The Ministry of Justice has taken down its own YouTube video explaining what happens at an employment and support allowance appeal, just days after it was released. No explanation has been given for the removal, prompting speculation that officials feared that it would have encouraged people to appeal against benefits decisions and increased waiting lists further.

The video was uploaded to YouTube last week and links to it were posted on a variety of forums and websites. However, the day after our own Beverley Hymers watched the video it was mysteriously made ‘​private’​, preventing anyone from watching it.

Benefits and Work contacted the Ministry of Justice to ask why the video had been pulled and we were informed that:

“​Senior policy officials at Her Majetsy’​s Courts and Tribunals Service asked for it to be removed. No reason has been given.”​

Whilst, as readers will learn from the review below, the video was less than honest, it did at least demystify the process of appearing before a tribunal and may have reassured claimants that they were not going to be facing a row of judges in wigs.

The Ministry of Justice has produced a video that provides information about appealing to a First-tier Tribunal against a decision not to allow a claim for employment and support allowance (ESA). It offers a basic overview of the appeals process when you have lodged an appeal and uses a fictional case study to demonstrate what happens at appeal.

The case study is based on a fictional character and is used as a way of explaining what happens from the time a Hearing Enquiry Form is completed to the actual appeal hearing. The claimant, Gareth has back problems as a result of an injury sustained at work and is depressed following the death of his wife a year earlier. His neighbour helps him to fill out the Enquiry Form and to collect further evidence for the appeal. She also accompanies Gareth to the appeal hearing.

As a way of outlining the appeals process the video is useful in as much as it identifies the main procedural steps involved in making an appeal and attending an appeal hearing. The importance of having an oral hearing and attending the hearing is emphasised several times. Taking a friend, neighbour, relative, or an advice worker with you to the hearing is also encouraged.

The portrayal of an actual appeal hearing is however somewhat simplistic and fails to capture the intensity and unpredictability of appeal hearings. The panel members behave impeccably in the case example. Panel doctors are compared favourably with and described as being “​just like your own GP”​. Judges are referred to as being specially trained to help people explain their cases. Appellants may be fortunate and have an understanding and well qualified panel. They are as likely however to encounter less able panel members with limited comprehension of or empathy for the nature of appellants’​ conditions. This simplistic portrayal of a “​typical”​ appeal in the video is misrepresentative of appeals. There is no “​typical”​ appeal and there is no stereotypical claimant or appellant as inferred in the case study ie claimants with back problems and depression.

The video fails to address appellants’​ rights in terms of challenging the outcome of appeal decisions, referring them instead to Jobcentre Plus who will explain what happens next depending on the outcome of the appeal.

In short as a brief overview of the appeals process the video provides a basic but useful account of what claimants need to do after lodging an appeal, but its depiction of what happens at an appeal hearing is over-simplified and because of this fails to accurately convey the nature and underlying complexities of appeal hearings.

The video could previously have been viewed at


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