Remote hearings in the social security tribunal: should we be worried?

Burton, Marie ORCID logoORCID: (2021) Remote hearings in the social security tribunal: should we be worried? Journal of Social Security Law, 28 (1) . pp. 36-53. ISSN 1354-7747 [Article]

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The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a complete switch to remote (in practice, telephone) hearings in the Social Entitlement Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal. This paper considers the implications of remote hearings for social security appellants. To date, there is little specific research on the conduct of remote social security hearings, but comparisons between oral and paper appeals indicate that oral hearings are more successful than paper appeals. This is attributed to the increased information available to tribunals as a result of oral evidence and the greater credibility accorded to the appellant as a result of appearing in person. This paper examines the implications of remote hearings on appellants’ cases from the perspective of communication, emotional engagement, practicalities and appellant vulnerability. Evidence drawn from recent ‘Rapid Reviews’ of the impact of Covid-19 on the civil and family justice systems suggests that while remote hearings may be appropriate for procedural hearings involving legal representatives, they are problematic for fact-finding hearings involving unrepresented parties, cross-examination and witness evidence. This paper seeks to use research with clients, lawyers and advisers engaged in the frontline of legal practice to challenge assumptions made by many legal commentators and policymakers that remote processes can be an adequate and/or complete replacement for face-to-face interactions. It highlights a considerable danger that, in the long-term, the current drive towards remote social security hearings will make it harder for unrepresented appellants to mount successful appeals and undermine their access to justice.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Item ID: 32277
Notes on copyright: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social Security Law following peer review. The definitive published version Burton, Marie (2021) Remote hearings in the social security tribunal: should we be worried? Journal of Social Security Law, 28(1), 36-53 . ISSN 1354-7747 is available online on Westlaw UK (
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Depositing User: Marie Burton
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 09:08
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2022 12:06

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