HC Deb 18 January 1999 vol 323 cc370-1W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what steps are taken to ensure access for disabled people to buildings used to hold Disability Living Allowance Independent Tribunal Service hearings; [65261]

(2) what training employees of the Independent Tribunal Service receive to ensure that they are aware of the special needs of people with a disability. [65271]

Angela Eagle

The Council on Tribunals (CoT) produce a code of practice entitled "Access for Disabled People Using Tribunals" to which the Independent Tribunal Service (ITS) fully adheres in relation to its own tribunal premises. Appeals involving Disability Living Allowance are heard by Disability Appeal Tribunals (DATs), and these tribunals sit only in premises containing appropriate facilities for disabled people. Such facilities include car-parking spaces, access ramps, internal lifts and furnishings and fittings suitable for disabled people whilst both sitting in and moving around the premises.

ITS operates an equal opportunities policy of which an essential element is an awareness of the needs of people with disabilities. This policy is explained to all new members of the administrative staff early in their induction training and reinforced at regular intervals thereafter, whilst tribunal clerks, who deal face-to-face with disabled appellants, are given more detailed supplementary training. An Equal Opportunities Officer is based in Nottingham, whose role is to monitor changes in policy and practice and to provide regular updates to all staff.

Judicial Officers of ITS—that is, tribunal chairmen and members—whilst not direct employees, also receive training in various aspects of human awareness and interpersonal skills, including the needs of people with disabilities. This, too, is delivered initially as part of the induction training for new appointees and subsequently incorporated into regular "refresher" training programmes at both local and national level.

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