The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) have cancelled the recruitment of more disabled people onto disability living allowance (DLA) tribunal panels which was due to have taken place later this year. This has led to fears of even longer backlogs for DLA hearings.

DLA appeal panels are legally required to have three members: a solicitor, a doctor and a person who is either disabled or who has knowledge of disability issues through their work. New panel members are normally recruited each year to replace those who have dropped out.

However, the (JAC) sent out an email last week to all those who had expressed an interest in applying to become disability members. The email simply stated that:

“​ At the request of the Ministry of Justice, this exercise has been postponed. The exercise may run in the 2012/13 JAC selection exercise programme, however this is not confirmed.”​

It is suspected that this may be a cost cutting exercise, allowing the tribunals service to concentrate its resources on dealing with the ever growing backlog of employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals. ESA tribunal panels only have a solicitor and a doctor sitting on them, disability members are not used.

However, the number of DLA appeals has also been rising sharply, though nowhere near as dramatically as ESA. In 2009-10 there were 71,700 DLA appeals. In 2010-11 there were 79,500, an increase of more than 10%. Given that some disability members retire or stop work through ill health each year, there can be no doubt that the decision to freeze recruitment will increase waiting times for DLA appeals to be heard.

The JAC recruitment page is here.


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