The Judiciary

Beveridge started it all in 1948. That is, the Welfare State. Since then there has been an ever increasing, ever changing and ever more complex set of rules and regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which, and the amounts which, can be awarded to claimants for benefit.

Probably Beveridge could never have contemplated the annual budget administered now by the Department of Work and Pensions (formerly the DSS, formerly the DHSS etc.).

In essence the system is simple. People become ill and can’t work; people are unemployed; people achieve pension age; people become disabled and infirm; people have accidents at work and people with children fall out.

In each of those cases (and many more) the State has machinery to help.

If a claimant believes that he is entitled, he must make a claim and if his expectations and hopes are fulfilled, benefit will be awarded.

That however is not always the case! Common circumstances, other than meeting the claim in full, are that

  1. the claim is not met in full,
  2. the claim is not met at all and
  3. after the event, it is found that the claim has been ‘over-met’ and there is money [sic] back to the State.

In each of those situations, for example, there may be reasons which it is considered justify registering a protest against the decision which has been made by the Secretary of State.

To meet those kind of circumstances, the Appeals Service exists nationwide to hear appeals - it is hoped quickly and without the great, possibly terrifying, procedures which have to be faced in the Courts system.

The hope is that the issues can be identified, heard before a Tribunal specially constituted to deal with the problem in question and a decision made within 3 months.

The appellants are not subject to cross-examination although searching questions will no doubt be asked but within the relatively informal atmosphere of the Tribunal, whose task is to find as much out about the situation, find facts and apply the law.

The procedure is aimed at enabling the appellant to make as much of his case as he can without the fear of costs being awarded against him or her should the appeal be dismissed.

Four Heathens are, or have been, engaged in dispensing justice within the system over the last several years.

First, and the one retiree, is Mr John Shoesmith [1934–1942] who still is a regular attender at the Old Boys’ Dinners. John was an accomplished rugby footballer at school and went on to represent Yorkshire as a centre-three-quarter during his medical training. He came to the Appeals Service in his capacity as a general surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary and served on the Tribunals with great distinction until his retirement.

Consultants of his status were required when adjudicating upon Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, which required, apart from hearing the appeal with a lawyer, a medical examination and an assessment by the Tribunal of the degree of disablement following an accident at work.

Dr Brian Whitaker [1943–1951] also embarked upon his medical training at Leeds University and the teaching hospitals there. Brian has now been a member of the Appeals Service since 1992 and because of an age-bar will shortly be ending a period of valuable service.

He has sat on Tribunals which deal with appeals about Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance - primarily in the Wakefield venue but his abilities are such that his talents have been sought over a far wider field.

He is well known and has endeared himself to other Tribunal members by providing bags of delightful doughnuts every time he sits.

Brian is also a regular attender at the Old Boys' Dinners.

Mr Richard Crosland [1957–1964] is a chartered accountant in Halifax and is a regular member of the Heath Old Boys' Walking Group, which meets every first Saturday in the month.

His consummate talents have been recognised for the purposes of dealing with appeals from that notoriously complex and troubled area of Child Support.

Not every such case required the assistance of a financially qualified panel member but Richard is enlisted where questions are likely to arise from complicated self-employed accounts or from the accounts of private limited companies. Richard serves mainly in Leeds but again his talents have taken him to such far-flung venues as Carlisle, Newcastle and Hull.

Mr Grayham Smith [1952–1959] having been a partner in the Halifax firm of solicitors Rice Jones and Smith for 25 years and having served as a part-time chairman of Tribunals from 1989, became a full-time district chairman in 1993. Lawyers take the chair in all Tribunals and Grayham sometimes sits alone, with consultant medical members, with GPs (like Brian Whitaker) and with financially qualified panel members, i.e. Richard Crosland and his ilk. He chairs Tribunals in the whole range of Social Security and allied appeals and is now a district chairman, jointly with another, for Leeds, Bradford and Keighley, an area which also incorporates the whole of Calderdale for appeals purposes.

John Shoesmith is now retired but the other three remain very active and it can be safely said that all have and do derive great enjoyment from the work as a result of the intellectual stimulus provided by the never-ending challenges presented by diverse appellants from all walks of life, each one presenting their own story, their misfortunes and their needs.

- and, by association, Beáta Connell, the wife of Andrew Connell [1958–1966] who is also a District Chairman, having been educated in the Kossuth Gimnasium, Budapest [1967–1971] and at Budapest University [1971–1976]. She qualified as a solicitor in the UK in 1982 and now lives with Andrew and their three children in Appleby.

Grayham P Smith [1952–1959]