Tell us what you think...
- Did you find this first edition of Adjust informative and useful?
- What can we improve in the next edition?
- Do you have any suggestions for future stories?
- Did you encounter any technical difficulties with Adjust?
The Council would like to hear your views and suggestions so Adjust becomes a resource not just to present the work of the Council, but also to inform on the administrative justice world in general.
We would also like to hear from readers and users what they think our priorities should be, as the Council becomes an Administrative Justice Council.
Please send comments to Ray Burningham, Acting Secretary, Council on Tribunals, 81 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1BQ. Or email Ray at: enquiries@ cot.gsi.gov.uk
Advancing administrative justice
Welcome to the first edition of the Council on Tribunals' quarterly electronic newsletter - Adjust. The aim in producing a newsletter of this kind is to establish a channel of communication between the Council and the wider administrative justice world, including the voluntary sector and users representative organisations. The Council hopes that the newsletter will serve as a useful communication medium, to which in due course others will wish to contribute.
Its introduction - and the title we have given it - follow the Government's July 2004 White Paper setting out its plans for reform of administrative justice, including the evolution of the Council into an Administrative Justice Council (AJC).
Until now, the Council has been principally concerned with the world of tribunals. As an AJC it will be concerned with the system of administrative justice as a whole. This greatly increased remit will mean the Council keeping under review all of the mechanisms open to the public to resolve a dispute, from the courts to the ombudsmen to the mediation services.
The Council has already held, last November, a highly successful Conference with wider participation than ever before. A first users support workshop has demonstrated the Council's commitment to building stronger links with tribunal users and the organisations that represent their interests. Members of the Council and the Secretariat are also forging new links throughout the administrative justice world to understand better the viewpoint of the many stakeholders.
The views of readers of this newsletter are positively welcomed - on its format and content, on what else people might wish to see in its pages, but also more widely on what the Council's priorities should be in its transition to an AJC.
Lord Newton of Braintree, Chairman
Council hosts biggest ever annual conference
Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for the DCA gave the keynote address at this year's Council on Tribunals' annual conference. Two days after the Queen's Speech announced government plans to publish the Courts and Tribunals Bill, he said the proposal to bring tribunals under one executive agency would benefit users and maintain public confidence in the way disputes are resolved.
The conference included an impressive cast list of speakers and delegates, representing a broad section of dispute resolution services, government departments, the judiciary and user support organisations.
Lord Newton opened the conference and, alongside Lord Falconer, welcomed a number of speakers including The Rt Hon Lord Justice Robert Carnwath, Senior President Designate of Tribunals, Peter Handcock, Chief Executive Designate of the Tribunals Service and Roger Smith, the Director of Justice.
Delegates had the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with Lord Falconer and then more generally with the panel of speakers before the conference closed.
For the full text of Lord Falconer's speech click here: www.dca.gov.uk/speeches/2004/lc251104.htm
Users support workshop
Delegates responded positively to the Council on Tribunals' first users support workshop held at Millbank on 19 October 2004.
Almost 50 delegates from a broad cross section of users support groups and advice sector organisations attended the workshop. Its aim was to engage user representatives in a discussion about the implications of the DCA's White Paper for tribunal users and the role of the advice sector.
Whilst broadly welcoming the White Paper proposals, delegates expressed the view that the suggestion of users increasingly representing themselves at tribunal hearings was an unrealistic expectation. Delegates agreed that users would be likely to need more not less support and that the advice sector should play a more active role but would need to be properly resourced to do this.
Chaired by Lord Newton, the programme included contributions from Paul Stockton, Head of Administrative Justice at the DCA; Adam Griffith, Policy Adviser, Advice Services Alliance; Teresa Perchard, Director of Policy, Citizen's Advice; Nony Ardill, Policy Director, Legal Action Group; and John Wright, Chief Executive, Independent Panel for Special Educational Needs.
The Council is planning to hold further workshops across the UK, the next being planned for Spring 2005.
For a copy of the workshop report click here
Council members - news
The Council has said farewell to Barbara Bruce who has finished her second term with the Scottish Committee.
Barbara has been a member of the Scottish Committee since 1998. Her place on the committee has been taken by Lyndy Roberts, whose four-year appointment began on December 1. She will be taking a particular interest in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Panel and information and advice provided for users of the tribunal system in Scotland.
Lyndy works as a solicitor with the Care Commission in Dundee. She is also an associate lecturer, monitor and consultant for the Open University. Lyndy previously worked as a Reporter to the Children's Panel and as a welfare rights officer.
The Council also says farewell to Yvette Genn and Sandy Russell, who stepped down late last year. Yvette has taken a judicial appointment at SENDIST.
The recruitment of new members to replace them is expected to be undertaken by the DCA shortly.
The Council is delighted that Anne Galbraith, Council member from 1997 to 2003 and now Chair of the Valuation Tribunal Service, received the OBE in the new year honours list for services to the community in the North East.
Asylum and Immigration - Tribunal Rules
The Council is calling for reconsideration of proposed rules for the new single tier Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT), which it considers to be potentially unfair to appellants and in need of more flexibility.
In particular, the Council is concerned about the extreme shortness of the time limits proposed for the various stages in the procedure.
The Council is also very concerned that decisions on legal aid will be given 'retrospectively' and by applying a stringent test based on the likelihood of eventual success.
The Council's written responses to both of the papers have now been sent to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which has been asking for views prior to the AIT coming in to operation in April 2005.
To view the Council's responses click on these links:
Draft Mental Health Bill
The Council has submitted written evidence to the joint select committee undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Mental Health Bill, which was published on 8 September 2004.
The Council is due to give oral evidence to the Committee on 12 January 2005.
Click here for a copy of the Council's submission:
DCA White Paper
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) published a White Paper - Transforming Public Services: Complaints, Redress and Tribunals - in July 2004. The paper sets out a five-year agenda for reform across the administrative justice world, with users firmly at the heart of the changes.
It follows a report in 2001 by Sir Andrew Leggatt - Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service - in which he proposed that tribunals are unified and the system greatly simplified.
The White Paper proposes:
- A closer look at the whole issue of dispute resolution between citizen and State and in the workplace. It seeks to explore how better to deliver resolution and fairness
- The development of Ombudsman services and the advice sector and improving initial decision making to avoid the need for tribunal proceedings and providing better information to users
- The development of a unified Tribunals Service, dealing initially with the 'top ten' central government tribunals, and a new appellate system
- The development of a network of hearing centres to improve access
- The evolution of the Council on Tribunals to an Administrative Justice Council (AJC)
- Increasing the role of the Judicial Studies Board in liaison with the new AJC in the training of tribunal members
The Courts and Tribunals Bill, which will provide the legislative framework to bring the White Paper to reality, was formally announced in the Queen's Speech in November.
At the Council's recent Annual Conference, Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, said the Bill will "unify the judiciary and create a coherent judicial structure while maintaining expertise".
A draft Bill is expected in March 2005 and the Council will be given the opportunity to comment.
To view the White Paper click here: http://www.dca.gov.uk/pubs/adminjust/transformfull.pdf
Best practice opportunity
The Council is working with the rapidly growing Education Appeals Support Initiative (EASI) group to ensure their model of good practice is shared throughout the country.
The group was formed in 1999 by two appeals clerks from Milton Keynes who canvassed neighbouring education authorities with a view to sharing best practice across admissions and exclusions appeals panels.
Since then, the informal group has grown dramatically and 19 clerks and representatives from education appeals panels, stretching from Nottinghamshire to Wokingham in Surrey, have now joined forces. They meet twice a year and share their experiences, ideas and views on issues such as changes to legislation and guidance and court judgements, keeping the dialogue going via email in between meetings.
Their suggestions are now being listened to on a national level and their meetings have been attended by organisations from Disability Rights and the Communities Empowerment Network.
Sheila Sturgeon, from Oxfordshire County Council, co-ordinates and often chairs the twice yearly meetings. She says of the group: "Most of us work on our own and in 1999 we weren't in a situation to share our experiences. So when this group was formed it was like manna from heaven."
But co-ordinating the representatives is proving more difficult and as the group expands people are finding it harder to get to meetings.
The Council is working with EASI to find a geographical solution, where smaller groups are formed across the country and their experiences and ideas fed in to a national group.
Secondary School Admissions
The House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills published a report "Secondary Education: School Admissions" on 14 July 2004.
In its recommendations, the report makes a number of references to issues raised in the Council's earlier Special Report on School Admission and Exclusion Appeal Panels, published in May 2003.
Hamlyn Lectures 2004
Sir Bob Hepple QC, FBA, Emeritus Master at Clare College, Cambridge, delivered The Hamlyn Lectures 2004 in front of a distinguished audience of academics, practitioners and judges.
The theme of the November 2004 lectures was Rights at Work and in his first two lectures he argued that fundamental human rights should be the bedrock for a nation's global competitiveness and discussed the nature and significance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the workplace.
In his third lecture, he gave suggestions for how judges can apply employment rights introduced by Parliament and those evident in common law in a principled and consistent way.
Click here to view the text from the lectures: http://www.ex.ac.uk/law/other/hamlyn.html
A website has been launched to guide users through the maze of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Run by the Advice Services Alliance, the umbrella body for independent advice services in the UK, the website does not specifically deal with tribunals, but instead lays out the options available to users outside of the courts. These include arbitration, conciliation, mediation and ombudsman schemes.
The website can be accessed at http://www.adrnow.org.uk .
Funding for representation research
The Council will be following with interest a new research project on representation at tribunals by Michael Adler, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Adler has been awarded funding by the Economic and Social Research Council. His research report, The Potential and Limits of Self-Representation in Appeals Tribunals, will look at the first hand experiences of appellants.
This timely piece of work is due out in December 2006 and will explore the implications to self-representation from both the Leggatt Report - One System, One Service - and the DCA's White Paper.
This particular area of the tribunal system is under-researched and the Council views the work as a valuable addition to its body of knowledge.
Recommending research topics to the Department for Constitutional Affairs will be a key role once the Council becomes an Administrative Justice Council and it is already committed to promoting research.
An earlier report by Professor Adler - Tribunal Users' Experiences, Perceptions and Expectations - which he wrote with Jackie Gulland, also from the University of Edinburgh, was published by the Council in November 2003.
Looking to Europe
A thought provoking report on administrative law practices in Europe was published for the first time at the Council's recent annual conference.
European methods of administrative law redress: Netherlands, Norway and Germany, by Trevor Buck, a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester, was commissioned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs' Research Unit.
It examines the administrative law remedies and systems available to the public in the three countries and makes suggestions on how lessons from Europe could help to deliver the proposed administrative justice reforms in the White Paper.
His conclusions include:
• "In the Netherlands, the development of the General Administrative Law Act (GALA) 1994 has provided a significant example of how to achieve a comprehensive codification of administrative law"
• "The existence of a strong ombudsman figure in Norway has arguably precluded the need for the development of a specialist tribunal sector"
• "... the adoption, at least in one German state, of a Federal Law in 1999 which introduced mandatory, court-annexed mediation in certain cases, is showing signs of an over-legalistic approach being taken"
• "The future relationships between the formal court, tribunal, ombudsman and ADR methodologies needs to be carefully considered in order to better deliver the proposed reforms in the government's White Paper"
Hard copies are available from the Council. Phone 020 7855 5200 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to see other reports commissioned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs: www.dca.gov.uk/research/resrep.htm
Council welcomes new appointments
Lord Justice Robert Carnwath and Peter Handcock, Senior President designate of Tribunals and Chief Executive designate of the Tribunals Service respectively, are set to oversee the most radical overhaul of the tribunals and administrative justice system for more than 50 years.
The Council welcomes their appointment and looks forward to a fruitful working relationship with them as the DCA's White Paper - Transforming Public Services - becomes reality.
Lord Justice Carnwath had a mixed practice at the Bar comprising Parliamentary, Planning and Local Government, Revenue and Administrative Law and he was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in January 2002.
Peter Handcock was the Principal Adviser to the Secretary of State on Criminal Justice and DCA's Delivery Director. Prior to this he was acting Chief Executive of the Court Service. He was awarded the CBE in the New Year's honours list.
Mr Justice Hodge has been appointed President designate of the AIT, having previously been Chief Adjudicator at the Immigration Appellate Authority (IAA). He will take up the post on 4 April 2005.
Jeanne Spinks has taken up the post of Chief Executive of the Employment Tribunals Service (ETS), which is transferring to the Department for Constitutional Affairs under the White Paper reforms. Her predecessor, Roger Heathcote, received the CBE in the New Year's honours list.
Jeanne was formerly the Director of Operations at Companies House, joining in 1998 the then Department for Education and Employment.
Click here to go to the ETS homepage: http://www.ets.gov.uk/
Jack Fargher is the new Head of the Mental Health Review Tribunals Secretariat following the retirement of Margaret Burn. Prior to his appointment, Jack was Operations Manager for the Immigration Appellate Authority, Midlands and the North.
To find out more about the Mental Health Review Tribunals click here: http://www.mhrt.org.uk/mhrt/mhrtweb.nsf
Ministerial job swap
Lord Filkin CBE has departed the tribunals world and become Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families at the DfES.
As Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Geoffrey Filkin was instrumental in producing the White Paper. The paper sets tribunals in the wider context of administrative justice as a whole.
The Council welcomes Baroness Ashton of Upholland, who has transferred from the DfES, which she joined in 2001, and has taken his place in the DCA. From July 2002, she was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Surestart, jointly at the Department for Education and Skills and Department for Work and Pensions. From 1998 to 2001, she was chairman of East and North Hertfordshire Health Authority, and later the new Hertfordshire Health Authority.
In her early career, she worked in the voluntary, private and public sectors before becoming a Director of Business in the Community (BITC), where she helped to establish the Employers Forum in Disability and Opportunity 2000.
Lord Newton, the Chairman of the Council, said: "Geoffrey Filkin took a very special and constructive interest in the White Paper, widening its focus and putting greater emphasis on proportionate dispute resolution and on improved decision-making to avoid disputes arising in the first place. It is a challenging but very worthwhile agenda, and I have no doubt Lady Ashton will bring her own strong interest and commitment to carrying it forward."
Profile: Susan Howdle
In the first of a series of profiles, Adjust talks to Susan Howdle, a Council member since April 1998, about her views on the current system and her hopes for the future.
The outcome of a tribunal often has a profound impact on a person's life. It could mean compensation for unfair dismissal, asylum is granted or even housing benefit being decided for someone on a low income.
But, even in this knowledge, countless appellants walk into the process with their eyes closed owing to an incredibly complex system.
Striving to overcome this has played a major part in Susan Howdle's career to date. Indeed, it is an indication of the great range of human skills in evidence on the Council, that Susan was Vice-President of the Methodist Conference from 1993 to 1994. From 1996 to 2002 she was Chairman of the MHA (Methodist Homes for the Aged) Care Group, which provides residential and nursing care for more than 5,500 older people across the country.
A former lecturer in law at the University of Sheffield, Susan's first dealings with tribunals were in the late 80s as a tribunal chairman in the social security and rent assessment fields, historically areas where people have not tended to have representation.
She explains: "What attracted me to the field was the chance to help make tribunals as accessible and approachable as possible to people without representation. I wanted to help them understand what was happening and to feel that they had received a fair hearing.
"Joining the Council was an opportunity to bring my experience to the tribunals world and to a body with wider influence. It has given me an opportunity to delve into an enormous spectrum of tribunal systems."
Susan says during her time with the Council she has found a complex system where there is no "typical tribunal". The vast range of experience and knowledge across the tribunal world is, she says, one of its major strengths, particularly opportunities to share good practice.
However, she still sees how much there is to do in making administrative justice more accessible. So, when the DCA brought out its White Paper, Susan, along with the rest of the Council, was very supportive.
It will mean users placed firmly at the heart of a unified user-friendly service in the biggest shake up of administrative justice in almost 50 years. The implications are huge and potentially extremely positive, Susan says, but her support does carry a word of caution.
She explains: "The Council has been consistently pressing for the reforms outlined in the White Paper but we are still sceptical that these will reduce the need for assistance for a significant number of tribunal users in presenting their case at a hearing. I am not talking about their needing lawyers but more about appropriate representation from, for example, the Citizens Advice Bureau and other specialist advice groups."
But the White Paper is not just about tribunals. The reforms will also mean an increased focus on alternative methods of administrative justice, looking at resolving disputes outside of formal judicial processes.
And there will be a welcome emphasis on improving the quality of initial decision making, against which the appeal is made, again something the Council has been concerned about over the years.
Susan concludes: "As the Council develops in its new role as an Administrative Justice Council, these issues will be at the forefront of its thinking. We are very excited about the challenges ahead and about how we can best contribute to the creation of the new arrangements for administrative justice."
There are big changes ahead at the Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS). In the first of our jurisdiction profiles, Adjust puts Siobhan McGrath, the Senior President of the RPTS, in the hot seat.
The Council's Scottish Committee is holding an all day conference on May 5, 2005 called Energising Good Practice. The conference will be held at the APEX International Hotel in Edinburgh.
Anyone interested in attending the conference should contact Marjorie MacRae on 013 1220 1236 or email: email@example.com
A Conference on tribunals and administrative justice is being held by the Council on May 26, 2005 at a Cardiff venue to be announced.
If you are interested in attending the conference contact Ray Burningham, Acting Secretary, Council on Tribunals, 81 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1BQ. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org