HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc799-800W
Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he proposes to take any new steps to speed up the social security appeals system.

Mr. Portillo

In the last quarter of 1986 the average time taken to process a social security appeal from lodgement to hearing was estimated to be 15.4 weeks. Responsibility for the administrative handling of social security appeals rests partly with DHSS and partly with the President of Social Security Appeal Tribunals and Medical Appeal Tribunals. I know that the President, his Honour Judge Byrt, shares my concern at the length of time being taken for appeals to be heard.

In 1986 a central management survey team examined the procedures for handling appeals in DHSS offices. A final report is expected later this year and its recommendations will be closely studied. Next year the Government are introducing the social fund which will have its own system of reviews and will not be subject to appeal. This should considerably reduce the volume of appeals and should lead to a reduction in average clearance times. In the longer term, the departmental operational strategy, and in particular the computerisation of the assessment of entitlement to income support, should lead to improved standards of initial decision making and hence a reduced work load for tribunals.