We have experts in a wide range of specialities who are experienced in giving evidence in cases of Social Entitlement Proceedings
What are Social Entitlement Proceedings?
The Social Entitlement Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal is comprised of three tribunals:
- Social security and child support
- Asylum support
- Criminal injuries compensation
The social security and child support (SSCS) tribunal principally hears appeals on benefit entitlements against decisions taken by departments of the government, for example, the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC. It also makes decisions on appeals about liability for child support payments. Panels typically consist of a judge and one or two non-legal members with specialist expertise, for example in medicine, disability, and accountancy.
The asylum support tribunal hears appeals pertaining to declined or discontinued asylum applications. Most appeals consist of oral hearings either in person or over a video link, however, sometimes a decision can be made just on the papers of the case.
The criminal injuries compensation tribunal decides on appeals about whether compensation is to be paid to a victim of a violent crime. It can also decide on the nature and quantum of the compensation. The hearing will first decide on whether a violent crime has taken place, the nature and severity of the injury sustained, and take into account loss of earnings, special expenses and criminal convictions.
What issues do our experts typically address?
In order to consider an appeal, the First Tier Tribunal collects information from as many sources as possible, and may directly instruct expert witnesses to inform the process. Experts are also often instructed by the legal representative of the individual making the application.
It depends on which tribunal of the chamber is in question and the nature of the application the claimant is making as to which expert is most appropriate to be instructed.
For the SSCTS tribunal, many of the appeals are related to decisions made by the DWP on cases where an individual has claimed social security benefits due to an inability to work. This is commonly related to a disability or disabilities suffered by the claimant. An important aspect of instructing an expert witness may therefore be to establish whether the individual has a disability under section 6(1) of the Equality Act 2010, and if so, the degree of impairment caused. The specialism of the expert who should be instructed will depend on the nature of the disability. Different experts will also be able to give different perspectives on the impact of a disability.
For example, in cases of chronic pain following hernia repair surgery, an expert in upper GI surgery will be able to give evidence regarding the underlying medical condition and the treatment options and associated risks. A GP expert and pain specialist expert will both be able to comment on the course of chronic pain and impact on daily life including ability to work. An expert in occupational therapy may be instructed regarding the adaptions that may be needed to daily living for the claimant due to the impairment. An expert in occupational medicine can provide valuable insight into an individual’s ability to work, and can help inform decisions regarding quantum of compensation. If there is doubt as to which expert(s) may be most appropriate to instruct in a particular case, we will be happy to discuss the case with you and provide guidance.
For appeals to the asylum support tribunal, Country of Origin experts can provide valuable insight into the political, social, and cultural issues in the pertinent country. They can also be instructed to give evidence on the prognosis of any relevant health disorder with or without a return to the individual’s country of origin. There is often a history of extensive trauma in cases of individuals seeking asylum. An expert in psychiatry or psychology can give evidence regarding the impact of trauma on the mental state of an individual, and the risk that they may suffer harm as a result of a return to the origin country. This can include commenting on the associated risk of suicide, and adverse outcomes of resulting mental disorders.
Once again, in criminal injuries compensation hearings, the specialty of the expert most appropriate to be instructed will depend on the reported injury of the claimant. For example, if the individual has suffered a head injury as a result of a violent crime it may be important to instruct a neurologist or neuroradiologist. An expert in emergency medicine can be instructed to comment on the original injury and investigations and treatment received at the time.
Psychiatry experts are often instructed to comment on whether a mental disorder reaches the threshold to be considered a disability. They may also be asked to provide evidence on psychiatric injury. This is the amount of psychiatric harm that has been sustained as a result of an event or series of events occurring during the relevant period. A common example for these proceedings would be whether a claimant has symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and if these symptoms were caused or exacerbated by the reported violent crime.