Employment and Support Allowance: Appeals

Justice written question – answered on 13th March 2012.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) what the average time is between the referral of employment and support allowance appeals to tribunals and a (a) hearing date and (b) decision being promulgated;

(2) what the (a) minimum, (b) maximum and (c) average time is for a tribunal to complete a hearing into an employment and support allowance appeal.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The information is as follows:

(1) During the period 1 April to 31 October 2011 (the latest period for which data has been published) the average time taken from receipt of an employment and support allowance (ESA) appeal by the Social Security and Child Support (SSCS) Tribunal until (a) the date of the first appeal hearing was 23.1 weeks and (b) a decision being issued was 24 weeks. In most ESA appeal hearings a decision notice is issued on the day of the hearing.

(2) The SSCS Tribunal does not hold information on the single shortest and longest period an appellant waited for a benefit appeal hearing. The information can be provided only at disproportionate cost by manually checking each individual case file. However, during the period 1 April to 31 October 2011, 119,500 ESA appeals were disposed of. Of these 7% were disposed of within four weeks and 0.1% were more than two years old. An appeal may be disposed of without being heard, or be heard on more than one day, for example a hearing may be adjourned for further evidence to be gathered.

HMCTS is working hard to increase the capacity of the SSCS Tribunal and reduce waiting times. It has implemented a range of measures including recruiting more judges and medical panel members; increasing administrative resources; securing additional estate; increasing the number of cases listed in each session; running double shifts in its largest processing centre; running Saturday sittings in some of the busiest venues; and setting up a customer contact centre to deal with telephone inquiries.

All of this is having a positive effect. The number of disposals has increased significantly from 279,000 in 2009-10 to 380,000 in 2010-11 and the tribunal will dispose of around 435,000 appeals this year, with the capacity for half a million disposals in 2012-13. Disposals outstripped receipts for the 10 months between January 2011 and October 2011, and the number of cases waiting to be heard reduced by over 35,000 between April and October. The average waiting time has stabilised nationally, and is beginning to fall in many venues.

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