Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 84)



  80. At the back of my mind is that we do not really know whether or not there is a consistency. I have a sneaking suspicion it might well be that the complaints would be significantly greater than the percentages you referred to earlier in terms of six per cent of the people who were appealing.
  (Mr Ward) I am not sure there is any evidence to suggest that the range of complaints we are receiving imply, I think, there is an issue. There is nothing between us on our desire to understand better the particular needs of the range of client groups we deal with. There is absolutely nothing between us on that. The issue has been quite where I have been able to devote the resources and attention to which client groups, in which order, in order to get to the bottom of that activity. We are not there yet in relation to that particular client group. I would be surprised if we were not taking specific action during the course of this year in order to tackle it but I had to decide which client group I thought most needed attention in the short-term and the figures in front of me in terms of the nature of the client groups led me to the conclusion that I ought to prioritise on sickness and disability.

Dr Naysmith

  81. You made an assumption when you were talking about sickness and disability that there would be the same range of ethnicity in your clients as there would be in the population as a whole.
  (Mr Ward) A generalised assumption.

  82. It could well not be true, it might be one way or the other. It could be that clients of one particular type were discouraged from appealing or it could be that they ended up a very large proportion of appellants because of the way that cases were dealt with originally. I do realise what you are saying is absolutely accurate, you have got to deal with the clients who come before you, but there could be some very interesting statistics in your analysis of those client groups.
  (Mr Ward) I would only say we are very interested in trying to remove any barrier that stops anyone accessing our service. It does not matter whether it is one individual, 20 per cent of the client group or 70 per cent.

  83. That is the point.
  (Mr Ward) The only issue is how quickly can we understand where the barriers are and how quickly can we tackle them. There are only so many hours in the day that we are able to tackle it, but there is no lack of willingness on our part, it is a matter of where we devote our attention.

  Mr King: As Judge Harris said earlier, we will no doubt return on the issues that were raised with him and I think this is a serial that will go on as well.


  84. We can book Judge Harris before he leaves. We have really run over our time although we could talk about this for a lot longer. In fact, it has been very interesting. Speaking for myself, I think the Committee feels that what you have told us this morning is encouraging. You have obviously been through quite a difficult two year period putting this whole thing on to a new footing, and I think you have done that successfully, but you will of course understand that we are pushing for further progress.
  (Judge Harris) So are we.

  Chairman: We recognise that too. If we can continue a dialogue we would find that very helpful. Thank you very much again at short notice for your appearance this morning.

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