Claimants wanting recordings. DWP's distortion of fact.

Rick Sykes made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Claimants wanting recordings. DWP's distortion of fact.

Rounded to the nearest whole number, the report by Atos on the 2011 recording 'pilot' shows that of the 500 pre-selected claimants who were asked whether they wanted to have their WCA recorded, 69% said yes – of whom, the report alleges, 25 subsequently changed their mind, leaving 64% still wishing to have their WCA recorded at the last known point of contact with DWP\Atos during the 6 week trial period.

(ref. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-recording... para. 3.1)

If or in so far as such a tiny and skewed sample can be taken to have any statistical significance at all, the 'pilot' thus showed a resounding majority in favour of having a recording of their WCA.

However, on the 14th December 2012, apparently referring to the exactly the same data, the DWP instructed Atos to put this statement on its website;-

"Less than half of those people offered a recording agreed to it and more than half were not happy for a recording to take place."

( ref. "Atos Healthcare blog" 14 12 2012: http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/12/t... )

On the face of it, the website statement referred to above is not just a little inaccurate or somewhat misleading, but deliberately and materially mendacious.

Q1 If, in making that statement, the DWP is relying on data other than that referred to in Atos report on the pilot, please produce that data.

Q2. If the DWP is in fact referring to the same data, please explain a) how such mendacity came to be published and b) the steps the DWP is now taking to have such mendacity corrected.

Note 1: I am assuming Atos to be blameless in this, and only proceeding on the direct instructions of the DWP.

Note 2: I will cite any delay and\or evasion in responding to this FoI request as further illustration of the DWP's gross 'lack of transparency' as regards the rights of claimants to a recording of how they are treated, in connection with my outstanding request for the production of the DWP's legal advice confirming the illegality of its continuing obstructive behaviour.

Yours faithfully,

Rick Sykes

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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's handling of my FOI request 'Claimants wanting recordings. DWP's distortion of fact.'.

You have not provided any response within the period prescribed by statute.

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

Yours faithfully,

Rick Sykes

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.

By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant
information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 

If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally
expect a response within 20 working days.

Should you 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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DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Mr Sykes

Please see attached reply to your Freedom of Information request

Many Thanks

Business Management Team | Department for Work and Pensions | Contracted Customer Services Directorate | DWP Operations | Room 306, Block 3, Norcross, Norcross Lane, Blackpool FY5 3TA | www.dwp.gov.uk | Please consider the environment before printing

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John Slater left an annotation ()

The DWP is simply incapable to getting the numbers correct:

344 out of 500 agreed to have their WCA recorded.
78 of the 344 did not attend a WCA (we don't know if they would have changed their minds or not).
11 or the 344 couldn't have a recording due to 'Atos Issues'.
25 of the 344 changed their minds on the day.

To simply move the 78+11 to the declined recording group is grossly manipulative and means that data being quoted by the DWP was corrupted and becomes meaningless.

Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

Entirely agreed, JS.

So, on the Atos wepage in question:

"Less than half of those people offered a recording agreed to it…" (14 12 12),

has (as a result of this enquiry, it would seem) today been amended to:

"Fewer than half of those offered an audio recording ended up having one." (26 02 13).

Scarcely a minor difference.

(http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/12/t... (as at 26 02 13).

John Slater left an annotation ()

There are other 'lies' in the updated Atos Blog

"Less than 1% of those who agreed to a recorded assessment requested a copy"

The report actually stated 1.7% and as you previouly said they stopped counting when the report was published immediately after the pilot ended.

"and some claimants felt intimidated by having their assessment recorded."

What was actually reported is "That some customers were angry / agitated at being asked to take part in the recording whilst others felt it would be intimidating to take part." and this was feedback from HCP NOT claimants.

"There was no difference in the quality of recorded assessments and those which were not recorded."

This is another lie. The report actually stated: "Overall the auditors felts that the recording provided a good vehicle for the identification of soft skill issues with HCPs. The amount of free text increased and soft skills improved during the pilot."

Dear DWP (DWP Medical Services Correspondence),

Claimants wanting recordings. DWP's distortion of fact

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request " Claimants wanting recordings. DWP's distortion of fact", your reference: FOI 0084.

Although you have now provided a response, I would like this matter reviewed because that response was provided late and without explanation or apology for that lateness.

Yours sincerely,

Rick Sykes

David Alfred left an annotation ()

and Atos's own final report pointed out the statistical shortcomings and that as a result no definitive conclusions could be drawn. What was the purpose one might ask? Harrington only recommended a trial (which has been done albeit very badly)when he should have explained in detail precisely what it needed to achieve.

Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

Agreed D.A.

Now for something a little different.

Since my typing is frequently chaotic, and I am perfectly capable of producing the occasional grammatical solecism, one might say that people in glass houses shouldn't get lapidary.

Be that as it may, I cannot resist commenting on the wording of the change to the Atos website, here. I think it reveals some of the mentality of the individuals and organisations with which we FoI enquirers have to deal.

In this instance, the DWP was caught out in a blatant online lie. Off-line, I had also reported the matter to the UK Statistics Authority, which may have something to do with it.

So how does the DWP organise its response? It hands the matter to someone who is as ignorant as they are officious, to make a 'precise' change to the earlier text. Indeed, Mr or Ms Ignorant-as-Officious prides himself\herself on being clever and precise. That's why he\she gets the job.

So, the change made starts 'Fewer than half,' rather than the previous 'Less than half'.

Why? Because little Mr\Ms I-a-O has heard that 'less' is often used where 'fewer' would be correct e.g. strictly speaking, it should be 'fewer than x million people voted in the last election', not 'less than'. It's not a big point, in my view. Indeed, I think that in 'everyday discourse' those who interrupt to make the correction in other people's language reveal themselves to be and pedantic and officious. As long as the sense is clear, the 'less' usage is perfectly 'normal', and it's only in Waitrose that you find the 'FEWER than 10 items' check-out.

Still, I hear you say, that's for 'everyday discourse'; different expectations quite properly apply to representations made 'in print' on behalf of a department of state, potentially read by millions of people for a long time to come. The grammatical 'bar' should be set higher. At least Waitrose level.

And I completely agree. I think inaccurate language in 'official' text is all too often the result of poor thinking in the first place, insufficient consideration and review, and lamentable supervision by people of an appropriate level of seniority.

So what's my particular beef, here? It's that Little I-a-O gets it WRONG.

'Half' is not a 'countable' noun. The expression 'less than half' was correct, and 'fewer than half' is glaringly unnatural and, simply, incorrect grammar.

The example I always think of concerns reduction of the use of any given road:-

One might campaign for 'fewer vehicles' or 'less traffic'. One would not campaign for 'fewer traffic'.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

David Alfred left an annotation ()

Pedantry is a hobby of mine, so its staff should note that as DWP is a collective noun it should attract an “is” not an “are”. Blame it on my unfashionable education.

More importantly and with no particular disrespect intended, it does seem to me that very many DWP staff up to the most senior levels just do not have the education, understanding, experience or aptitude regarded as de rigueur in the private sector. They often just don’t “get” it.

I genuinely cannot imagine being associated with a project such as this with important issues at stake that was prepared, managed and concluded so poorly and no matter how indisputable the evidence is or how convincing the arguments are,DWP will never accept that this is the case and will continue defending the indefensible regardless of how inept and pathetic it makes itself look – in fact as you say, internally it is probably regarded as being smart in trying to “outwit” the public.

The only conclusion is that all of the outcomes are in fact predetermined by political dogma, but it is still necessary to maintain an illusion that this is not the case.

Gerald Jones left an annotation ()

DA,
Sadly most projects in the public sector are run as badly as this. Private sector companies that work with the public sector openly laugh at how bad the public sector is and how easy it is to run rings around them commercially. If you get the opportunity to work with a public sector organisation you might want to consider doing it for the purposes of 'education'. Trust me, the reality will almost certainly be far worse than you ever thought it could be.

David Alfred left an annotation ()

Thanks, but I said pedantry not masochism.

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Sykes

Please see your FOI response attached

Kind regards

Health & Disability Assessments (Operations)/Department for Work and Pensions/Room 306/Block 31/Norcross/Norcross Lane/Blackpool/FY5 3TA

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David Alfred left an annotation ()

Not exactly the most sincere apology I have seen and it contains no indication at all of concern of doing anything differently in the future. The couple of pasted opening paragraphs in these could not be less accurate or more meaningless to the point of now being offensive,