Work of the Social Security and Child Support (SSCS) Tribunal
The SSCS Tribunal principally covers appeals against decisions taken by government departments (mainly, the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC, but also some decisions by local authorities) on entitlement to social security benefits and liability to make child support payments (click here for a list of these social security benefits). There is an onward right of appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) on points of law.
SSCS tribunals also hear appeals concerning vaccine damage payments, payments in consequence of diffuse mesothelioma and decisions in relation to NHS charges.
There are 7 regions of SSCS in Great Britain, each headed by a Regional Tribunal Judge (“RTJ”) who reports to the Chamber President. The RTJs are responsible for the salaried judges (District Tribunal Judges or “DTJs”) and the fee-paid judges and non-legal members in their region. Most salaried judges will have practised as solicitors, barristers or legal executives prior to becoming judges, but will have ceased to do so once they became a salaried judge. Fee-paid judges are usually practising solicitors, barristers or legal executives and work in the tribunal for a limited number of days each year.
Apart from hearing and deciding appeals, DTJs are responsible for appraising, mentoring and advising the fee-paid judges and members in their district. With the help of legally qualified Legal Officers and Registrars, DTJs also carry out interlocutory work (i.e. issues that arise for decision between the lodging of the appeal and the hearing and between the hearing and the tribunal’s decision), and issues arising after the decision (eg applications for review, set aside or permission to appeal).
Non-legal members bring specialist expertise from the relevant fields of medicine, disability and accountancy. Many cases are heard by a panel consisting of a judge and one or two non-legal members. Most non-legal members are fee-paid.
The Chief Medical Member (a salaried post) has national responsibility for medical members, and is supported by a salaried Regional Medical Member in each of the regions of the SSCS jurisdiction.
SSCS has been developing a reformed service for people appealing decisions about social security benefits and child support maintenance to make it simpler to understand, more streamlined and quicker. The reformed service allows people to start and track their appeal, submit evidence and communicate with the tribunal online. Evidence supporting an appeal can be shared with the Department of Work and Pensions digitally via the new case management system called Core Case Data (CCD). SSCS conducts most hearings using digital documents, and so no longer needs to handle large bundles of paper. Decisions are sent to parties online. For more information about this reform project, see the fact sheet on GOV.UK entitled: ‘HMCTS services: Social Security and Child Support Tribunal’.
Many appeals are heard face-to-face at a tribunal venue, with the appellant, the presenting officer from the government department, and the tribunal all present. A substantial number of appeals are also conducted either by telephone or by video. The appeal form allows an appellant to say which form of hearing is suitable for them. A short video has been prepared to explain what to expect at a video hearing: Video hearings at the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.