Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Elsewhere you have said that as part of its monitoring of Atos services, DWP uses the "mystery shopping" technique. Please provide:

1) The specification to which these visits are undertaken to ensure secrecy & consistency.
2) A list of all of the locations where one has taken place over the past 12 months.
3) A single recent example of the report that results from such a visit, suitably redacted if necessary.
4) The most recent management summary of these visits, the interpretation that has been placed on it and any actions that have subsequently been deemed necessary.

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

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

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation ()

Hi John, I bet the reply is as informative and accurate as when they claim that there are customer service surveys done by Atos; implying everything is hunky dory!!
LOL

J Newman left an annotation ()

Hi. You can always design a process to give you the results you want. . . . .

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

20 days has passed with no response

Yours sincerely,

J Newman

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.

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Department who will respond to you direct. 

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do please contact us.

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please click on the link below.

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

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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 'Mystery Shopping'.

60 days old and already one IRR ignored.

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

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

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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J Newman left an annotation ()

Massively overdue, but from what I have gleaned elsewhere there is little mystery and contrary to what you would expect, they are completed by Atos staff - this of course is perfectly in line with DWP's unique definition of the word "independent".

1) the proforma only contains mundane questions about access, leaflet availability etc. NOTHING at all about the main issue - Atos attitudes to claimants and the WCA itself.

2) There is no central collation of results - they are just sent to assessment centre managers for info.

As I see it there is no interest at all within DWP. Site compliance audits have a place in the overall scheme of things, but referring to them as a Mystery shop is highly misleading in relation to the feedback they provide.

In any other arena, the 'interface' between staff and customers would be at the heart of the exercise.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Until I read this one, John, I was bold enough to imagine that the phrase 'mystery shopper', in the Atos context, would of course mean that the DWP independently of Atos sent in a few 'synthetic' claimants to observe and report how the WCA process was actually delivered from the claimants' point of view.

You would think that in the context of several hundred thousand WCAs a year, a few dozen such 'random checks' might be an absolute minum requirement for QA.

But, as you observe, we can now see that the'mystery' process, in so far as it is claimed that it supports quality of work capability assessment outcomes, is not just deficient, but bogus.

And something tells me that that chocolate teapot Harrington will not turn a hair.

J Newman left an annotation ()

Indeed Jim.

The response that gave the game away was unusually forthcoming (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/10...). I haven't yet finished with this theme.

It really is the case that nothing DWP says can be taken at face value.

I am slowly puting together a "did you realise that . . . " note for the venerable professor in the hope I can get it through to him.

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

1 Attachment

Our Ref: VTR 3010-1046

Dear J Newman,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request that was received by
the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Adelphi on 7 March 2012 and
forwarded on for response by DWP Medical Services Contracts
Correspondence Team (MSCCT) Freedom of Information Officer.

In your email you asked to be provided with information answering the
following questions:-

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Elsewhere you have said that as part of its monitoring of Atos services,
DWP uses the "mystery shopping" technique. Please provide:

1. The specification to which these visits are undertaken to ensure
secrecy & consistency.
2. A list of all of the locations where one has taken place over
the past 12 months.
3. A single recent example of the report that results from such a
visit, suitably redacted if necessary.
4. The most recent management summary of these visits, the
interpretation that has been placed on it and any actions that have
subsequently been deemed necessary.

Firstly please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

In answer to Q 1 the Update to The Atos Healthcare Guide is enclosed for
your information. No specification is available.

In reply to Q 2 as a part of the contractual obligations Atos Healthcare
are required to carry out a mystery shopping visit at each Medical
Assessment Centre (MAC)in each contract year. Atos Healthcare are
required under contract compliance to confirm in writing that this has
been completed.

A complete list of MACs that are used by Atos Healthcare to conduct
medical assessments is available at this weblink
http://www.atoshealthcare.com/UserFiles/...
Assessment%20Centre%20Location%20List_July%202011.pdf .

In response to Q 3, and 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 letter dated 31/05/2012 from the MSCCT Freedom of
Information Officer (FOI 2941-795) refers.

In reply to Q 4 the Mystery shopping exercise is concerned with the
standard of accommodation, health and safety, provision of information
at MACs and presentation of the administration staff at the MAC; for
example are they wearing name badges etc.

There are no single management summaries. Once a report is completed it
is passed to the Regional Site Manager so they can initiate any remedial
action.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

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 [DWP request email] or by
writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, 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 Commissioner's 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 Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk

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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 'Mystery Shopping'.

I pointed out to you on 5th April that 20 days were up. I raised an IRR on 30th May and a response is still outstanding. I make this 2 failures – to provide the information itself on time and to provide an explanation for the delay on time. Please confirm that this is what you will log.

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

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, 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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J Newman left an annotation ()

As many will know, DWP has its own dictionary where words and expressions that have a clear and well understood meaning in common parlance have a rather different application by DWP. We have one here.

The key features of true ‘Mystery Shopping’ are that it is undertaken by an independent organisation and that it focuses on the key interface between the customer & provider. This version of Mystery Shopping has neither.
· It is completed by Atos for Atos on Atos.
· It does not include the WCA itself.

When you look at its content, it no more than a site/admin audit, which has its place in the overall scheme of things, but referring to it as Mystery Shopping is highly misleading and suggests it is something it most certainly is not.

Furthermore results are not collated centrally to provide an overall picture of the service being provided. It is clear that DWP has no interest in even these very limited service standards and is happy to abdicate the responsibility totally to Atos and let them get on with it.

This is a highly unusual approach to effective outsourced contract management and ensuring that high standards are provided.

P V Sutton left an annotation ()

Oh dear, I'm going to have to defend the DWP - don't you hate it when that happens?

Doing a "Mystery shopper" exercise on the WCA would be really difficult. They couldn't just send in someone who complains about a set of symptoms and then see how they were treated.

They couldn't do it with a real client, since either it would compromise the chances of that client getting the right result or it would open him/her to charges of fraud and/or undue influence. You couldn't even use the usual local GPs, since their reports would be worthless once they'd "played games" with the local MAC.

Every case would have to have to be a fake with all the (fake) details up on the LiMA system, which means also on the DWP IT system. There will have to be fake "reports" from fake GPs and perhaps even worse, fake consultants. There would have to be fake details for the claim, including a fake E50, fake NI number and NHS number.

Then the "mystery shopper" would have to be able to demonstrate the appropriate symptoms to the HCP to get the "correct" verdict. And probably that would include notifying the Job Centre - generating another set of fake details.

And after that all traces of this non-claimant would have to be cleared from all computer systems. You can bet your life that some details would remain, leading to more bureaucratic foul-ups - the possibilities are endless.

And all that it would prove is that either the "mystery shopper" was a good actor with excellent fake documents, or that the HCP could/couldn't spot a fraudulent claimant.

The best thing the DWP would be to approach someone like the CAB and ask them to produce a report on how the WCA was working. They'd then get a picture of the real thing (since some CABs still accompany clients in extreme need).

They'd be bound to act on such a report - wouldn't they? Surely?

J Newman left an annotation ()

Perhaps, but then they should call it something else.

My point is that this is one of many illusions & misrepresentations promulgated by DWP to make the whole WCA process appear better designed and better managed than it really is. The majority of people will believe what they hear and thus gain a false impression of the reality which will not bring about the improvements needed. A simple example is that everyone talks about the importance of improving right-first-time decision making, but no one makes the slightest attempt to measure it. So how will anyone ever know one way or the other?

John Slater left an annotation ()

Some interesting points here. I think it could be done if there was a truly independent audit / quality control dept within the DWP. In theory they could pick a number of genuine claimants with a range of conditions (some who should probably fail, some who should probably be placed in the WRAG and other who probably should be in the Support Group) and ask them if they would be prepared to cooperate with an audit / QC exercise. They could then be assessed by trusted HCP (preferably a doctor not employed by ATOS) and that would be their official assessment but not put on the normal system immediately. They would then be scheduled to see an ATOS HCP within a day or so and complete the 2nd WCA. The claimant would then get the result of the first WCA and would accept or appeal that decision. The 2nd WCA would be used for Audit / QC control. There are clearly a number of issues with this approach but if the right people are prepared to do it then it might work. I suspect that if ATOS HCP knew this sort of thing might happen then they would be more inclined to do their job properly in the first place. A real risk of detection and serious penalties should help with the majority of HCP.

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman

Please find enclosed a response to your request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act.

<<IR 209 Newman response.pdf>>

Kind regards

Medical Services Contract Correspondence Unit, Department for Work and
Pensions, Room 306, Block 3, Norcross, Norcross Lane, Blackpool, FY5 3TA
Tel 01253 611556, extn 69956

Please consider the environment before printing

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Alison Cain left an annotation ()

I've love to see the mystery shopper template. Is there any way of sharing it?

J Newman left an annotation ()

Alison, you can find it here, dutifully completed for Bangor. Not sure why this particular MAC, one imagines is was one of the better results.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/10...

This was part of the response to
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/at...

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman

Please find enclosed a response to your request for a review of the
information previously supplied   under the Freedom of Information Act by
the Medical Services Contract Correspondence Team Freedom of Information
Internal Review Officer, who apologises for the delay in providing you
with a response.

<<FOI 3459 - 406 Mr Newman Response.pdf>>
Kind regards

Medical Services Contract Correspondence Unit, Department for Work and
Pensions, Room 306, Block 3, Norcross, Norcross Lane, Blackpool, FY5 3TA
Tel 01253 611556, extn 69956

Please consider the environment before printing

show quoted sections

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman

Please find enclosed a response to your request for a review of the
information previously supplied   under the Freedom of Information Act by
the Medical Services Contract Correspondence Team Freedom of Information
Internal Review Officer, who apologises for the delay in providing you
with a response.

<<FOI 3391-IR 365 Response Mr Newman.pdf>>
Kind regards

Medical Services Contract Correspondence Unit, Department for Work and
Pensions, Room 306, Block 3, Norcross, Norcross Lane, Blackpool, FY5 3TA
Tel 01253 611556, extn 69956

Please consider the environment before printing

show quoted sections

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