A Freedom of Information request by Benefits and Work has revealed that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have already done a great deal of work in relation to charging claimants to appeal against a benefits decision. The response by MoJ shows that seven members of staff have worked on this issue and that it would take a total of 51 hours for them just to find and extract all the information. {jcomments on}

Following the leaking of documents back in February showing that MoJ was considering charging for benefits appeal tribunals, Benefits and Work asked for copies of:

“. . . any documents or meeting notes which give any information on proposals to charge benefits claimants for submitting an appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunals via HMCTS.”

In their response, the MoJ confirmed that they held the information requested but refused to provide it on the grounds that it would exceed the cost limit of £600 to provide it all.

They went on to explain that even on “the narrowest interpretation of the request”, in order to

“cover the main individuals working on the policy, we estimate that a minimum of six people would spend four hours each and one person would spend half an hour searching e-mail and personal folders and the central documents systems to locate the information.”

The response went on to say that:

“We estimate that the same people would spend a total of 26.5 working hours extracting the information . . .”

The final cost of meeting our request was estimated by the Moj to be 51 hours at £25 per hour, totalling £1,275.

Further attempts by Benefits and Work to narrow down our request and obtain the information have so far been unsuccessful.

However, what we can say without doubt is that the possibility of charging claimants for appealing a benefits decision is one that the MoJ has considered very seriously. There is every chance that this project will finally see the light of day following the next general election, depending on who is in government after May 2015.


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