Holding answer received on 13 September 2018
The information requested is set out in the table below:
Average waiting time1 at the Sunderland2 Social Security Tribunal Venue
April – March3
1. Waiting Time is interpreted as average clearance time - time taken for appeal receipt to outcome
2. Social Security and Child Support (SSCS) data are normally registered to the venue nearest to the appellant’s home address. We cannot retrieve data based on the appellant’s actual address, but can produce reports detailing the numbers of cases that were dealt with at one of our Regional centres or heard at a specific venue. Appeals within the Easington constituency are heard in the Sunderland venue. Data include cases cleared at a tribunal hearing including paper, oral and domiciliary.
3. Financial year - April – March.
4. Data April 17 to March 18 are provisional and subject to change.
Although care is taken when processing and analysing the data, the details are subject to inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale case management system and are the best data that are available.
Waiting times are calculated from receipt of the appeal to its final disposal. An appeal is not necessarily disposed of at its first hearing. The final disposal decision on the appeal may be reached after an earlier hearing had been adjourned (which may be directed by the judge for a variety of reasons, such as to seek further evidence), or after an earlier hearing date had been postponed (again, for a variety of reasons, often at the request of the appellant). An appeal may also have been decided at an earlier date by the First-tier Tribunal, only for the case to have gone on to the Upper Tribunal, to be returned once again to the First-tier, for its final disposal.
Waiting times can fluctuate temporarily and geographically, owing to a number of variable factors, including volumes of benefit decisions made locally, availability of medical/disability members, venue capacity and the complexity of the issue in dispute. Any disparity in waiting times is monitored and investigated locally.
In order to respond to a general increase in appeal receipts, HM Courts & Tribunals Service has been working with the Tribunal’s judiciary both to appoint additional judges and panel members, and to take forward initiatives with the potential to increase the capacity and performance of the Tribunal. We have recruited extra fee-paid judicial office holders: 250 judges across the First-tier Tribunal, 125 disability-qualified members, and up to 230 medical members. In addition, we are reviewing - with the Judiciary - current listing practices to increase the number of cases listed on a Tribunal session, and introducing case-management “triage” sessions, with the aim of reducing the time taken for appeals to reach final determination. All these measures will increase the capacity of the Tribunal, with the aim of reducing waiting times for appellants.