An excellent opportunity has arisen to join the judiciary as a fee-paid Disability Member of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber. This role is open to people with a disability, or people who work in a voluntary or professional capacity with disabled people. There are 115 vacancies throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
You will sit on the tribunal alongside a doctor (who is the medically qualified tribunal member) and a judge to decide cases brought before the tribunal. You will be given the papers for the hearing in advance. You will be expected to read and understand the information before the hearing starts. This may involve studying substantial amounts of complex documentary evidence.
During the hearing, you will use your experience of disabilities to assist the tribunal. You will do this by:
- applying your knowledge to the facts of the case
- examining the evidence
- asking questions during the hearing
- helping to reach a decision on the appeal with the other panel members
You will be assigned to a primary tribunal venue based on your home location and will be asked to undertake tribunal business as the need arises. How often you are asked to sit will depend on the workload of the tribunal as well as your own commitments and availability. Hearings are scheduled for 3 hours and you will usually be expected to sit at least 15 days a year for tribunal business, and to attend mandatory training.
Larry O’Callaghan, a disability member of Social Entitlement Chamber, says:
“As a disabled person myself I am very aware that a downturn in health can be life-changing. I also know that it is fully possible to lead a fulfilling life through being positive and willing to adapt. The fascination is that genuinely, every case is different - individuals all have their particular and distinct personalities and health experiences.
“The work is interesting and challenging, with a sharp learning curve. It is very rewarding work that allows me to employ my existing skills and undoubtedly to develop new ones.”
Nick Clarke is a disability member of Social Entitlement Chamber. On being a tribunal member, he says:
“I find the work is intense, and feel it is an important responsibility. As well as providing a financial benefit that addresses the additional costs of living with a disability, receiving the benefit can also feel like a validation of the difficulties people face. Our decisions therefore can have a considerable impact on individuals and their families.”
More information on how to apply to become a disability member