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BC Welfare Rights
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I did a (telephone) hearing in Manchester last week. I was told that they were using a telephone system - BT (something, sorry cannot remember what) - that has 8 lines available so Reps and POs can be included. It did break down a couple of times but otherwise fine. I don’t know if this is now being used everywhere or just certain venues.

Mike Hughes
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https://www.globalservices.bt.com/en/my-account/support/collaboration/bt-meetme

Not that anyone at HMCTS has acknowledged this or put the effort in to contact partner organisations. We are “partners” aren’t we!!!

Unofficially I’d heard it had improved things. Officially most clerks are still saying 5 and simply bypassing all comms with reps.

Admin in Liverpool told a colleague there was no way we’d be getting bundles emailed for example and yet higher up HMCTS have made it clear it will happen on request and the judiciary are sensible directing it. Then of course there’s the Equality Act 2010 and RAs but no-one at Dale Street think that comes into play ever for anything.

Mike Hughes
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BC Welfare Rights - 11 May 2020 05:06 PM

I did a (telephone) hearing in Manchester last week. I was told that they were using a telephone system - BT (something, sorry cannot remember what) - that has 8 lines available so Reps and POs can be included. It did break down a couple of times but otherwise fine. I don’t know if this is now being used everywhere or just certain venues.

I got some clarity on this. The fact it was a Manchester hearing and managed by Manchester was basically lucky. The system does not have the same capacity everywhere. So, for example, Manchester appeals run by Liverpool might only have capacity for 4 or 5 depending on which room they’re run from. Other venues, different again.

Have to say that of all the Covid-19 responses it is entirely predictable that it’s only HMCTS that has fallen woefully short; failed miserably with basic and consistent comms and creating a problem for themselves further down the road.

Brian Fletcher
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I’m not having a great deal of luck with anything at the moment.

I’ve adjourned two appeals due to the fact I had requested evidence delayed by the current situation. I and the client received notification on the 6th May for a hearing today, despite the fact the letter from HMCTS was actually typed up on the 22nd April.

I submitted a request for directions on the 27th March for a long running case and I’ve had absolutely nothing from the Tribunal. The ironic bit, is part of my argument to strike out in the direction request is; 

“The Appellant has already been subjected to an unconscionable delay due to the Respondents lack of engagement. The Human Rights Act 1998 gives direct effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 6 of the Convention provides that ‘In the determination of his civil rights …, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.’”

You couldn’t make it up really

Mike Hughes
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I thought making it up was pretty much exactly what HMCTS have been doing tbh Brian.

Martin Williams
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Mike Hughes - 11 May 2020 06:23 PM

https://www.globalservices.bt.com/en/my-account/support/collaboration/bt-meetme

Not that anyone at HMCTS has acknowledged this or put the effort in to contact partner organisations. We are “partners” aren’t we!!!

Unofficially I’d heard it had improved things. Officially most clerks are still saying 5 and simply bypassing all comms with reps.

Admin in Liverpool told a colleague there was no way we’d be getting bundles emailed for example and yet higher up HMCTS have made it clear it will happen on request and the judiciary are sensible directing it. Then of course there’s the Equality Act 2010 and RAs but no-one at Dale Street think that comes into play ever for anything.

Mike- are you certain that HMCTS are now using BT MeetMe for these calls? Is that universal? If that is right then the maximum participants for that seems to be 40 so this problem of “5 people max” should go away once the Clerks understand this? (see here for number of participants- https://www.bt.com/static/i/media/pdf/meet_me_intro_ug.pdf -page 3)

I’d be interested to hear of anyone else where rep not included in hearing for this reason -and particularly interested to see a statement of reasons for a claimant where this happened and then they lost appeal.

Martin

Mike Hughes
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Hi Martin,

Not 100% certain no. I know some offices are but I’m not clear that all are. I suspect this is highly improvised so the restrictions may be bandwidth based at each site.

I do get a sense that part of the issue is that some outdoor clerks are currently performing the roles of indoor clerks with mixed outcomes.

Mike

 

Daphne
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Just on a telephone DWP stakeholder meeting where the deputy director of HMCTS is on the call. Raised the issue of reps not being contacted - apparently HMCTS is aware of the issue and is looking into it and will be getting back to us about how this should work!

They also confirmed that there is no technical impediment to the limit on the number of people who can attend a telephone hearing - if anyone who’s had an issue with that could let me have details I can feed them back.

Will update when I get anything back…

grant
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For the record we had problems with getting reps included in the phone hearing during April but since the beginning of May here in Liverpool (Dale Street) we have had no problems. I’m told they have a capacity of 20 for conference calls.
Nevip, have you had any problems since the beginning of May.

Mike Hughes
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grant - 14 May 2020 03:24 PM

For the record we had problems with getting reps included in the phone hearing during April but since the beginning of May here in Liverpool (Dale Street) we have had no problems. I’m told they have a capacity of 20 for conference calls.
Nevip, have you had any problems since the beginning of May.

Depends on which room in Dale Street as I understand it.

nevip
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grant - 14 May 2020 03:24 PM

For the record we had problems with getting reps included in the phone hearing during April but since the beginning of May here in Liverpool (Dale Street) we have had no problems. I’m told they have a capacity of 20 for conference calls.
Nevip, have you had any problems since the beginning of May.

Hi Grant

I’ve not had any clients do a phone hearing since the lockdown began.  I’ve got a couple of clients that have been offered them but following my advice have had their cases put back for face to face hearings. 

I did a phone hearing in a punter’s kitchen last year.  It was a joke.  Not really a conference call at all as the phone had to be held close to the ear to hear anything.  Just about scraped a decent decision.  An experience I would not want to repeat.

Brian JB
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Phone hearing earlier this week from Birkenhead venue - 5 participants and no problems - went smoothly

Keith S Adviser
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How much notification were you given before telephone hearing and did all parties have access to papers (bundle) ?

Chrissum
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Hi Keith. Received notification for a phone hearing week before the hearing date (I didn’t see it until late the following day), a week that included a bank holiday. Quoting from the notification:
“The tribunal is normally required to provide parties with 14 days’ notice of their hearing, bit this period can be shorter if the parties agree, or in urgent or exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic mean that the tribunal has a significantly reduced staff, and you may not have been given 14 days’ notice. If this is the case, and you require 14 days’ notice, you may contact the tribunal and ask that your hearing is postponed
“Please could you call the contact centre to advise if you are participating in the hearing, and to provide us with your contact number”
The hearing didn’t actually take place and the administration of the case wasn’t exactly as sharp as usual, but is this what other people are experiencing re notice and notification.

Brian JB
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I had about 2 weeks notice, which is a marked improvement on the previous two cases

CHAC Adviser
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Brian JB - 18 May 2020 01:59 PM

I had about 2 weeks notice, which is a marked improvement on the previous two cases

Think they’ve managed to backslide again…

I got two hours notice of a telephone hearing yesterday afternoon. First we knew about it was a missed call from the clerk about “the tribunal hearing at 1540 this afternoon”. Thankfully the judge was very understanding and agreed to a postponement within a few minutes of the start of the hearing. But yeah, that certainly made my Monday afternoon more exciting than I’d expected…

Paul_Moorhouse
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Brian JB - 18 May 2020 01:59 PM

I had about 2 weeks notice, which is a marked improvement on the previous two cases

  Just had 4 weeks notice of two!

However:

1) The first was listing a case which had been set aside by the UT at the begining of April and the listing notice was the first intimation I ‘d had that the UT had even made a decision .

2)  I’m still waiting for reply to umpteen enquiries I’ve sent asking whether they had received or circulated the submission I sent in mid March for the postponed face to face hearing for the other case.

Some you win, some you lose…

Mike Hughes
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Just had 16 days notice but:

- listed on a day I explicitly said in the SSCS1 I would ordinarily never be available.
- no large print for me nor the appellant despite it being directed.
- with 60 pages missing from the appeal bundle (still).
- no sub as directed by a Judge from DWP to address their little fib about the appellant never having claimed DLA previously. We produced the award letter.
- no evidence that HMCTS direction to themselves to approach school was ever actioned. Not fussed about this one tbf as the school evidence was unlikely to be of any value.

Hit the point where I think we proceed if only to highlight the buffoonery. Likely that the gaps at this point will support the appellant rather than be to their detriment given that this adjourned at lockdown for exactly the above reasons after claimant highlighted that I’d been excluded.

Made sure HMCTS have 2 numbers to contact me but when I pointed out the above issues then the attitude was basically go and complain then.

In the meantime I gather HMCTS genuinely believe they’ve been at the forefront of change these past months!

Daphne
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On behalf of rightsnet I’m going to a meeting with Mrs Justice Farbey, President of the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber on 22 June to feedback how COVID-19 measures are going. Can obviously feedback all stuff here already but do add on any other additional stuff you have or email/message me directly.

BC Welfare Rights
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Hi Daphne. I have had a couple of hearings where it has taken an inordinate amount of time for the decision to be sent out afterwards. For example, straightforward PIP appeal at Bradford on 15th May, neither claimant nor I have had the decision yet. Had another one where it took about a month for the decision to be posted out (also Bradford). I don’t know whether it is a venue specific problem. Others from there have arrived within a day or two.

CHAC Adviser
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Thanks Daphne, one other thing that I’ve had trouble with is telephone numbers for telephone hearings aren’t being looked at closely enough by the clerks. Had a hearing (that I was notified about) adjourned because the clerk couldn’t get through to me to join the hearing. Turns out they’d tried ringing on our public number despite me having spoken to HMCTS a week earlier to share my personal mobile number with them so they could call me directly whilst working from home. When I spoke to HMCTS again after the fact they confirmed that the number had been recorded but was not in the top note on their system anymore so the clerk didn’t spot it. Case was ready to proceed so that’s been delayed for who knows how long.

Mike Hughes
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Several cases but I suspect it may be of more value to make some general points which fall out of other posts above:

1 - what HMCTS say they’re doing or are telling their senior staff they’re doing often has no relationship to what’s taking place on the ground.
2 - there are clearly a number of outdoor clerks involved in indoor operations who (take your pick) have either not been trained on the indoor roles; are incompetent; are being asked to do too many things.
3 - they generally believe they’ve achieved more in 2 months than they have in 2 years and are somehow at the forefront of change. I think this is disingenuous nonsense. On many levels they have largely been somewhere on a scale between obstructive and incompetent. They refuse to email stuff (even though parts of the organisation say they can and have done) and I wholly endorse the recent comments above from BC Welfare Rights and CHAC Adviser.
4 - the impression many people are getting is that this has been seized as an opportunity to exclude representation wherever possible and to disengage. It’s not a good look and their senior management need to decide whether they fess up to that agenda or look much, much harder at what they’re being told on the ground.
5 - the disregard of the obligations of existing legislation such as the HRA or EA10 seems wilful.
6 -the idea that FT judges are triaging cases before telephone hearings seems more breached than observed.

Does that seem fair to others?

Peter Turville
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Mike Hughes - 10 June 2020 12:49 PM

Several cases but I suspect it may be of more value to make some general points which fall out of other posts above:

1 - what HMCTS say they’re doing or are telling their senior staff they’re doing often has no relationship to what’s taking place on the ground.
2 - there are clearly a number of outdoor clerks involved in indoor operations who (take your pick) have either not been trained on the indoor roles; are incompetent; are being asked to do too many things.
3 - they generally believe they’ve achieved more in 2 months than they have in 2 years and are somehow at the forefront of change. I think this is disingenuous nonsense. On many levels they have largely been somewhere on a scale between obstructive and incompetent. They refuse to email stuff (even though parts of the organisation say they can and have done) and I wholly endorse the recent comments above from BC Welfare Rights and CHAC Adviser.
4 - the impression many people are getting is that this has been seized as an opportunity to exclude representation wherever possible and to disengage. It’s not a good look and their senior management need to decide whether they fess up to that agenda or look much, much harder at what they’re being told on the ground.
5 - the disregard of the obligations of existing legislation such as the HRA or EA10 seems wilful.
6 -the idea that FT judges are triaging cases before telephone hearings seems more breached than observed.

Does that seem fair to others?

Mike, I can’t disagree with you particularly on points 1 & 4. HMCTS has deteriorated from an excellent service when it was the Tribunal Service to an absolute shambles over a relatively short period of time.

In my experience judges and HMCTS staff are just as frustrated etc with HMCTS from their perspective as we are from ours. They are trying (but not always succeeding?) to make the best of a (very) bad job. The current situation has only further highlighted the long term issues as HMCTS scrambles to adapt to the situation.

It the same old story of central (and local) government being unable to manage change and being driven by short term policy objectives with the gloss of improving access to justice (or any other spin of your choice).

Paus17
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Daphne - 14 May 2020 11:11 AM

Just on a telephone DWP stakeholder meeting where the deputy director of HMCTS is on the call. Raised the issue of reps not being contacted - apparently HMCTS is aware of the issue and is looking into it and will be getting back to us about how this should work!

They also confirmed that there is no technical impediment to the limit on the number of people who can attend a telephone hearing - if anyone who’s had an issue with that could let me have details I can feed them back.

Will update when I get anything back…

Daphne - I don’t have any HMCTS horror stories but maybe I’ve just been lucky. On a positive note I’ve had a couple of cases now when the FtT has allowed appeals in full without hearings, and without asking clients if they agree to paper hearing. This seems to me to be a highly commendable approach, getting clear-cut appeals dealt with quickly and without the stress of a telephone hearing.

One issue you may want to raise is to ask whether there is a backlog of UT decisions waiting to be issued. We saw yesterday an important decision - CPIP/2152/2019 - which was signed off by the judge as long ago as 26 March. I would have thought UT work would be highly suitable for remote working .

Elliot Kent
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Paus17 - 11 June 2020 11:54 AM

One issue you may want to raise is to ask whether there is a backlog of UT decisions waiting to be issued. We saw yesterday an important decision - CPIP/2152/2019 - which was signed off by the judge as long ago as 26 March. I would have thought UT work would be highly suitable for remote working .

My understanding is that UT is or was having problems because of how the physical files are dealt with and stored.

It’s also the case that the decisions are often published on the website some time after they are issued to the parties.

(Unlike the case I did recently in the UT lands chamber where I found the decision on Bailii before it was issued to me…)

 

Daphne
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Updated guidance has just been issued on how appeals are being handled in the Social Entitlement Chamber - it includes

No appeal is being delayed until after the end of the pandemic. The Tribunal will make every
effort to list appeals as soon as possible.