DWP\Atos Guidance document: use of personal recording equipment by claimants to record WCAs

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

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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

DWP\Atos Guidance document: use of personal recording equipment by claimants to record WCAs

I have today had a telephone conversation with a (helpful) person in Atos (Bristol area, 4.35 pm, 01179718460).

I was enquiring about the use of 'personal equipment' by claimants who wish to record their WCAs.

The employee concerned confirmed that there has been a written 'Guidance' document made available to all 130 or so MECs by Atos, after consultation with the DWP, specifically about what personal equipment will be accepted for this purpose; and she was kind enough to read out certain parts of it to me - including a part 'in big bold letters', as she described it.

Please supply a copy of that guidance document in full, and note that any attempt by the DWP to maintain it has no policy as regards what constitutes 'approved equipment' for claimants to use is, and will continue to be, fraudulent.

Yours faithfully,

Rick Sykes

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Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

The bit in bold (or one of them) reads:-

"WE WILL NOT ACCEPT LAPTOPS"

Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

DWP\Atos Guidance document: use of personal recording equipment by
claimants to record WCAs

I write further to my outstanding enquiry of 08 02 13, to observe and note that a number of other people have now also reported, to me in person and on the internet, the (oral) confirmation made by Atos staff, as referred in my enquiry (i.e. that what Atos are doing. as regards specifying for 'personal use' only audio-equipment most claimants cannot reasonably afford), is directly in accordance with detailed, recorded policy currently agreed by the DWP with Atos.
.
Further, the Atos staff concerned have also refused to put the detailed but (publicly) unpublished DWP policy requirements as regards specification of equipment, in writing to the claimants involved – or to arrange that anyone else does. This is in breach of the ruling in the upper tribunal case CIB/3117/2008, quite apart from wider constitutional principles

Whilst writing, please don't waste my time pretending this outstanding enquiry is anything other than to do, and only to do, with:-

AUDIO-RECORDING
of WCAs
BY CLAIMANTS
USING CLAIMANTS OWN PERSONAL EQUIPMENT.

Your WCA Handbook of July 2012, the one current at the date of the outstanding request, contains no provisions in this regard, so don't bother referring to it as if it did.

My request of 08 02 13 requires the production of a specific document, referred to in my request and as discussed with Atos staff and me on 08 02 13 (and clearly the same one as discussed with others on other dates, as well). It represents CURRENT DWP policy, as CURRENTLY being enforced by Atos on behalf of the DWP.

It exists in electronic form (probably in printed form as well), and is being referred to by Atos staff across the country whenever a claimant wants to audio-record their WCAs using claimants' own personal equipment. There is no difficulty in your being able to identify this document. If Atos staff involved with booking procedures can do this, readily and now, so can you. It is YOUR policy.

Your gross and continuing lack of transparency to date in refusing to allow full and proper promulgation of your own policy specifications, is also noted..

I require you to produce the complete 'guidance' document concerned, in full and as at 08 02 13. And I expect the ICO to require you to produce it if you don't do so.

Yours sincerely,

Rick Sykes

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

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John Slater left an annotation ()

Oh dear, all those lies it has told about the only advice beiong available in the WCA handbook. Will the DWP ever learn that we always find out in the end!

Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

Indeed, John. This is a document we will certainly get out of them in the end - or, if it 'vanishes', then there are the criminal provisions in the FoI Act about destruction of information to avoid disclosure.

The further reports have told me clearly and repeatedly, that this particular guidance document goes on to spell out, very specifically, that the ONLY 'personal equipment' DWP will accept is dual-deck simultaneous recording devices 'similar to' the Neal recorders Atos use themselves - which very few claimants could possibly afford.

This is in direct conflict with the legal advice your FoI got out of out of them last year.

In a previous Foi response to me this year, which obviously had an eye on that earlier accidental disclosure to you, they said:-

"We recognised that not all customers would be able to obtain such equipment themselves, which is why DWP has provided some recording equipment for this purpose."

But also:-

"At present there are no plans to offer audio recording to PIP claimants."

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/14...

So, in the PIP assessments starting in less than 6 weeks time, the obstruction to recording by the DWP will be overt, complete and undeniably ILLEGAL - leaving claimants only the option of - quite LEGALLY - recording covertly.

This subject has been in the public domain, and heatedly, ever since the claimant in CIB/3117/2008 stood his ground (October 2007). Over 5 years on, you couldn't have invented political mismanagement leading to a more contemptible result.

John Slater left an annotation ()

Rick,
It appears that the DWP has been caught in a lie. The following if from a response by G. Jones:

1. Does the DWP have a policy document(s) that is published or unpublished that covers recording of WCA by Atos (equipment provided by DWP/Atos) and by claimants using their own equipment ?(Please answer yes or no as I am only seeking to know if such
information exists). If such a policy exists please provide me with a copy.

In reply to Q 1 the current advice that is available on audio recording can be found commencing at page 135 within the document that can be accessed through the following link
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/speci... where you can find a copy of the Revised Work Capability Assessment (WCA) Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment Regulations 2011 Handbook that is issued to approved Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) employed by Atos Healthcare. You should be aware that the policy on audio recordings is, in view of the findings of the Pilot scheme, which was undertaken in Spring 2011 at Newcastle Medical Assessment Centre (as a recommendation of the 1st Harrington Review of the WCA) still under review.

Currently claimants who state that they wish to have their medical assessment recorded, when contacting Atos Healthcare to confirm their appointment would, if they stated that they wished to use their own equipment be advised of the reasonable conditions surrounding recordings e.g. provision of a copy of the recording on completion of the assessment to the Healthcare Professional.

Perhaps G.Jones would be interested in challenging the DWP on the basis of your information?

Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

Thank you for that, John.

Gerald Jones' query obviously includes, but covers more than, policy questions concerning audio-recording of WCAs by claimants using claimants' own personal equipment.

However, in so far as the response he received fails to disclose currently recorded and implemented DWP policy in that narrower regard, I completely agree: the DWP is giving 'the lie direct'.

If G. Jones had the time, I would be only too glad if he challenged that response on that score, cross-referencing to this outstanding query, as he pleases.

The fatuous 'you would be informed of the reasonable conditions if you asked' is just that: 'fatuous'. Enquirers are asking the DWP. Now the DWP must inform us in writing for the world to see.

It has become fantastically obvious that the DWP is desperate not to disclose its written policy because it conflicts with its own legal advice. But the more it is driven to pathetic contortions on this, the more it plays into the hands of those of us seeking disclosure of its full legal advice on the grounds of its lack of transparency.

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 'DWP\Atos Guidance document: use of personal recording equipment by claimants to record WCAs'.

DWP\Atos Guidance document: use of personal recording equipment by claimants to record WCAs. (Request of 08 02 13)

DWP, take note (and ICO, kindly please note) that this request for an internal review is made after the expiry of the 20th working day following the DWP's receipt of my freedom of information request, and in the complete absence of any substantive response from the DWP

I will now treat any communication received from the DWP as a response to this request for an internal review, not to the original enquiry.

Other than in specified circumstances which clearly do not apply in this case, the Freedom of Information Act 1998 ("FoIA") does not permit the DWP to delay potential referral to the ICO by failing to respond within the initial 20 working day period.

Further, I have noted from the WDTK site that the DWP is ignorant of the law as stated in section 10 of the FoIA, from which it is quite clear that the 'date of receipt' of a freedom of information request need not itself be a 'working day' (as statutorily defined). Any such ignorance will in turn be ignored by me, as I pursue this enquiry to a conclusion.

In the absence of a full and candid response to this request for an internal review, this matter will referred to the ICO promptly, and without further reference to the DWP.

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

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.

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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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Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

nd now see John Slater's supportive further request, here:-

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w...

Whether or not the DWP get round to a response to me by the end of today, they are too late. My complaint to the ICO has already been despatched.

Of course it is not 'formulation of policy'; it is CURRENT AND RECORDED DWP POLICY being enforced by Atos to the great detriment of claimants, as it has been for a long time.

John Slater left an annotation ()

I find it interesting that the person replying to my FOIA request 'accidentally' forgot to attach the pertinent information. I suspect that if anyone had the time to research DWP replies they would find that attachments were forgotten only when the DWP wanted to delay releasing information.

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

2 Attachments

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 ()

So basically the situation hasn't changed at all. A claimant either agrees to the term imposed (unlawfully)or they have to provide the expensive dual recording equipment that the DWP has insisted on for years.

Rick Sykes left an annotation ()

Exactly, JS.

The wording of the 'process document' here (agreed between Atos and the DWP on 04 01 13) says:-

"The copies must be made following the same principles of dual recording using a format of either CD or cassette tape e.g. similar equipment to that used by Atos, or use of two
Dictaphones. Laptops and mobile phones are not suitable for this purpose. "

And let's be quite clear about that 'equipment used by Atos'. The Neal dual-deck CD recorders (mains-powered and not intended to be portable - which is why so many of them broke when being couriered round the country last year) cost about £1,500 a throw. The Neal portable version costs about £1, 900.

Neal is part of the Canford Group and there does not appear to be any supplier of 'similar equipment' , in the UK, other than Canford.

I have also learned that, even if you happened, as a benefits claimant, to have that sort of cash in your back pocket, you could not buy these products. Neal does NOT retail these to 'consumers' i.e. private individuals, only to businesses or organisations.

The DWP and Atos have thus carefully agreed an exclusionary specification which continues totally to obstruct a claimant's right to take a recording.

This obviously makes a mockery of Grayling's announcement to Parliament last September:-

"They are perfectly entitled to bring their own recording equipment to an assessment as long as it can record two copies of an assessment, because they need to be able to take one copy with them and leave the other behind."

It also, of course, ignores the legal advice you got out of the DWP last December i.e. about the illegality of making unreasonable obstructions to recording, as further emphasised in an Atos-generated document John Newman got out of the DWP yesterday:

"More recently it has been accepted that under the Data Protection Act and as we are acting on behalf of the Government we are unable to prevent a client recording an assessment if they wish."

(https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w...)

and the chain of evidence to show this is exactly what they are nevertheless doing is now complete.

Finally, if one is claiming PIP, there is clearly no point in asking Atos or Capita about recording; they have been instructed by the DWP not to provide recording facilities and the personal equipment 'rules' are otherwise the same as for WCAs. So , for PIP, the DWP has produced a situation I know many have predicted: you have to record, quite legally, but covertly. But again, only yesterday, Esther McVey was letting Parliament think everything was fine:-

"Audio recording of PIP assessments will not be offered by Atos or Capita. The DWP has not seen evidence from other disability assessments that this would improve the quality of assessments. If claimants wish to record their assessment they must inform the assessor in advance and provide the assessor with a copy of the recording."
Written Parliamentary answer, 18 04 2013.

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

The woman is 'a stranger to the truth'.

William Hammonds left an annotation ()

Use whatever you like to make a record of your audible presentation.
Atos HCP can misrepresent a client in all wca reports.
The only way to put a stop to this is to have an audio recording made of the wca.
Atos will offer to supply the audio equipment. When you arrive at your wca they will ask you to sign a waiver which states that you will not use the recording for any other purpose than to assist your claim. After all, the recording will belong to them and they can decide what a copy can be used for.
If you have a wca booked you can take your own recording equipment as long as you give formal notice that you intend to record.It could go like this "I hereby give formal notice of intent to make audio recording of my audible presentation during wca on (date) at (address). This recording will include audio recording of any other person attending wca and will be used for any porpose including but not limited to private prosecutions of hcp"
You do not need permission to give notice. Just push it in front of the hcp, and go ahead and record with whatever you feel would be admissible in court.
This will make the recording yours, and you can use it to prosecute the HCP privately. The Hcp can not hide behind the corporation when accused of misrepresentation which has caused loss or harm.
Small claims courts were designed to simplify claims, and I can assure you that you will be surprised at how easy it can be to prosecute. One step above small claims courts are fast track courts. These courts are also a breeze. Try visiting any of these courts and ask an official how to make a claim, they will gladly help you as it is in their interest to have the business.