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 Report 21

The Structure and Form of Social Security Appeals, 1984

Summary of the report

The report was transmitted to the Government on 12 April 1984, and was tabled in the Parliament on 3 October 1984.

The report contains 20 recommendations for reform. The Council recommended the improvement of the existing two-tier structure of external review to consist of a single national Tribunal (rather than the existing Social Security Appeals Tribunals ('SSAT')), with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ('AAT') providing review at a second tier. Improvements recommended to the system of review provided by the SSAT were:

  • that the SSAT be given a legislative foundation, and granted determinative powers,
  • that certain conditions apply to the membership and constitution of the SSAT,
  • that various provisions be made regarding the powers of the SSAT, and for the conduct of proceedings,and
  • that internal review not be a prerequisite to seeking external review.

Minor changes were recommended to improve the system of review provided by the AAT. The Council also recommended that a national survey of the needs of social security claimants be conducted.

Two Council members dissented from a majority recommendation that panels of the SSAT contain a public service member, and that SSAT hearings generally be conducted in private.

Response to the report

The Government's initial response was that, although it gave in-principle support for the proposal to grant determinative powers to the SSAT, it saw advantages in the short-term in retaining the SSAT's recommendatory role. However, in the May 1988 Economic Statement, the Government announced that the SSAT would be given determinative powers. Subsequently, the Social Security (Review of Decisions) Act 1988 was passed on 17 October 1988 and came into effect on 1 November 1988. That Act established a determinative SSAT as the first-tier tribunal for social security decisions. However, mandatory internal review was also retained.