Social Security Benefits: Appeals

Justice written question – answered on 3rd July 2012.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth Labour, Coventry North East

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department is taking to increase capacity to deal with social security and child support appeals at hearing venues in Coventry.

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

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 2 July 2012, Hansard, column 461W.

The average waiting time from receipt to disposal for all SSCS benefits during the period April 2011 to March 2012 (the latest period for which statistics have been published) was 23.16 weeks nationally and 37.24 weeks in Coventry. After increasing in the first nine months of the year, the average time from receipt to disposal in Coventry has reduced from 45.43 weeks in January 2012 to 41.57 weeks in March 2012.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has implemented a number of measures to bring down the average waiting time for an appeal hearing in Coventry. Additional venue capacity was brought into use in December 2011 and HMCTS is working to identify further suitable venues. Work is also under way to reassess the area which is served by the Coventry venue, to examine whether certain appeals which would currently be heard at the Coventry venue can be heard in other nearby HMCTS estate.

This is in addition to the measures being implemented nationally to increase the capacity of the SSCS tribunal and reduce waiting times, which include recruiting more judges and medical panel members; increasing administrative resources; increasing the number of cases listed in each tribunal session; running double shifts in its largest processing centre; setting up a customer contact centre to deal with telephone inquiries and the review and continuous improvement of business processes.

These measures are having a positive effect. The total number of disposals has increased significantly from 279,000 in 2009-10 to 433,600 in 2011-12, with the capacity for half a million disposals in 2012-13. Disposals outstripped receipts for the 14 months between January 2011 and February 2012 and the number of cases waiting to be heard fell by 25% in 2011-12. Waiting times are stabilising nationally and HMCTS is working as a matter of priority to reduce them further, in particular in areas where they remain longer than we would wish.

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