THE previous chapter has highlighted the central importance of initial decision making in the social security system. We turn now to consider the way in which appeals against those initial decisions are handled within the local offices of the Department of Social Security and Department of Employment. Less than one per cent of the decisions taken by adjudication officers each year are challenged through the appeals system. None the less, this percentage represents the considerable figure of some 160,000 appeals, and the system for processing appeals within local social security offices is worthy of study in its own right. Moreover, one of our basic working assumptions is that the different levels of the social security adjudication hierarchy should not be viewed in isolation but rather seen as intermeshing parts of a process. It is our contention that the system for handling appeals has a wider significance in that it affects the approach adopted by adjudication officers when making initial decisions.
In this chapter, we examine the procedures that are brought into play when a claimant challenges a decision to refuse benefit. So far as the legal position is concerned, there are two courses of action open. In the first place, the aggrieved claimant may ask the adjudication officer to reconsider the decision by way of a review. 1 Alternatively, or following an unsuccessful request for a review, the claimant may lodge an appeal against that decision. In principle, these are two very different processes. A review is carried out within the local office and usually by____________________