Perth and North Perthshire MP, Pete Wishart, has spearheaded calls for the UK Government to commit to having tribunal hearings in Perth and Perthshire. Currently anyone appealing a decision on social security benefits or an immigration matter must travel to Dundee, Fife or Stirling to have their hearing, as no such facility is provided in Perthshire. This means that people with severe disabilities, people who are experiencing mental ill-health and some of the most vulnerable people in society are expected to travel long distances from their home to access the support they need.
HM Courts and Tribunal Service is an agency of the UK Government, which falls under the Ministry of Justice. It hears appeals on matters such as social security, immigration and child support.
Speaking today, Mr Wishart said:
“The UK Government expect residents in Perthshire to travel long distances to attend appeal hearings without any consideration for how difficult or distressing it is to even attend the hearing, never mind the stress of the actual hearing itself. I have written to the Director of HM Courts and Tribunal Service and the Secretary of State for Justice to see what can be done to make it easier for residents in Perth and Kinross to access these services.
“The DWP have already stopped providing most assessments in the local area and the Tribunal Service are not helping the matter by insisting that all hearings must be heard in Dundee, Fife or Stirling.
“The latest figures show that 72% of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeals found in favour of the applicant. That is an astonishing figure. That is 72% of people challenging the DWP and winning.
“This is a huge drain on Perth and Kinross Council resources as staff members are expected to travel to these centres, whereas it would be much easier for all involved if they could commit to having some hearings sit in Perth. There seems to be no valid reason to force people to travel long distances to these hearings and I look forward to hearing what can be done to bring these closer to the people who rely on them.”
Strathearn Councillor, Stewart Donaldson, added:
“For Perth and Kinross Council this is clearly an issue in terms of staffing. For every minute Welfare Rights staff spend traveling to tribunal hearings, it is a minute that they are not available on the phones to support people through the baffling process of applying for Universal Credit. Having hearings available in Perth and Kinross would obviously reduce this impact on council staff but it would also make it significantly easier and probably less stressful for those attending the hearings too.”