Journey Time To Work Capability Assessment

Nigel Alter made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

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I refer to your replies to Mark Whitehill (FOI 1646 dated 7 June 2016 and IR241 dated 14 July 2016) regarding travelling time and access to Work Capability Assessments.

In both replies, you state that the journey time to a WCA is calculated from door to door using a web based journey planner which factors in waiting times, transport changes etc.

Also, in your reply to Angela Johnson (FOI 556 dated 1 March 2016), you say that the journey time, taking into consideration traffic conditions and public transport availability is determined using a journey planning website and that the Department continually monitors the delivery of service and the quality of those services delivered by the Assessment Providers; this includes the 90 minute journey time.

However, in answer to some queries from me, the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments has stated in a letter dated 5 July 2016:

“Transport Direct journey planners were appended to some appointment letters under the contract with the previous provider, Atos Healthcare. They stopped being appended when the Department of Transport withdrew the software licences. The previous provider asked the DWP if an alternative journey planner was required and the DWP clarified that it was not. Therefore, from the 1st October 2014, Atos Healthcare ceased to include any journey planners as the DWP could not provide a journey planner alternative following the closure of Transport Direct.

“In terms of the current contract with Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, given that the DWP has not provided a journey planner solution to us as Assessment Providers, I am advised that the part of the contract which quoted that we would supply “personalised directions from the Claimant’s home to the consultation location” has been removed in a Contract Variation.”

If this is correct, the information provided to Mr Whitehill and Ms Johnson would seem to be inaccurate as the use of a web based journey planner appears to have ceased during 2014. According to CHDA, Atos Healthcare asked about an alternative journey planner and the DWP clarified that it was not required.

Please supply any information relating to this agreement between the Department and Atos Healthcare as well as to the fact that a journey planner solution has not been provided to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments and that, as a consequence, they are not obliged to provide specific (as opposed to generalised) travel information to claimants who are required to attend a face-to-face consultation.

Please also provide me with information concerning the contract variation referred to by CHDA in their letter and the date on which this came into effect.

Please also confirm that it is still a contractual requirement that the supplier, in this case CHDA, must ensure that claimants do not have to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport for a face-to-face assessment and that the supplier (CHDA) should ensure that only a small minority of claimants should have to make a journey of the maximum 90 minutes duration.

If CHDA as the supplier no longer has access to a web based journey planner as they suggest, please provide any recorded information which states how they should ensure that the journey to a WCA in either direction does not exceed 90 minutes and that the maximum duration applies only to a small minority of claimants.

Also, provide any recorded information which describes how the Department monitors the delivery and quality of services delivered by assessment providers, as stated in your reply to Angela Johnson, if possible with particular reference to the 90 minute journey time rule.

I would also like to know the identity of the journey planning website referred to in your reply to Angela Johnson as this could potentially be of great use to members of the public. I am already aware of various journey planning websites but would like to know which specific website you had in mind when replying to Ms Johnson.

I also note that, in your reply to Mr Whitehill dated 14 July 2016, you suggest that no information is held in respect of a responsible person within the Department who would deal with the issue of referrals to assessment centres which are more than 90 minutes travelling time from a claimant’s home. Please confirm that you do not hold any information relating to such an officer within the DWP. If this is so, then please let me know who is responsible for monitoring the delivery and quality of services delivered by assessment providers, in accordance with the statement given in your reply to Angela Johnson.

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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' handling of my FOI request 'Journey Time To Work Capability Assessment'.

My FOI request should have been answered by 5 September 2016. Therefore, please reply in full to my enquiry.

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

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Alter

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been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
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If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally
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Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
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DWP Health Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear N Alter,
 
Please see our response to your recent Freedom of Information request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Health Services Correspondence Team
 
 

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Nigel Alter left an annotation ()

Internal review found in my favour but still no reply to enquiry after two months. Review says they're checking accuracy of information but surely the DWP should provide the information that was correct at the time of my original enquiry.

DWP Health Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear N Alter,
 
Please see our response to your recent Freedom of Information request.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Health Services Correspondence Team
 
 

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Nigel Alter left an annotation ()

It is difficult to know where to begin with the DWP’s delayed response to my FOI request. Although they have provided some useful information, they have not addressed all of the issues raised and seem to have tailored their response, not entirely successfully, to fit in with letters sent to me by their supplier, CHDA. This may explain why they did not provide a reply or give any indication of a delay in providing a response before 5 September 2016, the original 20 day deadline in this case. It also seems that parts of the replies given earlier this year to Angela Johnson and Mark Whitehill published elsewhere on this website were inaccurate although this is not explicitly stated.

First of all, it is said that the Medical Services Agreement was amended effective from 1 October 2014 and that administrative staff at the then supplier, Atos Healthcare, were issued with a notice to this effect. There is no direct reference to this information also applying to the current provider, CHDA. The first paragraph of this notice, according to the DWP’s reply, reads “Door to door public transport information will no longer be included with Appointment Letter notifications. However, information on how to reach MECs via public transport will be still be included on the enclosed map.” This is wrong. CHDA is not providing information on how to reach MECs by public transport but is instead informing claimants who are required to attend face-to-face assessments of the public transport provision which is nearest to the relevant centre. In the case of one recently-opened centre, the information provided is inaccurate and, in another case, the bus service which is said to serve the centre no longer runs. This does not necessarily inform claimants on how to reach an assessment centre from their home nor is it necessarily accurate with regard to the transport provision closest to the relevant assessment centre.

The notice issued to Atos staff continues “…if you are required to obtain door to door journey details, it is recommended that the following websites are used instead…” Included amongst these is Traveline which provides many of the same facilities as the now closed Transport Direct service. I wonder what they mean by “if you are required to obtain door to door journey details”. Presumably, this means if the claimant contacts them for this information, the supplier, at the time Atos Healthcare (and, perhaps the current supplier, CHDA) must provide it by reference to one of the websites mentioned. This seems to mean that the supplier would not necessarily be aware whether a claimant could reach the appropriate centre by public transport within 90 minutes, if at all, unless or until the claimant contacts them. Therefore, the supplier is not ensuring that the claimant can reach the centre within 90 minutes by public transport, as required by the contract, nor is the DWP actively monitoring the delivery and quality of service provided by assessment providers, as they claim. Instead, they are imposing performance targets without checking the veracity of the information provided which can only really be done by seeking feedback from those who are actually required to undertake the journeys.

The DWP states that the Health and Disability Assessments contract was awarded to Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) from 1 March 2015. In fact, as the link to the contract reveals, the contract was actually awarded to Maximus Health and Human Services Ltd. It was subsequently novated to CHDA, as stated in an FOI reply to John Slater on 30 April 2015 published on this website. So, their reply to me in this respect is not entirely correct.

The DWP says that “there is no reference in this contract regarding the issue of the provision of a journey planner and the requirement for CHDA to provide specific travel information.” Strictly speaking, this is true and I have made no claim to the contrary. However, they omit to mention that the contract stipulates that the supplier must ensure that “claimants do not have to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport (single journey) for a face-to-face consultation. This limit is an absolute maximum and the Supplier shall ensure that only a small minority of Claimants will have to make a journey of the maximum 90 minutes duration.”

In their reply to Mark Whitehill’s FOI request in April 2016, the DWP specifically directs him to Paragraph 10.6 of Schedule 2.1 (Service Requirements) in the Health and Disability Services contract which contains this passage. At no point in their reply to me does the DWP claim that this specific paragraph has been amended or that the requirement on the part of the supplier to ensure that claimants should not have to make a journey of more than 90 minutes by public transport no longer applies.

CHDA has told me that the provision in the contract to provide personalised directions to the assessment centre has been removed in a contract variation. In their reply, the DWP does not refer to this contract variation despite my request for information relating to it and only refers to a notice issued to Atos Healthcare.

In addition, the DWP has not answered my question as to how the supplier is meant to observe the so-called 90 minute rule in the contract if they do not access specific travel information as a matter of course. They also equate the 90 minute rule with distance which, as far as I can tell, is not specifically mentioned in any part of the contract. As I have pointed out to CHDA, the proximity of an assessment centre to a claimant’s home is no guarantee that a journey by public transport to and/or from that assessment centre is achievable within 90 minutes, if at all. The nearest assessment centre to my home is about eight miles away by road (although CHDA’s website inaccurately states that it is just over six miles) but the distance by public transport, which involves catching two or three buses which do not necessarily connect with each other or run frequently, is thirteen miles. The journey is just achievable within 90 minutes AT CERTAIN TIMES OF THE DAY by someone who walks at normal pace but, at other times or for someone who lives further away from the local public transport provision, it can take around two hours. By contrast, a journey to an assessment centre which is around 20 miles away can also be achieved within 90 minutes by someone who walks at normal pace. This is largely because the greater part of that journey is by train using a service which runs every 20 minutes during the day Monday to Friday. Significantly, the further assessment centre has ground floor examination rooms which would be useful for people with mobility issues whereas the nearer centre is located on the second floor. I find it astonishing that a centre which, by the DWP’s own admission, only began to receive claimants in May 2016 does not have ground floor provision.
The DWP’s response states that claimant postcodes are mapped by CHDA to their nearest assessment centre within the CHDA IT systems and that, where a postcode is identified as being further than 90 minutes by public transport, it is mapped in the system with the auto enable tick box left blank which means the system cannot automatically allocate an appointment, allowing staff to contact the claimant to book an agreeable appointment or offer a home visit. In their replies to me, CHDA say that these distances are calculated from a central point in each postcode area rather than from the actual location of a claimant’s home to the assessment centre. This reinforces my view that they are unable to properly calculate the journey time or are choosing not to do so in contravention of the terms of the contract.

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