Tribunals for diverse users
Professor Hazel Genn, Ben Lever, Lauren Gray with Nigel Balmer and National Centre for Social Research, January 2006
- People who challenge administrative decisions tend to be the most determined and confident, or the ones who are successful in obtaining advice and support.
- About one-quarter of unsuccessful tribunal users had not understood the reason for the decision and this was more often the case among Minority Ethnic than White users.
This is a study of access, expectations, experiences and outcomes in three tribunals: the Appeals Service [TAS], Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel [CICAP], and Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal [SENDIST]. It was designed specifically to compare the experiences of White, Black, and Minority Ethnic users. Key messages include:
- Users are on the whole treated well at tribunal hearings and the majority of users, across ethnic groups, perceive this to be the case, at least before they receive their decision.
- Tribunal users' expectations of proceedings were vague, with an unacceptably high proportion of users in TAS and CICAP not knowing what to expect. Some anticipated a judge and jury, others a friendly and informal chat.
- About half of the users attended hearings without representation, generally because it had not occurred to them to seek representation, or because they had tried and been unable to obtain representation. Unrepresented Minority Ethnic users were more likely than White users to have tried and failed to obtain representation.
- With the assistance of tribunals, most users were able to present their cases reasonably well. However, observation during hearings revealed deep and fundamental differences in language, literacy, culture, education, confidence and fluency, which cross ethnic boundaries and significantly affected users' ability to present their case. In some circumstances, an advocate may be crucial to procedural and substantive fairness.
- In TAS, case type, representation and ethnic group independently influenced the outcome of hearings. Unrepresented TAS users were less likely to succeed at their hearing than represented TAS users. Minority Ethnic TAS users were slightly less likely to be successful than White TAS users. By contrast, in CICAP and SENDIST only case type had a significant impact on the outcome of hearings.
- The TAS outcome findings regarding representation and ethnicity raise some important questions. TAS users, who often come from among the most disadvantaged groups in society, were significantly less likely than CICAP or SENDIST users to present their cases well and this affected the outcomes of hearings. In the case of some Minority Ethnic groups, language and cultural differences may present additional complications in enabling users to make the best of their case.
The report can be found at http://www.dca.gov.uk/research/2006/01_2006.htm