A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) video encouraging claimants to attend employment and support allowance appeals in person has reappeared on YouTube three months after it was taken down due to complaints from a Chris Grayling, minister for employment at the DWP.

The video was created in an apparent effort to make the appeals system less intimidating for those who have had no experience of it. It seeks to reassure claimants that the procedure is relatively informal and that they should be given a chance to make their case and to have relatives or friends speak on their behalf too. It encourages claimants to obtain medical evidence and to prepare their case in advance and also stresses how much better it is to have an oral hearing rather than one just on the papers.

However, just days after the video was launched it mysteriously disappeared on the orders of senior officials at the MoJ.

The reason for the removal has now been uncovered by independent benefits expert Neil Bateman, using the Freedom of information Act. The video was taken down after the following email was sent by Grayling to the ministry:

“​Afternoo​n, our attention has been drawn to a video on your official youtube channel that talks about making an appeal on Employment and Support Allowance:

“​Specific concerns are:

“​The line that the claimant may not have had a chance to talk to someone since the decision was made - our new processes ensure that Jobcentre Plus will have spoken to the claimant to ensure they understand what the decision is, why it’​s been made and what they can do next;​

“​It says the claimant will have received a medical examination - the Work Capability Assessment is not a medical examination, if the word medical must be used we’​d be OK with medical assessment, but would prefer something like “​an assessment of your capability for work”​;

“​It mentions bringing additional evidence to the tribunal - again, our new processes are trying to ensure that new medical evidence doesn’​t just go to the tribunal but instead gets to JCP first so we can undertake a reconsideration;​

“​It notes that JCP doesn’​t normally send anyone to a tribunal - while this is true both because of cost and because the evidence suggests it makes no difference to the tribunal decision, it does feel quite a negative comment. The appearance of a presenting officer or not doesn’​t reflect how important we feel the tribunal is or the claimant’​s case is;​ and

“​A couple of times it’​s noted that a claimant is twice as likely to win their appeal if they turn up in person - again this is broadly true, but doesn’​t help to reduce the opinion that it isn’​t the facts of the case that are important, but the turning up in front of a tribunal and pleading their case.

“​Can we discuss what we might be able to do? ”​

It turned out that what “​we might be able to do”​ was immediately panic and withdraw the video.

Grayling’​s attempts to have the video altered are curious given that the MoJ ‘​s 120 productions so far are not exactly hugely popular. Some have had as few as 2 views –​ probably by the person who uploaded them. Most are in the low hundreds and by far the most popular video is a tour of the Rolls Building court complex, with 4,269 views.

In addition, some of the attempts by the minister to alter the content of the video are questionable to say the least. For example, Grayling objects to the use of the term “​medical examination”​ to describe what an Atos employee does, even though that is precisely the phrase used in the legislation:

“​Regulati​ons under this section may for the purposes of an assessment . . .

“​require a claimant to attend and submit to a medical examination at a place, date and time determined under the regulatio​ns.”​

There is still a mention of “​that doctor that examined him”​ by the claimant’​s friend at the hearing, so we’​re not sure if Grayling got his way on this or not, but his other complaints seem definitely not to have been acted upon.

Grayling’​s reluctance for claimants to be told that the DWP never bother to send anyone along to tribunals is also interesting, especially the revelation that the main reason apart from cost is that presenting officers make no difference to the result –​ the tribunal still believes the claimant.

Perhaps most telling of all is Grayling’​s objection to people being told that they are twice as likely to win if they turn up in person. He admits that this is ‘​broadly true’​ but clearly feels that it’​s something that is best not publicised too widely. Happily, this fact is mentioned twice in the video, which does its best to dissuade people from opting for a paper hearing.

After three months of departmental funk and following Neil Bateman’​s Freedom of Information request the video was reinstated yesterday.

At the time of writing it has had just 1,063 views. Given that it is quite useful and that Grayling is so reluctant for people to see it, we’​d love you to help the ESA appeals video leapfrog to the top of the MoJ’​s playlist.

So, please help make Grayling miserable by giving it a view and recommending it to others.

A copy of the FoI response letter can be downloaded from this link.


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