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Plans Unveiled for New Look Tribunals System

Plans Unveiled for New Look Tribunals System

TRIBUNALS SERVICE News Release (01/07) issued by The Government News Network on 23 May 2007

A strategy to reform tribunals into a more efficient, independent and user-focused service has been published today by the Tribunals Service (TS).

'Delivering the future: one system, one service' sets out the blueprint on how TS - an agency of the new Ministry of Justice - will use the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill currently before Parliament to move from a service administering 27 very different central government tribunals to one providing unified support to a radically simplified tribunal structure. It will be the biggest change to the tribunals system for more than 50 years.

Most tribunals or organisations administered by TS will be transferred into the new structure which provides a first level of appeal for users and a further level of appeal on questions of law. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal will remain as separate tribunals within TS, but the new structure will make it easier for judiciary and staff to work more flexibly across different tribunals under the leadership of a new Senior President of Tribunals.

This move, along with the introduction of a new hearing centre network, administrative support centres dealing with a wide range of tribunals, and a single management structure, will ensure TS delivers improved services for its users.

Peter Handcock, Chief Executive of the Tribunals Service, said:
"More than half a million people bring cases to tribunals each year and tribunals resolve more disputes than any other branch of the justice system. Often these cases involve the most vulnerable people in society, such as those who are claiming asylum or are contesting the amount they get in benefit payments, or involve those who believe they are being discriminated against at work. At the heart of our work is the need to ensure that the public can exercise their right to justice and seek effective solutions to their problems.

"This strategy aims to sweep away unnecessarily rigid distinctions and bureaucracy between tribunals and to create a system in which dispute resolution can be delivered speedily and conveniently for users.

"The new structure recognises that tribunal users have different needs; indeed each tribunal was established around its own piece of law. Tribunals will continue to be appropriately specialised to ensure justice is delivered and customers' needs are met."
Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Minister for Tribunals in the new Ministry of Justice, said:

"I welcome this new strategy which is key to the Government's aim of delivering a real breakthrough in the public's experience of tribunals. It drives forward the Government's White Paper on complaints and redress and the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill to ensure disputes are resolved quickly, fairly and economically."

The TS Strategy outlines plans to set up around 40 hearing centres in major towns and cities that can host a wide variety of tribunals. These will make more services available to the public at a single venue. These will be complemented by the hiring of venues in other locations when very local hearings are necessary. Six administrative support centres will also be created to provide effective back office case administration at a reduced cost to taxpayers.

A single management structure is also being formed to promote consistent customer services and avoid management duplication. Within five years, the TS plans to have 90% of its staff in frontline posts.

The Strategy also reveals plans to develop more alternative dispute resolution schemes; encourage better decision making by the departments being appealed against; improve customer services; and provide better IT to benefit both staff and users.
Notes to Editors

1. Copies of 'Delivering the future: one system, one service' are available from http://www.tribunals.gov.uk/publications.htm

2. The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill is expected to get Royal Assent in this Parliamentary session. For more details see: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/tribunalscourtsandenforcmentbill.htmThose tribunals which will not become part of the two-tier structure - the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, along with SIAC, POAC and PAAC (see Note 4) which are currently administered by AIT, Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal - will share the leadership of the Senior President, the new arrangements for judicial interchange and a common administration with the other tribunals.

3. Copies of the White Paper 'Transforming public services: complaints, redress and tribunals' are available from http://www.dca.gov.uk/pubs/adminjust/adminjust.htm

4. The Tribunals Service is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, formed in April 2006 to provide independent administrative support to 27 central government tribunals and organisations. They are:

* Adjudicator to HM Land Registry

* Asylum & Immigration Tribunal

* Asylum Support Tribunal

* Care Standards Tribunal

* Claims Management Services Tribunal

* The Commissioners Office

* Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel

* Employment Tribunals

* Employment Appeal Tribunal

* Financial Services and Markets Tribunal

* Gambling Appeals Tribunal

* Gender Recognition Panel

* General Commissioners of Income Tax

* Information Tribunal

* Immigration Services Tribunal

* Lands Tribunal

* Mental Health Review Tribunal

* Pathogen Access Appeals Commission

* Pensions Appeal Tribunal

* Pensions Regulator Tribunal

* Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission

* Social Security and Child Support Appeals Tribunal

* Special Commissioners of Income Tax

* Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

* Special Immigration Appeals Commission

* Transport Tribunal

* VAT and Duties Tribunal

The purpose of the Tribunals Service is to:
* Provide a more responsible and efficient Tribunals Service and administration

* Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary

* Contribute to the improvement of the quality of original decision making across Government

* Reform the tribunals' justice system for the benefit of customers and the wider public.
For more details see http://www.tribunals.gov.uk