HMCTS reform update - Tribunals

The latest progress made in our reform programme in the tribunals jurisdiction.

We will create simpler processes and online routes into our tribunals, allowing people to manage and resolve disputes fairly and speedily.

This will include new tools to support continuous online resolution with helpful ways for judges to communicate directly with parties and further development of the roles of case officers to support the judiciary.

two women talking

What our reforms have delivered so far

  • more than 14,000 people have submitted Social Security and Child Support Tribunal (SSCS) online appeals against Personal Independence Payment and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefit decisions.
  • appellants using Track Your Appeal Online, and receiving text and email alerts letting them know what is happening.
  • launching a small pilot digital service for Immigration and Asylum (IAC) appeals, and testing the use of tribunals case workers in asylum appeals in two hearing centres to reduce delays.

By the end of this year, we will have

  • tested continuous online resolution software with a small number of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appellants to enable them to engage directly with the tribunal online instead of having to travel to attend a hearing.
  • extended online appeals against PIP and Employment Support Allowance decisions to Scotland.
  • a new case management system in all our Employment Tribunal offices by the end of the year.
  • begun a project to apply reformed services developed in the SSCS, IAC and other specialist tribunals.

Social security and child support

SSCS reform will transform the current service for people appealing decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It allows people to start, progress and, where appropriate, have their case decided online without the need to attend a tribunal hearing in person. It will also significantly reduce the amount of paper in the system by digitising documentation and evidence.

We are designing the system around those who use it in order to make the service simpler to understand, removing unnecessary stress and providing a quicker resolution of the appeal. We will continue to ensure the service is accessible to all who need it and will maintain impartiality and consistency.

We launched the Submit Your Appeal service last year allowing people to appeal a benefit decision online. It includes a function to digitally upload any evidence to support the appeal, such as photographs, medical reports or other relevant information.

The service for PIP and ESA appeals has now been rolled out throughout England and Wales and by the end of March over 13,000 appeals have been received for both. We plan to expand Submit Your Appeal to Universal Credit in summer 2019.

In addition, those submitting their appeal online in England and Wales can also sign up to the Track Your Appeal service, which allows the appeal to be tracked online through its key stages.

This includes information on when the appeal is received, when a hearing is booked and when a decision is made. These updates can be sent as emails or text message. We have also been developing software to support ‘continuous online hearings’, allowing judges and panel members to ask appellants and the DWP questions and get responses to allow them to make decisions. We will be testing this with a small number of selected online PIP appeals cases in summer 2019.

This will allow users to engage directly with the tribunal online instead of having to travel to attend a hearing. In the preliminary stages, appeals using continuous online resolution will focus on users who are digitally proficient – for example, people who have submitted their appeal online and who have their own email address. The technology we have developed has been user tested to make it accessible and easy to use. Further evaluation will be done by using exit surveys. This feedback will be used to refine the system further.

We will also be scanning PIP appeals submitted on paper so they can be stored and progressed digitally to increase the speed and efficiency of dealing with all cases, regardless of how they are submitted. We intend to start this in summer 2019.

Immigration and Asylum

This project is focused on delivering an efficient and transparent IAC service that is simple, fair and accessible for everyone using it. It will build on the developments made and lessons learnt for SSCS, and will similarly enable cases to be resolved online where that is appropriate, as well as supporting the use of video and face-to-face hearings.

A new digital service successfully launched in January 2019, at two hearing centres, Taylor House and Manchester. The digital appeals service is a pilot, which currently involves six law firms submitting online appeals relating to ‘protection’ or ‘revocation of protection’ on behalf of their clients. During the pilot, appeals will be submitted electronically by legal representatives and will be received instantaneously by both HMCTS and the Home Office. The appeals will then progress digitally via the on line service from initial application, through to hearing and judicial decision.

A key feature of the digital service is the role of tribunal caseworkers. Once an appeal is submitted by the legal representative, all of the subsequent HMCTS case management activities are carried out by the specially trained caseworker under the supervision of the judiciary.

The caseworker actively liaises with the Home Office to request evidence, sends directions to parties to comply with providing information, and ensures legal representatives submitting legal arguments comply with a set of pilot directions.

For all the pilot cases submitted online, the tribunal caseworker must be satisfied all information required to hold a hearing is complete, before they list the appeal for a judicial hearing. Through effective case management we expect the overall number of cases requiring a hearing to reduce. For cases that do require a hearing, it is expected that hearings will be shorter (as a result of narrowing the issues through active case management) and that the number of appeals which are adjourned because of missing or incomplete information will be significantly less.

Our first pilot cases are due for hearing in June. We will be testing the use of screens, recording equipment and digital bundles for these cases in London and Manchester.

The project is continuing to collect information from all its pilot service users. User research from the teams involved and from HMCTS reform projects, will help to further develop the digital service. We will also continue to review the changes, including the Home Office review and the pilot tribunal directions. This information will help to shape the future service when more users and appeal types are introduced into the pilot service throughout 2019.

Upper Tribunal

This project is focussed on new digital ways of working across the Upper Tribunal (and is the same project as described in the Royal Courts of Justice civil section.

Employment Tribunals

We have brought forward the first phase of this project as a result of the modifications to the overall reform programme. It will replace the existing case management system with the new Core Case Data (CCD) and link it with the existing online claim system. Work is well underway and we expect to start pilots in our Manchester and Glasgow offices in summer 2019.

We expect CCD will be used in all offices by December 2019. This will make the system easier to use for everyone, including the public, our staff and judges. The next phase of the project will introduce other capabilities – such as bulk scanning of claims – as well as potentially establishing a caseworker role as in IAC.

Specialist tribunals

This project will establish new ways of working across the specialist tribunals, developed on a tribunal-by-tribunal basis, but re-using elements of what has been developed for SSCS, IAC and others where that works to provide a good service quickly. This has been planned for later in the programme to enable it to learn from the earlier projects, and it will start in November 2019.

Here is a full list of civil, family and tribunal projects in our reform programme.

Tribunal reform events

Our latest tribunal reform event was held on 26 June 2019, the video is below:

Tribunal reform event 26 June 2019

All of our tribunal reform events are listed on on our reform events programme page.

Other tribunals information and announcements

Stay up to date and visit our latest GOV.UK news and announcements and our latest tribunals related Inside HMCTS blogs.

Published 11 July 2019