AN attempt has been made in this book to assess the dramatic and fundamental changes made to the system of social security adjudication in this country in recent years. A number of areas have been explored and we have concentrated in particular on the dynamics of the relationships between the various actors involved in the system. In this final chapter, we seek to identify the broader themes which have emerged from our study and to discuss some of the more important implications.
That social security appeal tribunals have been transformed since Professor Bell's report was published in 1975 is indisputable. The phasing out of lay chairmen has resulted in a more professional approach to the conduct of hearings, and the Presidential system has been instrumental in strengthening the independence of the tribunals and has given chairmen a much clearer sense of purpose and direction. This is not to say that the tribunals are faultless. For instance, there remain too many lay members whose involvement is only peripheral, and there is a strong case for more careful scrutiny of members on reappointment. The performance of tribunals is also likely to be enhanced by training chairmen and members together to emphasize the cooperative nature of their task. Even so, the broad satisfaction with tribunal hearings expressed by presenting officers and claimants alike provides one benchmark by which to judge the success of the reformed tribunal system.
From the claimants' point of view, the appeals process is simple to initiate and ensures that those who challenge decisions have their cases reconsidered at two levels -- first, on the basis of the papers (with any new information taken into account), and