Well after a whirlwind of trips to hearings in March I am finally home for a while. It is time to reflect on how everything has gone over the last month - and I have had the benefit to attend hearings in many different provinces in the country.
I have met some tribunal members that I have known for many years - and some new Social Security Tribunal members that I have met for the first time.
Firstly, I wish to compliment the majority of the tribunal members - they have all been excellent in ensuring the clients have a what I would consider a "good" hearing. Whether the decision is favourable or not, I have walked out of the tribunal experience feeling like the clients have been heard and respected. Each Tribunal Member has a slightly different style in regards to how they like to conduct the tribunal - but overall very good in terms of professionalism and comfort and care of the ciient. That is what it is really about - the client experience - and the service to the client the tribunal member can provide during what is a very difficult and stressful time. Given my experience with some of the bureaucrats at the Social Security Tribunal - I was worried that the "culture" of the Tribunal would reflect the way their "views" appeared to me in my conversations with some staff there - but I am glad that this has not appeared to have trickled down to the Tribunal Members who have really come to the table without judgment.
Many of the people that I help, have really difficult stories - often a lot of crap has happened to them in their lives - and sometimes they have not managed in what one may consider an appropriate way - perhaps they have had addicitions, or incarcerations, or extreme mental illness that has led to real difficulties interacting with the average Joe. Sometimes they can be obese and full of shame, sometimes they come impaired on whatever medications they have been prescribed - it can really be a challenge managing and like Forrest Gump - you never know what you are going to get. It is a juggling act - trying to figure out how best to help and what tact to use, and how to make sure the Tribunal Member really gets to understand the "person in respect of whom the determination is made." You have 90 minutes to do this - try condensing what is important to 90 minutes. Some times I am privy to very personal and gut wrenching information - and you know sometimes there is information I am just not aware of until I meet someone face to face.
I have really appreciated that the tribunal members have attended these hearings without judgment - there has unfortunately been one notable exception - when the arrogance of the tribunal member was palpable. I will figure out what to do about this situation - but need a minute to catch my breath. You can scold me but your arrogance and inflated sense of yourself is very unfortunate. Just saying.
I have been a vocal critic yes but I am also happy to speak out when I see how hard everyone is working there at the Tribunal. I have lots of other thoughts but I am going to leave this blog entry as an overall note of appreciation. Allison