Audio recording of work capability assessments

Jim Otram made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was refused by Department for Work and Pensions.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Audio recording of work capability assessments

In response to an earlier Freedom of Information Act enquiry (24 01 12, your reference VTR 2714 – 3878) the DWP has stated:

"Provision is currently available for the recording of assessments upon request by the claimant to the office which administers the claim for benefit and Atos Healthcare. In these circumstances, Atos Healthcare will provide the requisite audio recording equipment, which will provide each party with a recording of the medical assessment."

However, the WCA Handbook (Issue date November 2011) makes no mention of this entitlement for claimants.

Please supply by email:-

1. A copy of the DWP's authorization for this revised procedure (i.e. note, instruction, minute, memorandum or similar).

2. Copy details of the way in which claimants are advised of this important entitlement.

I look forward to hearing from you within the statutory period for compliance.

Yours faithfully,

Jim Otram

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

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DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Otram

Please find attached response to your FoI request.

Regards,

Central FoI Team

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Jim Otram left an annotation ()

So, according to the DWP:-

".. claimants are not currently advised of their entitlement to request a recording."

"…there is no overarching public interest argument in favour of releasing this information."
I

J Newman left an annotation ()

If you look at para 4.1.3. there is no enthusiasm behind this and the grounds quoted for refusal shows the seriousness with which DWP is taking it.

No dates either - just as and when we wish . . . .

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions' handling of my FOI request 'Audio recording of work capability assessments'. Your response was dated 28 02 12 with reference: VTR 2851-412

Summary

A. Your reference to the unamended para.4.1.3 in the WCA Handbook (and unamended, since October 2011) is irrelevant. My questioning related to the subsequently revised and CURRENT arrangements minister Grayling has been obliged to admit in parliamentary responses (during February 2012 ) are CURRENTLY in operation where a claimant wants to be provided with a recording, and have been so for the past 3 months

B. The purported CURRENT 'rules' (and current since December 2011) do not exist in some record-less vacuum: they are RECORDED; and claimants and the balance of the public have the right to know what these supposed rules say, AS CURRENTLY RECORDED.

C. I don't accept for one moment that the fact that the DWP may one day get round to producing yet further paperwork on these issues at wholly unspecified dates in the future can possibly outweigh the public interest in seeing the detailed, recorded and currently operated 'rules' ,NOW.

Detail

I asked to be provided with:

…"copy DETAILS of the way in which claimants ARE advised of this important entitlement."

You have not complied with that request. So now:-

I'll try to make this simple for you. Yes, your department has had the gall to confirm that it is not even telling claimants in advance e.g. on their obtaining a form ESA 50 with which to commence a claim, that they do have the right to obtain a recording of the forthcoming WCA. That contempt for benefits claimants must be assumed to reflect the specific and considered will of the department's political masters, and is an issue to be taken forward through constituency offices and the press and other media.

However, as you well know, if or when a claimant nevertheless wants to be provided with a recording by the DWP or Atos there are specific (and recorded) 'rules' CURRENTLY operated. These details you have wholly failed to supply and that is a matter for FOIA.

The details concerned cover or INCLUDE, do they not, such matters as:-

- is it sufficient for a claimant merely to tell his or her jobcentre that a recording is required or must e.g specific written steps be taken? Addressed to whom? And by when?

- what the position is if the claimant's ESA 50 form makes no mention of this perhaps because at the time that form was submitted, the claimant was unaware either of the right itself or how to claim such right?

- what delay is deemed acceptable for a claimant to have to encounter in the processing of his or her claim if Atos is not in fact 'ready' to organise a recorded WCA on the date on which it would otherwise have been scheduled?

- what, if any ,legally drafted paperwork, e.g affecting Data Protection and copyright matters between the DWP atos and the claimant, is a claimant asked to sign before being given any copy recording and when? – who is holding any such text, and if exists, what is IT LINE BY LINE? – when does a claimant first see any such documentation? – is it provided to claimants sufficiently far in advance to allow a claimant a reasonable opportunity to obtain legal advice on a legally-intentioned document?

- who stores and keeps any copy recording retained by Atos?- who has access to it? - for how long?

I emphasise that I asked you to provide copy details of the way in which claimants are advised of such very important matters relating to their current entitlements. It may well be that the DWP is busy trying to devise further and fresh strategies to sabotage the right to a recording in the future, and I will question you on those as and when they materialise. But I have asked you for details of the CURRENT 'rules' as now being deployed. You have failed to comply with this request and that is a FoI and thus legal issue not a political or 'deabting' one. I wish to interest the ICO as soon as possible in the department's (in my view, I must baldly say, disgraceful) contention that the FoI Act entitles it to decline to to inform the sick and disabled of detailed rules potentially of high significance in their lives, and rules currently recorded and in force.

That sort of evasion and protraction on such a matter of intense public interest and immediate practical relevance is not what section 22 of the FoI Act was intended to produce, and section 22 (c) renders the contention risible; no purposive construction of the statute would support such an idea.

You might well imagine that in addition to the presentation of your no doubt cynically-delayed response to this request for internal review to the ICO in due course, I would think to add, now, the situation, as it stands here with this request, to the case for consideration by the ICO as regards the other matter to date you have declined to deal with properly on internal review, and already submitted to the Commissioner's Office. It is evidential as regards the behaviour of the DWP's FoI response team which I consider to be highly obstructive, and I think it is very much in the public interest that these matters should be thoroughly aired.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/au...

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully,

Jim Otram

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also have any further queries in connection with this request
do please contact us.

For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.

[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Thanks for your comments, John. I hope I have pitched this response, just, but only just, on the right side of civility.

J Newman left an annotation ()

Jim,

I think for all of the reasons you have given, a degree of anger is perfectly well-justified. Civility is a two-way street and when one is repeatedly treated with contempt, some reaction is only to be expected.

The whole management of this issue from start to finish is an absolute disgrace and shows the real degree of empathy DWP has for its so-called customers.

The trial was evidently established without any clear ToR or project definition – hard to believe and can only be interpreted as
• Unacceptably crass bad management, or

• A deliberate attempt to keep the issue hazy so success/failure can be defined as they wish and

• Complete disregard for the effective use of taxpayers’ money – quite happy to spend it without any clear picture of what it might deliver, just so Mr Grayling can claim to be doing something that sounds great on the surface, but stacks up to the square root of not very much!

The Govt must know that far too many WCAs are poorly conducted and that this facility removes the ambiguity and uncertainty they can claim through one person’s word (a claimant) against another (the HCP).

To add insult to injury, they think we are fooled by the obvious charade that is so translucent. Is this what the PM means when he talks about Government transparency?

I’d like to think that our friends in DWP that deal with these requests read these annotations and have the diligence to pass the dissatisfaction on. I don’t like shouting at them as I’m sure the problem is not with them but the information “owners”.

P. Wilkinson left an annotation ()

I agree with you guys, there is a deliberate attempt to conceal the fact that claimants can have their assessment recorded, so that when it comes to stats to support 'THEIR' agenda; to try to play down the value of these recordings, so that in the not too distant future, they can pull the plug on them.
Well if this is the game they wish to play, WE will have to make sure people know their rights and encourage recordings.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Thanks for those comments JN and PW. Couldn't agree more about the need to promulgate what the DWP wants to bury.

And as regards web-wide discussion, if anyone has a moment perhaps they would be so good as to have a quick look at my comments of today 6th March here:-

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wc...

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

I note that yesterday Grayling repeated his earlier comments as regards purportedly 'monitoring' uptake of the right to a recording at the same time as not actually telling claimants about the right.

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=...

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Well it's 4.30pm and the 20 days for this IR expires today. I'm putting this 'time–stamp' in the correspondence because I want the ICO to see it in due course.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

5.10pm Just putting a further time-stamp on this correspondence before despatch to the ICO.

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Otram

Please see attached response to your FoI request.

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

show quoted sections

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

They have muddled up matters about the 'Pilot' (which I wasn't asking about here) with unanswered questions concerning the current recording shceme (which I was), and then launched into a completely irrrelevant but nonetheless very revealing exposition of the DWP's view of the crucial exemption under the DPA (section 36 ) - which is the one that means that is not illegal for a claimant to take their own private recording, and which I have alluded to in an entirely different FoI request.

They really are in a heap. I can only think some 'snowed-under' office junior was having a very bad hair day.

J Newman left an annotation ()

As there is a range of potential "outcomes" depending on who does what when at the outset, it would be helpful to know the consequences of each in relation to any potentially damaging impact on claimants through no fault of their own.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Absolutely agreed, John. It isn't as if the DWP hasn't had ample tine to sort out its 'processes' in advance of announcing the supposed 'new arrangements' in February of this year, particularly since those arrangements are alleged to have been running since before the new year. Claimants are being left in the dark as to how to execrise their right and the possible consequences of their so doing.

So the purported 'monitoring of uptake during 2012' which Grayling has referred to, is monitoring of rubbish by rubbish and the outcome of the monitiring will be ...

Further to illustrate the DWP's confusion both about the new scheme and their answering of FoI's requests in respect of it at this time, reference can be made to the response to a different query of mine which came in today:-

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/th...

The response covers similar grounds to this in places, but in some very material respects says DIFFERENT things. E.g. - according to the later text there is no point in advising your benefit office of your wish to have a recording at all: they will only tell you to contact Atos, which is not what the response above says, and indeed is not consistent with what Grayling himself has said in the past.

Further, the statements of law concerning certain aspects of the Data Protection Act, 'volunteered' by the response above (and wrong), materially differ from equivalent statements in the later response - which are still not exact, but at least somewhat closer to reality.

Bizarre.

J Newman left an annotation ()

Beyond bizarre! I had until recently reassured myself with the thought that come what may, at least the important fundaments were tightly managed – perhaps not as efficiently as they might be, but reliably nevertheless. Document version control is for me one of these key fundamentals, but all we can expect it seems is “best endeavours”, even when there is software around that takes care of it for you. See http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ve...