Adjudication in Local Offices
As noted in Chapter 1, the initial decision on most claims for benefit is the responsibility of an adjudication officer, a civil servant employed by the Department of Social Security or the Department of Employment and appointed by the Secretary of State under the Social Security Act 1975. In the Department of Social Security, there are some 15, 000 adjudication officers working in the network of 480 local offices, and a further 500 are based in the specialized sector adjudication offices of the Department of Employment. Each year adjudication officers make millions of decisions of crucial importance to claimants, many of whom are surviving on the margins of society. In the vast majority of cases, these determinations are final in the sense that the claimant does not seek to appeal against them. Despite the central importance of the adjudication officer's role, there has been surprisingly little research into this stage of decision making, and most attention has been focused on the appeal tribunals. We examine the reasons for this shortly, but first consider the evolution of the role of the adjudication officer and the legal framework within which they work.
The origins of the adjudication officer can be traced back to the creation of insurance officers prior to the First World War. The political nature of the forces which shaped the role of the insurance officer was evident from the outset. Under the National Insurance Act 1911, insurance officers were given the task of determining claims for benefit as part of the new unemployment insurance scheme. A government department, the Board of,