. DSS, including the first tier agencies, the Chief Executive of The Appeals Service and the President of appeal tribunals are all involved in the process. The Decision Making and Appeals programme evaluation is expected to be completed by the end of 2000.|
|We recommend that the results of the pilot exercise concerning the monitoring of first-tier decisions coming before appeal tribunals, and the conclusions reached regarding future monitoring, should be published before the President assumes his new responsibilities in April 2000.
||Information collected from the pilot exercise on the standard of decision making in those cases reaching appeal is currently being collated. The pilot ran during three weeks in October 1999 to test out the process and to provide a sound basis for the future collection of information. A report will be agreed and produced with stakeholders and a copy will be made available to the Committee at the end of January 2000. The first published report will cover the period April 2000 to April 2001.
|| ||A copy of the Report of the pilot exercise was sent to the Committee in February 2000.