To Mr J Newman
C/o [FOI #106444 email]
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
e-mail: [DWP request email]
Our Ref: VTR 3550-2445
DATE 14th September 2012
Dear Mr Newman,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request that was received by the Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP) Freedom Of Information Requests on 28 May 2012 and forwarded
for response by DWP Medical Services Contracts Correspondence Team (MSCCT) Freedom
of Information Officer (FoI).
As I advised in my response dated 11 July 2012, the additional questions would be answered
Firstly, may I take this opportunity to apologise for the delay in responding to your request
within the 20 days deadline. It is clear that you have not received a response to your request
within the statutory timescales.
In your email you asked to be provided with information answering the following questions:-
I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of
my FOI request 'Atos FFW recommendations overturned by DWP 10/08 ā 02/11'.
Firstly, I raised this question on 18th Feb as yet have had no acceptable explanation as to why
it has taken over 3 months to respond.
Secondly, I am afraid there are a number of issues arising from your answer to question 1, that
you have either not addressed or have introduced:
1) In accordance with the FoI Act, I am looking for documented
evidence that DWP was aware of the increase at the time ā such a
marked and sudden change MUST have been initiated by a specific
event which you have not explained. As I have already indicated,
the matter would have received attention in minutes, emails, report
2) You have said there were a number of causes, but only mentioned
one ā what were the others and where is the evidence to support
your suggestions ā Iām afraid without evidence it is pure
3) What constraints/barriers existed prior to Harringtonās report
that prevented Decision Makers doing their job fully? Without some
form of explanation Iām afraid your proposition is meaningless.
4) What evidence do you have to support the other āimprovementsā you
claim have been made ā as Chris Grayling himself insists, hard
evidence is essential for substantiation and credibility? I am
particularly interested in evidence of the āimproved use of the
5) If what you say is true, the change highlighted the true error
rate being made by Atos HCPs. What evidence do you have that this
matter was addressed seriously with Atos and how can you
demonstrate they have improved since?
I note finally that whilst you acknowledge that right-first-time decisions are critical, you have not
set up a means to measure it, which casts considerable doubt over how important you think it
really is ā a high error rate does after all fuel the need for a reconsideration infrastructure,
appeals processing systems etc., etc.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this
With regard to the delay in receiving a response, in accordance with Section 14(2) of the
Freedom of Information Act, the Department is not obliged to comply with a subsequent
identical or substantially similar request it has previously responded to. The letters of the
MSCCT Internal Reviewing Officer dated 26/06/12 (reference 3068-IR162) and dated 11/07/12
(reference 3375-IR351) refer.
In response to points 1 and 2, this was expected as a result of DWP introducing a performance
improvement of telephone calls into their reconsideration process. This was implemented in
October 2010 as was Healthcare Professional (HCP) Face to Face support in a number of
Benefit Centres. All of these factors contribute and were aimed at helping Decision Makers
(DMs) to take an holistic view of all of the evidence before reaching a decision. Monthly
information gathered on the results of Atos recommendations by outcome and then the
numbers where the DWP DMs made an alternative decision based on all the available
information, was provided in a previous response (reference VTR 2926-735 dated 18 May
With regard to point 3, DWP are unaware of any constraints or barriers existing across the
business prior to the Harrington report that prevented DMs doing their job fully. This did not
impinge on the continuous improvement ethos within the Department with every member of
staff striving, on an ongoing basis, to make improvements to the job they do and the level of
performance they achieve. However, the impetus to consider the role of the DMs within the
Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process was not generated within DWP. Included in the
Welfare Reform Act of 2007 was the provision for an Independent Review of the newly
introduced WCA for each of the first five years of its operation and this Independent Review
was to be laid before Parliament each year. The Government commissioned Professor
Harrington to carry out the first three of these reviews.
Professor Harringtonās review of the Work Capability Assessment is independent of DWP and
it is his report that draws on a wide range of available evidence including the role of the
Evidence gathered regarding Decision Makers are outlined in āAn Independent Review of the
Work Capability Assessmentā available in the Public Domain. It was the Government who
commissioned Professor Harrington to conduct an independent review on the Work Capability
In response to point 4, Wrexham Benefit Delivery Centre trialled a scheme to telephone
claimants who had lodged an appeal against their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
decision. The original decision was explained to the individual, if they still had reasons to
disagree, additional information or evidence was obtained. The reactions received from
claimants and staff were positive and the experts involved were of the opinion that the initial
findings alone justified rolling out the process more widely without the need to spend tax
payers money on an extensive data gathering exercise to substantiate something which could
immediately improve our level of interaction with claimants. The process was subsequently
adopted by IB(IS) Reassessment Project and into the ESA Business As Usual Process as part
of the Disallowance Call process.
In reply to point 5, the role of Atos Healthcare is to provide evidence that a DM can consider.
There may be more compelling evidence in front of the DM that leads to a different outcome to
that recommended by the HCP. This is normal DM process and quite proper as all evidence
must be given due weight. As the DM has been able to a take a more holistic view of all of the
evidence before them, the information that you have requested does not exist.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number
DWP Central FoI Team
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act
If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing freedom-of-information-
or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H
9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information
Commissionerās Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissionerās Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk