80 years of inhumanity, and counting….

April 4, 2014 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

In the same week that the Government announced savings in the Tribunal Service in order to achieve “a significantly lower cost” it was a surprise, nay a shock, to find the two most incompetent local Judges down at the tribunal suite this morning discussing a significant increase in their own already more-than-generous allowances.

When a Social Security appeal fails, a claimant or his/her representative can write to the Judge to ask for a statement of reasons for the decision. Frequently, these statements contain errors of law and the decisions are then set aside either by the local District Judge, if the reasoning in the statement is egregiously stupid, or by the Upper Tribunal if the arguments are more complex. It has always been a useful additional reason for tribunals to come to an acceptable and justifiable decision; the knowledge that if they don’t do so the Judge, in his/her own time, will have to send out a detailed explanation of how the verdict was reached.

Paying the Judge to provide a statement of reasons is actually giving him/her a financial incentive to produce a bad decision. It is also a disincentive to representatives like me to ask for those statements after we have lost an appeal; it’s bad enough emerging from an appeal feeling cheated and frustrated without then feathering the Judge’s nest further by requesting those written reasons.

Incidentally, the medical member on today’s panel is a consultant paediatrician based at the local hospital. Obviously, he has an exceptionally well-paid job, so why, I wonder, does he need to moonlight by being part of the Social Security tribunal? And who is looking after the needs of the local children while he is not paediatrising?

I would like to have asked him both those questions today but only got the chance to put the second to him. I didn’t get an answer, but will no doubt get an opportunity to try again soon, when the hospital will be under-strength again while he performs his secondary duty of making it ever more difficult for claimants to get their rightful benefits.

A big thank you to the 22 members of parliament who opposed the benefit cap in a Commons vote last week. No doubt the rest of them, including the 200+ Labour members who backed the government, would, had they been around at the time, have voted for the Poor Law Amendment of 1834 which abolished all relief outside the workhouse. The winning arguments in 1834 and 2014 are still the same, after all.


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This post was written by Felix McHugh

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