Appeals before Social Security Appeal Tribunals
IN the previous two chapters, we have considered initial decision making and the carrying out of reviews within the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment. In this chapter we consider the third distinctive stage in the process of adjudicating on welfare benefits, the appeal to an independent tribunal. We have already seen how the work of the tribunal can have an important effect on the way in which social security claims and appeals are processed within the Department. Conversely the Department influences the course of appeal hearings before tribunals, not least through having a presenting officer, who is an employee of the Department, present in virtually every case to answer questions about the facts and applicable regulations.1 Here we focus on the functions performed by the tribunals and the distinctive philosophy which was developed to guide their handling of appeals.
The approach of the tribunals to the cases coming before them has also been moulded by broader trends in the evolution of tribunals generally. In its report published over thirty years ago, the Franks Committee identified a number of characteristics of tribunals which gave them advantages over court procedures.2 These characteristics were, according to the Committee, 'cheapness, accessibility, freedom from technicality, expedition and expert knowledge of their particular subject' (para. 38). The model tribunal was seen as being one in which the citizen was able to present a case adequately without legal or other specialist____________________