WCA Audi Recording Pilot

J Newman made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Background

In the Westminster Hall debate over Work Capability Assessments on 1st Feb 2012, (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=...), Chris Grayling said “On audio recording, we will offer everyone who wants it the opportunity to have their session recorded. We decided not to implement universal recording because, based on the trial experience, people did not want it. Few people wanted their sessions recorded, and some said that they definitely did not. We decided therefore to offer recording as an option to those who want it”.

You cannot/will not provide the detailed set-up documentation typical for a project of this nature or any detailed report of its findings. As the trial lacks rigour, important information has not been collected and the conclusions that have been drawn could be spurious and/or incomplete.

There have been many complaints from claimants about the accuracy of logging information provided at WCAs and there is a high expectation that recording will resolve the problem and potentially offer an indisputable basis for appeal. The roll-out mechanism must therefore ensure this is the case.

The WCA Handbook shows current instructions from paragraph 4.1.3.

1. A JC+ briefing paper was published ahead of the trial titled "Audio Recording of Medical Assessments Pilot". Who was the author, when was it published and where can it be found on your website? Have any similar documents been published since?

2.Is this facility (audio recording) available to all claimants on request with immediate effect? If not when will it be universally available?

3.How will Atos/DWP ensure that all claimants are aware of the facility ahead of their WCA and the precise process for requesting?

4.If recording is requested and Atos cannot comply, will the WCA be rescheduled if the claimant wishes with no consequences to the claimant?

5.Will Atos or DWP have the facility to request assessments to be recorded if they so wish and what if the claimant objects?

6.Will all Atos HCPs be trained in the use of the equipment – i.e. how to conduct conversations to avoid ambiguity rather than which buttons to press on the machine?

7.When will the WCA Handbook instructions be a) informally and b) formally updated and published?

8.Will the recordings be accepted as evidence at an appeal and how will the tribunal confirm authenticity?

9.In outline, what is the process to guarantee the integrity of the recordings and eliminate the risk of tampering?

10.From the trial, what statistics are available to support his statement that few wanted recording, some definitely did not etc.?

11.In addition to these statistics, his conclusion would also have sensibly considered the number of appeals that have arisen due to disputes over what was/wasn't said during a WCA which have been impossible to resolve, but could have been using this equipment. How many such appeals would having this equipment in permanent use eliminate? It would be foolish not to take this into account.

12.For the Minister to make these comments, some sort of report, briefing paper, meeting minutes, email etc. must have been produced summarising these points for his benefit. Please provide copies of all such documentation including associated correspondence.

13.From the trial sample, how do claimants attitudes to recording vary based on previous experience with WCAs? Were those with previous WCA experience more in favour of recording than “first-time” users?

14.What reasons were given by claimants for NOT wanting a recording to take place?

15.What is the overall cost of providing the necessary equipment, training etc. across all assessment centres

a.One-off initially to establish?

b.On-going p.a.?

c.Are either/both of these costs to be borne by DWP and hence the taxpayer?

16.The declared primary purpose of the pilot was to "improve the quality of assessments". What measure was used and what evidence do you have that this objective was achieved - numbers please not assumptions?

17.Would you please provide the current up to date copy of the risk register?

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

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

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Jim Otram left an annotation ()

With the DWP saying it will release information about the 'Pilot' in 'the Spring' of 2012, and this request due for response by the end of next week (Friday, 16 03 12), this is my new 'one to watch'.

Alas, the odds must be on a response delayed to the last moment and still 'stonewalling' on the (in-my-view-invalid-in-these-circumstances) ground of the information's being due for later publication, but the DWP is running ouf hiding room, here, I think...and you never know...

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Posted at 4.53pm

J Newman left an annotation ()

Not sure what it means at the moment, but I've just had a string of "delayed requests"

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

If you can tell me how late you will be, it might avoid an internal review and/or referal to ICO.

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. 

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
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Jim Otram left an annotation ()

So I have noted, John. At 11.30am this morning I counted this one (curses) and 3 others of yours which should all have received a response by close of play yesterday.

If they say anything at all, my guess it will be the 'high call volumes excuse', though ,having looked again at the original requests, one could readily imagine the real citerion for failure was the fact they were finding them the most difficult to fend off.

I think they fondly imagine they have already disposed of your IR35 query, though.

I will watch for developments next week with interest.

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman,

Please see attached response to your FoI request.

Kind regards,

DWP Central FoI Team

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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 'WCA Audi Recording Pilot'.

The Minister made the statement on the 1st February that this facility was available without qualification. In addition, a number of other DWP spokespersons and indeed the Atos CEO have stated that all Prof Harrington's recommendations have been implemented, of which this is one. The information I have requested therefore should be readily available as it would have formed the basis of the (recent) decision to fully implement the system.

Without this information, on what basis did the Minister decide to proceed?

For the time being, please send me what you have straight away with the balance to follow. I want to see precisely which questions are causing the delay.

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

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.

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J Newman left an annotation ()

and when I saw the response, I was foolish enough to think it would explain what the hell is going on . . . .

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

"…the reason a response has not yet been provided is that the issue is still being investigated and enquiries are taking longer than anticipated."

Absolutely staggering. How could any one of the 17 'issues' raised in this request not have been fully 'investigated', decided upon and documented, not only before Grayling was obliged to make his announcement of the new scheme in February, but before its alleged commencement ("late last year").

To me this looks like a determined but blatant attempt to delay such queries being presented to the ICO, John.

Well, my IR on some overlapping\related issues is not quite as detailed as this FoI, but it's due for response by 27 03 12, and all or any unanswered questions in it are going to the ICO on the 28th, if not before. No more hiding room.

J Newman left an annotation ()

Exactly Jim. It appears as a senior politician you can say anything you like to get yourself off the hook at the time - true or false.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request a FURTHER internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request 'WCA Audi Recording Pilot'.

It is now 6 weeks since my IR request dated 19th March & still nothing. Although the Atos report on the trial has at last been made available, there is no DWP response to it and many of the questions here remain unanswered.

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

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

Our Ref: FOI 2927-736

Dear Mr Newman,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request that was received by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Adelphi on 18 February 2012 and forwarded on 20 February 2012 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:-

1. A JC+ briefing paper was published ahead of the trial titled "Audio Recording of Medical Assessments Pilot". Who was the author, when was it published and where can it be found on your website? Have any similar documents been published since?
2. Is this facility (audio recording) available to all claimants on request with immediate effect? If not when will it be universally available?
3. How will Atos/DWP ensure that all claimants are aware of the facility ahead of their WCA and the precise process for requesting?
4. If recording is requested and Atos cannot comply, will the WCA be rescheduled if the claimant wishes with no consequences to the claimant?
5. Will Atos or DWP have the facility to request assessments to be recorded if they so wish and what if the claimant objects?
6. Will all Atos HCPs be trained in the use of the equipment - i.e. how to conduct conversations to avoid ambiguity rather than which buttons to press on the machine?
7. When will the WCA Handbook instructions be a) informally and b) formally updated and published?
8. Will the recordings be accepted as evidence at an appeal and how will the tribunal confirm authenticity?
9. In outline, what is the process to guarantee the integrity of the recordings and eliminate the risk of tampering?
10. From the trial, what statistics are available to support his statement that few wanted recording, some definitely did not etc.?
11. In addition to these statistics, his conclusion would also have sensibly considered the number of appeals that have arisen due to disputes over what was/wasn't said during a WCA which have been impossible to resolve, but could have been using this equipment. How many such appeals would having this equipment in permanent use eliminate? It would be foolish not to take this into account.
12. For the Minister to make these comments, some sort of report, briefing paper, meeting minutes, email etc. must have been produced summarising these points for his benefit. Please provide copies of all such documentation including associated correspondence.
13. From the trial sample, how do claimants attitudes to recording vary based on previous experience with WCAs? Were those with previous WCA experience more in favour of recording than "first-time" users?
14. What reasons were given by claimants for NOT wanting a recording to take place?
15. What is the overall cost of providing the necessary equipment, training etc. across all assessment centres
a. One-off initially to establish?
b. On-going p.a.?
c. Are either/both of these costs to be borne by DWP and hence the taxpayer?
16. The declared primary purpose of the pilot was to "improve the quality of assessments". What measure was used and what evidence do you have that this objective was achieved - numbers please not assumptions?
17. Would you please provide the current up to date copy of the risk register?
May I take this opportunity to apologise for the delay in responding to your request for information.
In answer to Q 1 since your FOI request was submitted, a paper relating to Professor Harrington's recommendation on recording of assessments has been published on line. We cannot supply any further information relating to the names relating to the individuals who either designed the tender document or evaluated the bids as this constitutes personal data. This information cannot be disclosed in accordance with Section 40 of the FoI Act 2000 as disclosure would breach that person's right to privacy under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and does not require a public interest test.
In considering this exemption, the Department has balanced an individual's right to privacy against the public's right to know and as such the individuals have a reasonable expectation that their privacy will be protected under the Data Protection Act.

This briefing paper has not been published in the public domain.

In reply to Qs 2 & 4 audio recordings are available to claimants requiring a medical assessment on request to Atos Healthcare. the request for a recording should not delay the arrangement of a medical assessment. In order to accommodate the request within a reasonable timescale a customer may be asked to attend a Medical Assessment Centre (MAC) that is not the nearest MAC to their home address. Customers would not be expected to travel to a MAC where this involves a one way journey of more than 90 minutes.

In response to Q 3 whilst arrangements are in place to enable customers to request an audio recording there is currently no document advising claimants that they can request audio recordings of their medical assessment. A process guide is currently being agreed by Atos Healthcare and the DWP to improve claimant awareness of the steps to should take if they wish to request audio recording of their assessment.

In answer to Q 5 the Department does not currently have the facility to request that a specific medical assessment is recorded. Additionally Atos Healthcare who are under contract to provide medical services to DWP have such a facility and would have no reason to record assessments.

In reply to Q 6 Healthcare Professionals (HCP) will be given training on how to operate the machines. The Medical Assessments will continue to be conducted in accordance with the current Atos Healthcare Professional Standards as agreed by the DWP.

In response to Q 7 the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) Handbook is updated regularly, the last update to the guide was conducted on 4 October 2011.

In answer to Qs 8 & 9 the recording pilot was to test the concept of recording assessments. DWP did not extend the range of the pilot to capture the effects on appeals. Audio recordings are however considered to be 'documents' for the purposes of appeals and Social Security Tribunals (SSAT). Recordings may be admitted as evidence, if considered to be relevant to the point in question. Audio recordings submitted to SSATs as evidence will require transcription. Arrangement for transcription services and any associated costs usually fall to the party presenting the evidence, i.e. if a claimant is requesting that the recording being admitted, then this becomes their responsibility, and therefore arrangement for and costs of transcription are likely to fall to the claimant. However, SSAT Chairs may, at their discretion, attribute transcription costs to either party i.e. the claimant or DWP.

The Department will retain a copy of the audio recording in accordance with the data protection act and can submit to the tribunal service any such evidence as directed to support the authenticity of any such recordings.

It is not possible to alter the digital recording because the recording is undertaken on dual recording digital equipment and burnt to disc at the time of the event. One copy is presented to the claimant and the other is securely retained by DWP.

In reply to Qs 10 & 12 since you asked your question this information has been put into the public domain and is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-recording... Please find enclosed in the link below the Harrington audio recording pilot evaluation report which was published on the DWP website in April.
Link http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-ref...

In answer to Q 11 The Department does not collate this information. The recording pilot was to test the concept of recording assessments. The DWP did not extend the range of the pilot to capture the effects on appeals. The Freedom of Information Act (FoI) is not about creating information, entering a debate on the meaning or definition of phrases used or educating the requestor on what things mean, therefore this question cannot be classified as being related to the FoI Act.

In response to Qs 13, 14 & 16 this did not form part of the survey pilot and is therefore not available. All information and questions relating to the trial are contained within the report provided at question 10.

In reply to Qs 15 a, b & c the Department has decided not to disclose the information you requested regarding the cost of providing price of the necessary equipment, training etc. across all assessment centres, One-off initially to establish? On-going p.a.? Are either/both of these costs to be borne by DWP and hence the taxpayer? in accordance with Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; this exemption covers Commercial Interests. The medical services Contract will in due course be re-let by means of a competitive procurement exercise. Releasing details of Atos Healthcare's underlying financial model, in particular details of the unit cost of each assessment that they have factored into the contract would, or would be likely to prejudice their commercial interests.

In applying this exemption the Department has balanced the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosing the information and considers that release of the information would prejudice the interest of Atos Healthcare and the Department's future dealings with Atos Healthcare or other service providers.

The total cost of providing medical these services amounts to approximately £100 million per annum. This figure not only covers the total number of assessments undertaken across all benefits, but also costs relating to written and verbal medical advice, fixed overheads, administrative costs, investment in new technology and other service improvements.

In answer to Q 17 as you have not defined which risk register you are referring to I am unable to respond to this request. You may wish to be more specific

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman,

I'm afraid that due to an oversight I made in sending the response below to you, it did not include a copy of the briefing paper referred to in answer . Please find a copy attached with my apologies.

Central FoI Team

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J Newman left an annotation ()

It took almost 5 months to get here . . . .

The internal briefing paper is interesting (once DWP decided to admit it is authentic – elsewhere they have hinted it was nothing to do with them) as it demonstrates the limited scope planned from the outset – it is not quite clear what “personal use” is intended to mean – presumably as no more than an aide memoire. If this is the case, why then would DWP object so strongly to claimants taking along their own recording device?

The salient points are:

1. The basis reasons why this suggestion ever arose seem to have been forgotten – misrepresentation by and mistrust of Atos HCPs. This project only treats the symptoms, NOT the cause.

2. No consideration was given to the obvious correlation between past experience and attitude to recording. Clearly a first-timer is (naively) far less likely to understand the value than someone who has been previously wrongly assessed.

3. Lots of talk about improving the quality of assessments, but no attempt to clarify what this means or setup a mechanism to measure it. Right-first-time decision making would be an obvious KPI, but there is no intention to track even this.

4. Whilst it categorically states that recordings will not form part of the decision making process, it does not make clear how they could feature in the RECONSIDERATION process, particularly once it becomes a mandatory step in the formal decision appeal arrangements. DMs we are repeatedly told will consider ALL of the evidence available.

5. The availability is being kept as low profile as possible. It would be the easiest thing in the world to publicise the facility with slight modifications to existing leaflets. The hope clearly is that this will distort true demand to the point where at some point the scheme can be scrapped as not being cost effective. Clearly the marginal cost of more recordings will be very small indeed.

6. Trying to conceal the costs strongly suggests some “issues” here and probably another source of embarrassment. As a new venture, Atos will be passing all the costs back to DWP = the taxpayer.

7. It has taken from 18th February until 27th June to attempt to clarify one of my questions – makes a mockery of FoI legislation – letter & spirit.

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 'WCA Audi Recording Pilot'.

This is in fact my 3rd request for a comprehensive Internal Review. I would remind you that the question relates to an announcement by the Minister on 1st February, so to suggest on 19th March that some of the information he would have considered is not readily available is quite ridiculous in itself.

Note also that Atos issued the final report on the trial in June 2011 and DWP sat on it for 12 months, during which time it can produce no evidence at all of its deliberations that would justify such a long delay. DWP has used ‘report in preparation” repeatedly as a reason for rebuffing FoI requests, which is a deception as it was produced June 2011. DWP has not published any formal response (as one would expect), which again undermines completely any justification for a 12 month publication delay – clearly a case of illegal non-disclosure.

18th Feb – request raised
19th March – at last possible moment, delay notified. Response anticipated for 31st March.
19th March – first IRR raised
3rd May IRR – further IRR as no response from first IRR, nor any response on 31st March as indicated
27/29th June – eventual response published with no indication of reason for delays. Also, despite having taken 4½ months, clarification is requested for one question which presumably could have been requested 3½ months ago.

The request for “clarification” suggests there is more than one risk register, in which case I would like to see ALL of the risk registers and impact assessments that have been produced in connection with this project/trial, some of which will be “live” given the work is not yet complete.

In summary, my IRR is due to: a) long, inadequately justified delays & b) the eventual response is incomplete and the request for clarification is no more than prevarication.

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

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

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

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
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By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant
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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 160 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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J Newman left an annotation ()

IR160 here accepts the >20 day delay, but nothing else. There has been a clear attempt at non-disclosure regarding the audio trial.

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Newman,

Please see attached response; sent with apologies for the delay

Yours Sincerely,

Health & Disability Assessments (Operations)/Department for Work and Pensions / Room 306 / Block 3 /Norcross / Norcross Lane / Blackpool / FY5 3TA

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J Newman left an annotation ()

The standard phrases used in this last response are really taking the mickey - it seems the Section 22 exemption relates more to what is in DWP’s interests than the public’s.

If DWP is genuinely concerned about the public interest, it would have established its policy long before now. Likewise if it wishes to demonstrate a “planned and managed process”, it would declare what this policy is and be making recognisable steps towards it. By contrast and in the absence of a policy, what we have seen is a series of increasingly draconian restrictions announced on an ad hoc basis clearly designed to make this all as difficult for claimants as possible – so I think it safe to say this is what the policy must be.

No hint as usual as to when a policy will be announced, so we can expect this to go on for ever, which is of course totally in the public interest.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

It's just grotesque, John. Still 'formulating policy' as regards a tin-pot 'pilot' completed in June 2011..

Blatant and contemptible evasion.

DWP LS FOI, Department for Work and Pensions

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Newman

Please find attached response to your complaint to the ICO

<<response.pdf>> <<attachment.pdf>>

Regards

DWP Central FOI Team

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Jim Otram left an annotation ()

An absolutely cracking result here. Thank you, John.

"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."

- From para 3.1 of Atos' report of November 2010, attached above.

I couldn't work out what was going on at first. Why had the DWP finally, and apparently 'spontaneously', caved in as regards an enquiry over a year old?

Then I noticed the 'ICO' reference in the top left of the DWP's response of 18 04 2013…

Once again, the DWP has had its bottom kicked to teach it some manners, but it couldn't bear to acknowledge that in the text.

Gerald Carzer left an annotation ()

Excellent news well done!!!!