The audio-recording by claimants of Work Capabilty Assessments: claimants' personal audio-recording equipment

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

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The request was refused by Department for Work and Pensions.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

The audio-recording by claimants of Work Capabilty Assessments: claimants' personal audio-recording equipment

On the 19th December 2012 the DWP made a statement (via the Atos website) concerning the audio-recording of disability assessments.

"…a customer may use their own recording equipment, providing it meets the required standards…"

From:- http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/12/r...

I also note that in a (grossly delayed and highly obstructive) response to Mr J Otram at the WDTK site on 27 12 12 (your reference FOI 3818-3794) you referred to 'the audio recording criteria'.

Specifically as regards work capability asessments for ESA, and under CURRENTLY RECORDED arrangements:-

Q1. Please specify exactly and in full what those 'required standards' and 'audio recording criteria' are FOR SUCH 'PERSONAL AUDIO-RECORDING EQUIPMENT' when a claimant overtly records a WCA.

The July 2012 edition of the WCA "Handbook" does indeed NOT contain any 'standards' or 'criteria' for personal equipment to be used by a claimant when overtly audio-recording a WCA. And I am not asking you for 'advice', any more than Mr Otram did: I am telling you to provide the required information exactly and completely.

Q2. In the light of the history of gross lack of transparency by the DWP concerning the issue of recording, this FoI request also calls upon you to produce the document or documents in which the DWP has, to date of this request, confirmed those 'required standards' and 'audio recording crtieria' to Atos – in full and showing dates (although in the event there is any 'commercially sensitive information', or the names of junior staff, in such documentation, you may consider very limited redaction).

Yours faithfully,

Rick Sykes

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DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

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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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John Slater left an annotation ()

Without a published policy the DWP is acting unlawfully. This was decided by the UK Supreme Court in Lumba v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (2011) UKSC 12.

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 'The audio-recording by claimants of Work Capabilty Assessments: claimants' personal audio-recording equipment'.

Your Reference: FOI 5193

The audio-recording by claimants of Work Capability Assessments: claimants' personal audio-recording equipment

My original Q1, of 31 12 12, read:

'On the 19th December 2012 the DWP made a statement (via the Atos website) concerning the audio-recording of disability assessments.

"…a customer may use their own recording equipment, providing it meets the required standards…" From:- http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/12/r...

I also note that in a (grossly delayed and highly obstructive) response to Mr J Otram at the WDTK site on 27 12 12 (your reference FOI 3818-3794) you referred to 'the audio recording criteria'.

Specifically as regards work capability asessments for ESA, and under CURRENTLY RECORDED arrangements:-

Q1. Please specify exactly and in full what those 'required standards' and 'audio recording criteria' are FOR SUCH 'PERSONAL AUDIO-RECORDING EQUIPMENT' when a claimant overtly records a WCA. '

To this you have responded:

" - If claimants may use their own equipment to record their WCA then a complete and accurate copy of the recording must be provided to the HCP at the end of the WCA.
- Such recordings are restricted to CD and audio cassette only. "

And those are the only criteria you specify in your response concerning the 'required standards' for the personal equipment concerned.

As a representation, supposedly 'exactly and in full', of the DWP's currently recorded policy as regards the specification for equipment used by claimants who wish themselves to audio-record WCAs, your response to me very significantly conflicts with statements made by Atos employees to claimants and their advisers both during the period 19 12 12 to 31 12 12, and thereafter.

In those statements (by Atos) people have been told that any personal equipment must be 'dual-recording' i.e must be able 'simultaneously', or 'synchronously' to audio-record to two separate audio-cassettes or to two CDs at the same time.

There is no such 'simutaneous dual-recording' product on the market which the vast majority of claimants could possibly afford, and thus claimants have been bullied out of their rights as, for instance, declared to parliament by Grayling on 04 09 12. Conversely, there are a number of different technical solutions to recording and then promptly producing an accurate copy of the recording first made to leave with Atos at the end of a WCA, which claimants might either own or reasonably be able to borrow for the occasion.

I would like you be very clear that there is no doubt claimants and their advisers have been, and are continuing to be, told by Atos, during and since December 2012 that – quite irrespective of the quality or other specification of the personal equipment concerned - they will not allow a claimant to use it overtly unless it 'simutaneously dual-records'. They have said that many times and have been (covertly) audio-recorded so doing. I have such a recording in my possession , complete with names, times and places; and I have my myself been told that in person several times in connection with different claims. You will also find the posts at # 952 and #955 of this well-known thread, instructive: http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/for...

From that link in particular you will note that claimants and their advisers have been told quite clearly on the telephone that, without considering any other aspect of the equipment concerned, if it does not 'simultaneously dual-record' there is no point in bringing it to a MEC. That is entirely consistent with my own repeated experiences, and those of other advisers, and claimants I know.

You will see that the conflict between your ('exactly and in full') response to me here, which makes no mention of a 'simultaneous dual-recording requirement', and the behaviour of Atos is highly material. This IR requires you to consider the siuation carefully and clearly and candidly inform me whether under CURRENTLY RECORDED DWP policy the DWP in fact requires claimants to use only 'simutaneous dual-recording' equipment (as I have explained it to you above) or not. Yes or No.

And this is an entirely valid 'YES or NO' option. If ' NO', your FoI response in this regard is correct -but Atos are exposed as acting illegally. If 'YES', then not only is your FoI response inadequate and deceitful, but the DWP is exposed as acting illegally by devising and enforcing a policy which unreasonably obstructs a claimant's right to record, (contrary to CIB\3117\2008 and the DWP's own legal advice ref: RFP 27).

As regards my Q2 you have in effect said two things, both of them absurd. Of course there is documentation (whether 'electronic documentation' or in other form) covering the precise point in issue. In the light of the consistent refusal, from different parts of Atos over a period of many weeks, to permit claimants to record, precisely on the ground that the equipment concerned was not 'dual-recording' and for no other reason, it could not possibly be otherwise. Reference is being made to one document or set of documents to arrive at this position.

And there are only two possible sources for such documentation: the DWP or Atos. In both cases (since Atos can only be holding such information on behalf or the DWP) it is documentation available for the purposes of FoI. It would appear that the junior clerical officer who produced the response to me was unaware of this, but I am entitled to expect that the person who conducts this IR will have enquired carefully and thoroughly of Atos as to such information before responding. I wish to see the text - whether first drafted by Atos or by the DWP or jointly, and whenever approved or confirmed by the DWP.

The other absurd point raised by you under Q2, is the response's suggestion that in this matter of DWP policy Atos is allowed to generate its own 'requirements'. That is emphatically not the case in this matter of departmental 'policy'. The DWP cannot delegate the formulation of policy to Atos, and it is frankly disgraceful that the DWP should permit junior staff to respond to FoI requests unsupervised to the extent that fundamental and crucial error of law is presented to the public in this fashion. Atos must comply with policy devised, within the law, by the DWP – and the public is entitled to see that policy, as CURRENTLY being operated, in full and IN WRITING. Atos cannot invent its own further obstructions to the rights of claimants to record.

The DWP cannot hide behind Atos in this matter. Either the 'simultaneous dual-recording requirement' Atos has been presenting to claimants as detailed dabove is a matter of DWP POLICY, or it isn't; it is not a decision which the DWP can lawfully delegate to its subcontractor.

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

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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References

Visible links
1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

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 ()

" For Question 2, I maintain there are currently no documents that specify exact "required standards" and "audio recording criteria" where claimants wish to record a face-to-face assessment using their own equipment."

Othet tha the ones they have just produced here, that would be:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/rick...

what a disgraceful shambles the DWP is.