In February, Sir Ernest Ryder, the Senior President of Tribunals, was suggesting that tribunals were likely to move into online hearings, and that social security tribunals would be pioneering the approach. That announcement was received with some apprehension, because the experience of digital communication and systems supposed to be “digital by default” has not been good for claimants; it assumes access to resources and a level of competence with IT that many people would find challenging. The technology for managing group meetings is improving, but it’s still buggy and difficult to access; the added security needed for tribunal hearings is liable to add to that.
In a recent talk, however, Sir Ernest has been offering more insight into his thoughts about the conduct of social security tribunals, and it may not be what the critics expect. He has been complaining that the incompetence of the DWP has clogged up the tribunal system. Mandatory Reconsideration is no help – the number of bad decisions has been mounting. In most of the cases submitted by the DWP, “there could be no argument in law or on facts that the appellant wouldn’t win.” Ryder would like to give tribunals the right to reject the DWP’s papers without wasting time on a hearing.