Social workers, care providers, detained mental health patients and parents of disabled children will all be affected by an overhaul of the tribunals system that came into force this week.
The government has brought together almost all tribunals, which handle a range of appeals, into a single structure, to pool expertise, cut bureaucracy and speed up decisions.
A new First-tier Tribunal will absorb the work of most former tribunals, including:-
- The Care Standards Tribunal, which handled appeals by social workers against registration and conduct decisions by the General Social Care Council; appeals by care staff against government decisions to bar them from working with children or vulnerable adults; and appeals by care providers against enforcement and registration decisions by Ofsted and the Commission for Social Care Inspection.
- The Mental Health Review Tribunal, which reviewed the cases of people detained under the Mental Health Act and could order their discharge.
- The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, which handled appeals by parents against local authority decisions concerning special educational needs.
These three have been grouped together into a new Health, Education and Social Care Chamber, within the First-tier Tribunal. However, members of the former CST, MHRT and SENDIST will continue to hear similar cases and anyone moving into a different jurisdiction will have to demonstrate the requisite knowledge and skills
Appeals against decisions made by the First-tier Tribunal will be passed to a new Upper Tribunal, rather than the High Court, as previously happened. The Upper Tribunal will also hear appeals against the decisions of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will handle the vetting and barring scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults that comes into force next year.
The National Autistic Society said it welcomed some of the changes, as regards SEN appeals. But chief executive Mark Lever said: “Overall, we believe the lack of information from the government about the new process has been unacceptable and resulted in misinformation, anxiety and stress for families, which could have been avoided.”
The government has consulted on bringing the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal into the new structure, and will publish the results of this shortly.