Revised WCA Handbook - Revised edition 2011

Paul Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

The request was successful.

From: Paul Smith

20 December 2011

Dear Department for Work and Pensions

I would like to know the following

1) Are Atos Health Care Professionals conducting WCA instructed to
follow the Guidance set out in the Revised WCA Handbook 2011?

2) On page 37 of the Handbook it states under the heading "Reading
the Documents" Any evidence brought by the claimant must be
read.Can you clarify the situation on this, are Atos HCP instructed
to read all medical evidence brought by claiamnts or not?

3)When will the report into the pilot study of recording Atos WCA
Assessments be published?

4)Why was the pilot study into the recording of Atos WCA
assessments conducted using handheld digital recording devices when
claiamnts are told they cannot record their assessments unless they
have a professionally calibrated twin deck machine operated by a
professional sound engineer, If a handheld digital recording device
is OK for Atos why cannot the claimant use the same device for
recording their own assessment?

5)Why don't all Atos HCPs have badges like Hospital doctors with
their title and qualification on them, this is important as anyone
being assessed should have the right to know who is conducting the
assessment and what their qualification is.?

6) If a Atos HCP refuses to give their name and qualification to
the claiamnt being assessed would I be right in assuming that the
claiamnt has the legal right to then refuse for the assessment to
start?

Yours faithfully,

Paul Smith

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20 December 2011

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation (20 December 2011)

Quote-marks Hi Paul,

I have had 2 assessments and took medical information in with me and both times it was not taken into consideration according to the front page of my report, which left the relevant box unticked.

What they say and what they claim to do are two different things, right across the board!

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Paul Smith left an annotation ( 3 January 2012)

Quote-marks If the rules etc are not enforced then what is the point in producing a Handbook for use by all HCPs?

I fully understand what your telling me, I've had loads of people tell me their evidence is often refused by the Atos HCP when it is offered, this is very disturbing, for what reason can they offer as an excuse for looking at important medical evidence?

They obviously have no interest in getting the correct result, the only result that is important is to deny people their rightful entitlement to a benefit...

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From: Paul Smith

24 January 2012

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

Please inform me as to the reason why you have not provided me with
the information I have requested, by law you have failed to reply
to me in the given time, when will I get a reply?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Smith

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
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24 January 2012

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

24 January 2012


Attachment FoI 3878 24.01.12.pdf
20K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Smith

Please see attached response to your FoI request.

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Smith [mailto:[FOI #97670 email]]
Sent: 20 December 2011 16:01
To: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Revised WCA Handbook - Revised
edition 2011

Dear Department for Work and Pensions

I would like to know the following

1) Are Atos Health Care Professionals conducting WCA instructed to
follow the Guidance set out in the Revised WCA Handbook 2011?

2) On page 37 of the Handbook it states under the heading "Reading
the Documents" Any evidence brought by the claimant must be
read.Can you clarify the situation on this, are Atos HCP instructed
to read all medical evidence brought by claiamnts or not?

3)When will the report into the pilot study of recording Atos WCA
Assessments be published?

4)Why was the pilot study into the recording of Atos WCA
assessments conducted using handheld digital recording devices when
claiamnts are told they cannot record their assessments unless they
have a professionally calibrated twin deck machine operated by a
professional sound engineer, If a handheld digital recording device
is OK for Atos why cannot the claimant use the same device for
recording their own assessment?

5)Why don't all Atos HCPs have badges like Hospital doctors with
their title and qualification on them, this is important as anyone
being assessed should have the right to know who is conducting the
assessment and what their qualification is.?

6) If a Atos HCP refuses to give their name and qualification to
the claiamnt being assessed would I be right in assuming that the
claiamnt has the legal right to then refuse for the assessment to
start?

Yours faithfully,

Paul Smith

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J Newman left an annotation (24 January 2012)

Quote-marks Worse still, DWP at any level shows no interest at all in following up this particular complaint that Atos HCPs are not doing the job properly. All we get is the same rubbish about stringent audits etc. The plus side is that it offers a good basis for an appeal.

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Paul Smith left an annotation (24 January 2012)

Quote-marks Hi J Newman

I personally think the answers they gave about recording of assessments was quite interesting, If they will provide the eqipment then everyone attending an Atos/DWP assessment should make a request for recording equipment to be provided?

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J Newman left an annotation (25 January 2012)

Quote-marks Yup.

Worth remembering there are 2 quite distinct issues: the "content" of the WCA & how well Atos apply it and this is just about the latter. It will be a long hard slog to get the former changed.

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NJ left an annotation ( 4 February 2012)

Quote-marks Picking out one bit here: “Any evidence bought by the claimant must be read and the
report should make reference to the evidence that has been considered and justification
provided if there is a conflict between the opinion of the HCP and the other medical evidence.
Any evidence brought by the claimant, should be copied for the Decision Maker (see section
4.2.5 for further guidance).” Pages 134 & 135 of the handbook also provide guidance for the
HCP to follow in circumstances where claimants provide further medical evidence at the
assessment." - this does not seem to state that it should be read during the interview or whether it would be read later, or more to the point put to one side and ignored. Does this mean that we can take a shed load of testimony from doctors, nurses, friends, carers, consultants, etc., to clarify our claims? And if so, are these all going to be £10, £20, £50 letters paid for by us? Also, if evidence is to be provided and read, should it in the case of a taped interview be read out loud, and if so, by whom? The claimant or the interviewer?

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation ( 5 February 2012)

Quote-marks In answer to question 6 raised by Paul that only in exceptional circumstances the HCP would refuse to give details of name and qualifications, when I asked the HCP last time, she went away for a discussion with her colleagues, returned and said, she felt I was interrogating her!!LOL

The recording of assessments will make it so much harder for the HCPs to get away with anything. Finally the truth will out!

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation ( 5 February 2012)

Quote-marks Good FOI Paul, and the answers will result in many people quoting them:)

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J Newman left an annotation ( 6 February 2012)

Quote-marks There is a more basic issue wrapped up in all of this which is hard to condense and offers a solid basis for appeal.

HCPs’ conclusions MUST be evidence-based – they cannot just fall back on the phrase “in my opinion” without anything to substantiate it. This is particularly relevant where they feel their observations are at odds with info on the ESA50 in that they have to do something to attempt to resolve any contradiction. This could take a variety of forms – more specific Q&A, more detailed examination etc. but at the end of the day, their conclusion over fit for work must at least be based on the balance of probabilities. To this extent every WCA has to be ‘personalised’ as need be. They have to have all relevant info at the outset to 'design' the WCA appropriately.

Particularly given condition variability, this is all perfectly reasonable, but a bit tricky and at risk of resulting in an inconclusive answer, which is why they don’t do it and DWP choses to ignore the fact.

DWP DMs are also required to adopt this approach, but clearly rarely do or far more ESA85s would be returned to Atos for rework before we even see them.
Anyone who has pursued FoI requests seeking evidence for a whole range of Government decisions will likewise find it thin at best.

On condition variability, DWP has still not realised it has argued itself into an irreconcilable corner. It knows it has to accommodate it, but
• Will not trust the ESA50 to honestly describe it.
• Will not trust GPs to objectively report it.
• Will say that HCPs do not need diagnostic/clinical expertise.

So what exactly does a Decision Maker do? Damn good question. Truth is that is a made up job necessitated through the current loony process that acheives nothing and just adds to cost - there is a whole management infrastructure sitting behind it too.

As regards the recording issue, there are still a number of important questions regarding its operation that are far from clear and intentionally so I’m sure. Grayling is offering this (he hopes) as a gesture of goodwill and appeasement – no real structure around it and none of the rigour that would be needed for use in court and deliberately so without doubt.

He cannot find a good reason for not doing it but clearly does not want to. Just another manifestation of a system based on mistrust, conflict & confrontation rather than the reverse, which would be fairer and a great deal cheaper.

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J Newman left an annotation ( 6 February 2012)

Quote-marks PS. As regards ID, DWP's own rule is that a staff member must provide enough for them to be uniquely identified, so the same will apply to Atos. A Mr X at DWP refused to give me his initial, but confirmed he was the only Mr X in the building. At my last WCA I asked for the name of the HCP in advance and after some initial prevarication was given it.

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Ian Sandeman left an annotation ( 8 February 2012)

Quote-marks Just re-reading part of the response by DWP staff:-

"In answer to Q 4 the use of hand held machines was a pilot scheme. The pilot scheme was
designed to test the concept of their use rather than the equipment.

*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.

In reply to Q 5 I confirm that HCPs when undertaking assessments should have their
identification badge visible.

*This badge contains the following information: Atos Origin Logo,
HCP name, HCP General Medical Council /Nursing and Midwifery Council /Health Professions
Council registration details and a photograph of the HCP.

In response to Q 6 only in exceptional circumstances would a HCP refuse to provide the
claimant with their name and identity details.

The law states that if a medical assessment is required in order for the DWP Decision Maker to
make a decision on benefit entitlement then it is undertaken by a HCP who has been

*approved
by the DWP*

CMA on behalf of the Secretary of State, then the claimant must take part in that
assessment. If the claimant does not take part in the assessment without good reason, s/he
will be disallowed benefit. "

Two things here, first thing is clear, they agree you can have recordings if requested and have a copy provided for the claimant.

Second thing, is it valid to refuse the WCA if they do not display ID as stated?

Could be possible but not sure, someone would need to challenge it because if they are not wearing ID as stipulated then it could be argued that they were "not approved" in as much as they were not complying with the terms of their contract as approved HCPs etc.

I would think they would make darn sure they all wear their IDs now after this FoI response!

Incidentally, I don't know why the DWP had to reinvent the wheel, the Police have been doing this for years and must have manuals and rule books about using this type of equipment. Why not just use that and replicate the procedure? If its good enough for criminal proceedings then its good enough for a benefit claimant! ...well you know what I mean...

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Ian Sandeman left an annotation ( 9 February 2012)

Quote-marks Interestingly, looking at previous FoIs on the subject of recordings etc I see this one from 2010

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

Part of the response deals with the use of recordings obtained without the knowledge and prior consent of the DWP or Atos:-

"
In response to Qs 1, 2 & 3 It is not reasonably expected that an individual acting on behalf of
DWP would be aware that a customer is overtly recording a conversation or assessment.
However if conversations are overtly recorded and they are then published on the internet then
the customer will have exceeded the private and domestic use of information that they would
be allowed by the Data Protection Act 1998. There is also the possibility that they could record
other customers’ information which is not acceptable. "

Not sure that the reach of DPA 1998 extends to control of what amounts to your own data published by yourself!

The "possibility that they could record other customer's information" claim is also suspect as it is they that are supposed to be protecting that very same data!

All very prevaricating and obstacle making in my opinion and like one obeserver said although the minister stood up in the house and said he would abide by this when questioned by an MP, he did not seem at all comfortable about it.

One day soon the truth will out about WCA "medicals" DLA "doctors visits" and many many more sham medicals (which is what they are in my opinion).

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Jim Otram left an annotation ( 9 February 2012)

Quote-marks All highly relevant, if I may say so, Ian, and I can add just a couple of points.

That last (Nov 2010) FoI you quote was put in by a lawyer mate of mine and was designed to show that the DWP doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. It succeeds.

If a claimant's private medical details are overheard by other claimants, it is Atos who is at fault, not claimants, of course, as you say.

Even more importantly, the bit in the response about the Data Protection Act is completely erroneous and nothing to do with the question as asked: 'a red herring clutching at a straw.'

Section 36 of the DPA exempts processing of data by a private individual for personal purposes from the scope of the Act. Whether or not such a recording could constitute 'personal data' as regards a'HCP' and, if it did, whether the s.36 exemption would extend to posting on the net are debatable questions, with the balance of interpretation indicating that in many, perhaps most, circumstances that could be safely legal as well: but the taking, storing, copying etc of the original recording are all perfectly legal in any event.

The fact that 'HCPs' are instructed to terminate the session and report the outcome as a failure by the claimant to undergo examination if they discover a claimant recording is irrelevant to that fundamental legality. And there is good authority to say that even a covert recording can be admitted as evidence (in court or to a tribunal) in approriate circumstances.

I think 'covert recording' will remain an issue, despite the 'new arrangements' (as yet undocumented). This will be because (if the 'Pilot' process is followed) the DPA\Atos will try to compel claimants to sign small print purportedly giving DWP\Atos the right to control further use of the copy of the Atos recording in the claimant's hands (via copyright law).

And why will they do this?. Precisely because the DPA would NOT itself restrict later use of a recording taken by the claimant in the way which the DWP would like to contend.

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Ian Sandeman left an annotation (10 February 2012)

Quote-marks I think sooner or later, maybe if only to try and show the world that "the assessments are only to weed out the frauds" as the Sun etc might put it, an editor somewhere will say "right, you going in wired..." and the sooner the better in my opinion!

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Sheryl Odlum left an annotation (10 February 2012)

Quote-marks Hi,
Re 2nd question about bringing evidence. I had my assessment last September. The info sent to me by ATOS clearly stated that it wasn't worth bringing any evidence with me. Clearly breaking the guidelines. The results of this assessment nearly had me in hospital again and me and my family suffered until reversed their decsion only a couple of weeks ago. It took the DWP over 3 months to read 2 letters and immediately reverse the ATOS outcome, when I could have saved all this trouble and expense by being encouraged to bring evidence with me.

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation (11 February 2012)

Quote-marks Hi Sheryl, sorry to hear about your stress caused by Atos who are only interested in profit for themselves. Can I suggest you become better informed and suggest dwpexaminations.blacktrianglecampaign.org
and blacktrianglecampaign.org and http://victimsofatoscorruption.wordpress...

These forums are amongst many, fighting to help people like yourself, come and join us:)

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J Newman left an annotation (12 February 2012)

Quote-marks For my next WCA, I will ask in advance who is doing it. Atos will be evasive. I want to check them out as best I can in advance. Most importantly, I want to know what qualification they have - doctor, nurse, physio etc.

I will preapre my own "agenda" - a list of specific things I want to discuss.

I will take everything I can lay my hands on. Fortunately in this digital age, copies of even MRI scans are quite easy to get hold of. I will also get a letter from my surgeon & GP specifically about my capability to work rather than just rely on the "fit note". I will take a list of medication + their individual & collective side effects.

I will make sure we slowly discuss each piece of evidence in turn and that the HCP understands they must record the fact. I will specifically make sure we discuss in detail task repeatability and condition variability.

Not sure I will ask for a recording, but I'll have someone with me.

I will not let the HCP end the session until I am happy that we have discussed everything in sufficient detail and I am satisfied that at least something has been recorded and all of the items on my agenda have been ticked.

At the end I will ask the HCP for an initial opinion - it will probably be non commital, but it keeps them on the spot

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Ian Sandeman left an annotation (13 February 2012)

Quote-marks Please ask for your WCA to be recorded and let us know what response you get, if you can. Thanks.

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M C Thomson left an annotation (14 February 2012)

Quote-marks Given the high rate of appeals for ESA I am surprised that the likes of Panorama, Watchdog or other investigative programme haven't had reporters go in with a few claimants to record assessments which could later be compared against the so called medical reports.

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