WCA - Audio recording and consent form

The request was successful.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Claimants who request audio-recording equipment for their WCA are provided with a customer factsheet and are required to sign a consent form before the assessment commences.

Kindly provide the following information:
1. Why is this form not sent to the claimant prior to the day of the assessment?
2. Please provide a copy of the factsheet and consent form.
3. I understand that, by signing the consent form, the claimant agrees that the audio for their personal use only and must not be placed in the public domain.
3a. Since the audio recording is personal information about the claimant, why is there a restriction on how the claimant uses their own personal information?
3b. Do claimants have the option NOT to sign the form? If they don't, then why not? If they do, then are they informed of this?
3b. Will the assessment and the audio-recording still go ahead if the claimant refuses to sign the form? If yes, is this claimant made aware of this?
4. It appears that many claimants are not aware that they can have their assessments audio recorded. Are there any plans to start displaying prominent notices at the assessment centres?
5. If there is a factsheet available that explains the audio-recording process clearly, please provide.

Yours faithfully,

A C Smithson

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Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

I wish to amend Question 4 of my request:
It appears that many claimants are not aware that they can request audio-recording for their assessments. Are any steps being taken to make claimants aware of this? If yes, what plans are being put in place and when will they be implemented?

Yours sincerely,

A C Smithson

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Kenny Bain left an annotation ()

On Monday 2rd September I attended a WCA in Aberdeen, where I was given a consent form to sign, in order that the WCA be recorded as I had requested. I struck out the line which dealt with the purpose to which the recording would be put, as this seemed to me to be entering a contract between Atos and myself (the customer) which there was no legal onus upon myself to do. Atos have a contract with DWP which says if the customer wishes, they must record the WCA; If I want to use the CD as a frisbee, that is my right. I specifically wished to record the WCA so that I could use the recording in future criminal and/or civil court proceedings.
This course of action was suggested to me by the online forum story of someone who had already done this, with the effect being to force a deferral of the WCA. Not what I wanted, but the legal logic struck me as sound.
The staff member dealing with me said this would be a problem, and phoned for advice. (Presumably Edinburgh.) His return phone call gave him a decision. In the presence of a witness whom I had with me, Atos refused to assess me if I did not sign the form with ALL its stipulations, despite my having clearly given signed consent to be recorded and having stated that I was willing to be assessed, it was only Atos who refused the assessment. They further stated that I would be listed as not having attended, which is what happened.
As of the 5th September, I have notified the DWP and am awaiting further developments. If my health is adversely affected, I plan punitive legal action using Duty of Care legislation.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

That's a very interesting account, KB. I do hope you will keep us posted as to any further outcome of this.

I think it is a complete disgrace that the DWP tries to force claimants to sign such threatening but enforceable tripe.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Correction: my typing. In my, view such documents are UNENFORCEABLE.

A C Smithson left an annotation ()

Kenny and Jim

I've read about cases of assessments being deferred and some still went going ahead. Kenny's is the first one I've come across where he was put down as a no-show. Is this a new tactic being employed, impose benefit sanctions if a claimant refuses to agree to all the conditions? That's despicable.

Like Jim says, I can't see how it's enforceable. Interesting post around the audio recording can be found here: http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewt...

Kenny, I hope you are able to sort out the situation with your benefits soon. There appears to be a lack of consistency, transparency and accountability with regards to the WCA process.

Kenny Bain left an annotation ()

I was phoned back today by the DWP; they appeared rather anxious. With obvious relief, and without any urging from me, although I was already asking some rather pointed questions, I was handed off to the Re-assessment Team Leader.
It was made clear to me by the repeated use of the phrase, "Because you did not attend" that the DWP position is that I failed in my legal obligation to attend a WCA.
It was explained - if you can call this an explanation - that Atos do not have a contractual obligation to record the WCA's, this is done simply as a favour to the DWP. What kind, kind people ! Atos are worried lest the recordings find their way into the public domain (I'll bet!) and have put this clause in to prevent that.
Now we know why every time I ask to deal with them by email, they say they do not have this facility - with admissions and tales like that to tell, who would want to put it in writing...:-P
I pointed out that I specifically wanted to be recorded because I had on previous occasions given answers which were inaccurately recorded on the paperwork, and if this happened again and my health suffered as a result of inaccuracies, I wanted to be able to take legal action. (Chance would be a fine thing.) I pointed out that there was no legal onus on me to make a contract with Atos. Their contract was with DWP, not me.
As if it was perfectly reasonable, I was told repeatedly that Atos would refuse to assess me if I did not meet their conditions, because of their worries. If I did not sign, I would be recorded as a Did Not Attend. Until I attended a WCA, my benefits would be stopped; I may appeal that decision, but meantime I would have no benefits. An appeal could take months.
I asked specifically if the DWP were insisting that I must make a contract with Atos, and ignoring the fact that I had attended a WCA and had been willing to give the necessary legal consent to be recorded. Their answer was that I must sign that form, or I would be not be assessed and therefore I would have my benefits stopped.
I told them I was not going to sign, and we both hung up as clearly the conversation had run its course.
I can foresee a solicitor being involved if I can just find one, meantime I have a secret weapon which I had not mentioned to the DWP or Atos simply because I had genuinely forgotten - but it may be a gamechanger. Sorry to be mysterious, but let's just say there may be an oversight the DWP had not thought of. ;-)
This is what I had half-expected. Transparency, legality, accountability ? Nah, not in any system created by Unum.
Bring it on. Compared to what my health has done to me over the years, these people are a mere bagatelle.

A C Smithson left an annotation ()

Kenny,

I was told by Atos that they do not communicate via email. However, their Customer Relations Team have an email address which I use sparingly. If an organisation refuses to provide me with written confirmation, I usually set it out as a complaint to their complaints team recounting the discussions and then asking why I can't get it in writing. If the complaints team don't dispute what I've written, then I use it as evidence that the events did occur.

I plan to sign the form and discuss the legalities later. I think clarity is needed around what Atos defines as 'personal use' and 'public domain'.

These consent forms should be sent prior to the assessment so claimants can seek advice, should they wish to do so. Have you spoken to your local Citizens' Advice Bureau? They have a lot of experience with these assessments and may be able to give you some urgent advice.

I am curious about this secret weapon but I can understand the need to be mysterious. Taking the DWP by surprise is always a good strategy :)

Thanks for the update.

J Newman left an annotation ()

This is both fascinating and highly valuable and congratulations to Kenny for holding his ground. In a perverse way a wish my next WCA was closer so that I could join this on a first-hand basis. The sad reality is that DWP can do what it likes (right or wrong) and we can appeal, but always from the back foot.

The issue of recording for oneself is equally interesting with the stance DWP is trying to take on this too. Their behaviour is nothing less than shameful over this whole recording issue the need for which is entirely of their own making. If they treat us with such contempt and mistrust, what reaction do they expect?

Good luck and all moral support from me anyway.

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 - Audio recording and consent form'.

My request was made on 28 August 2012. By law, the DWP should have responded promptly and by 25 September 2012.

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,

A C Smithson

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.

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Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
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Coates John DWP OPS CCSD MEDICAL SERVICES, Department for Work and Pensions

2 Attachments

Dear AC Smithson

Please find enclosed a response to your request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act by the Medical Services Contract Correspondence
Team Freedom of Information Officer, who apologises for the delay.

<<audio recording consent form.pdf>> <<3744-3325 Response A Smithson.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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John Slater left an annotation ()

The DWP answer to Q3a is legally incorrect and an attempt to scare people. The ICO guidance (available on their web site) makes it clear that publishing on a website falls within domestic use.

Dear Coates John DWP OPS CCSD MEDICAL SERVICES,

Thank you for your response.

In your response to Q2, you mentioned that the factsheet was attached but no factsheet has been attached.

There appears to be some confusion between the DWP and Atos on how the recording can be used. Your response to Q3a states that "individuals are within their rights to use any record of their personal business with DWP for domestic purposes, that is their personal, family, or household affairs. However, publishing the recordings e.g. on the internet, or in any other way, is going beyond domestic purposes." The Atos consent form states that "The copy of the recording you have is to be used solely in relation to your claim for benefit and is not to be published or reproduced." Please clearly state which one applies to how the recording can be used.

I sent a subsequent email amending Q4. Can you address the question, please? The amended question is:
"It appears that many claimants are not aware that they can request
audio-recording for their assessments. Are any steps being taken to make claimants aware of this? If yes, what plans are being put in place and when will they be implemented?"

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

A C Smithson

A C Smithson left an annotation ()

John

I find it odd that the DWP seeks to rely on the Data Protection Act. If Atos had not in breach of the DPA (by producing so many inaccurate reports), there would be no need for audio-recordings.

The fact that the DWP is allowing Atos to withhold a service (the assessment) if a claimant refuses to sign the consent form is worrying. The DWP and Atos are going to an awful lot of trouble to restrict the usage of the recording.

J Newman left an annotation ()

And often blame the delay on the claimant which could result in payments being stopped.

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

This has been and continues to be a most interesting FoI.

I am particularly glad to have sight of the latest text DWP\Atos are requiring claimants to sign before they get their WCA recorded.

I note:

1. Unlike previous edition(s) they have given up the pretence of its being any form of purported 'contract' between the claimant and the DWP or Atos.

2. With fatuous fandango it provides a place for Atos to hold a signature indicating that you did indeed want the WCA to be recorded. (If you didn't and Atos recorded THEY might be in breach of the DPA).

3. It has absolutely zero further legal effect but is nonetheless a blatant attempt to mislead\bully. The silly little whine in italics:-

"The copy of the recording you have is to be used solely in relation to your claim for benefit and is not to be published or reproduced"

is merely the expression of a wholly unenforceable 'wish' on the part of DWP\Atos, which can be treated with the contempt it deserves and impunity. I might as well give you a jacket and tell you to wear it only on Thursdays.

As is being noted all over WDTK now, and elsewhere on the net, s.36 DPA provides a very broad exemption from virtually all of the provisions of the DPA which amply protects private individuals when e.g. blogging or contributing to online forums.

And DWP\Atos can only, impotently, flap and fume about it.

Frank Zola left an annotation ()

Information Commissioner Office said:

"Under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), Section 36, there is an
exemption which states that “personal data are exempt from the Data
Protection Principles and the provisions of Part II (individuals’ rights)
and Part III (notification) of the Act where they are processed by an
individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or
household affairs (including recreational purposes).”

This means that an individual can carry out covert recordings without
being in breach of the DPA as long as the information is for their own
personal and domestic use."

Question:

"Do you hold information that confirms there are no legal reasons a
member of the public cannot covertly record interviews or telephone
conversations they have in connection to any Public Authority or
it's Data Processors/Contractors, when they only intend to use the
recordings for their personal and private domestic use?"
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/no...

Are your patients recording you?
...the law offers little or no protection from patients covertly recording consultations.
http://www.dentalrepublic.co.uk/news/art...

J Newman left an annotation ()

You have probably all seen the in another request the attempt to use the LPP exemption to hide the legal source on which this stance is based. Absolutely pathetic!

A C Smithson left an annotation ()

Yes, I have been following Mr Slater's request with interest. Looks like the DWP is clutching at straws.

For those interested, the request is at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/da...

Steven King left an annotation ()

This is getting more interesting as it develops ! If I was put in the position of being identified as a ' no show ' after being recorded on CCTV at their offices, signing in at reception, having listened to a phone call being made about me then another being returned, and my signing a form of theirs which I presume was also dated after making an alteration on it, If I felt a false record was being made, I would make a subject access request under the DPA to obtain all data held by them about me - including the cctv record and all documents. IF ATOS are producing false and in accurate data, I am certain if you obtained guidance from the ICO and made a complaint to the ICO attaching your data, the matter would soon be resolved ! Of course if you then raise the matter with DWP, it would raise questions regarding the honesty and credibility of ATOS, quite possibly not for the first time ?

Kenny Bain left an annotation ()

The story continues.
Following my (non)WCA, as requested, I updated my MP on how I had got on. He and his case worker had been trying to help me find legal help regarding what evidence to bring, and also in the search for an advocate/witness. Following the phone call I have previously described from the DWP, I notified these kind people what I had been told. I genuinely forgot to mention their involvement to the DWP; a secret weapon I had forgotten about ! Very handy too.
The email I sent to the case worker was forwarded, with the query, "Is this standard JCP policy?" Cat--->pigeons...
A deafening silence ensued, with two fortnightly payments of benefits coming with no problem. Uncertainty, not to mention gnawing ulcers and a worry that I might receive a backdated letter with a decision to sanction which I would not have time to appeal, bid me write a letter to the DWP. This stated that I had heard nothing more re my claim status, and as the uncertainty was affecting my health I asked for this information to be provided to me as a matter of urgency. Following this, possibly by coincidence, I received a phone message from the MP's case worker saying that I had not been forgotten, a dialogue with JCP was in progress, a letter would be sent to me from the DWP and I could expect a further appointment from Atos.
Today I received a phone call from the WCA section of the DWP. This stressed-sounding lady informed me that I am still on Income Support, this will continue until my WCA, and when I asked she informed me that I would have a further two weeks of benefit once the DM has made a decision, before my benefits change. She told me that Atos have me down as a "live claim" (they can tell the difference between alive and dead ? I'm amazed)and the DWP have not yet received the paperwork from Atos re my case. I will get another WCA appointment, when I do I must let the Centre know that I wish it to be recorded, and "presumably" (her word, a tad optimistic I felt) they will make efforts to arrange this. But, she continued, I must bear in mind that they do not always have the equipment for doing this, as they do not have enough for every centre. (We chuckled about the irony of an IT company, lacking the "T" bittie.) The issue of what happens if Atos "cannot" arrange this was left unmentioned.
I wonder what would happen if Atos told me that I could not have a recorded WCA, and I subsequently brought along a recording device and plonked it down on the table, with a copy of the relevant DPA legal rulings ? Legally, would the decision not to continue the WCA not be Atos', once more ? (Not that this solves the problem.)
All input is very gratefully received - I'm fine today, for the first time in weeks, but this is the time of year that my mind slows down to the speed of treacle syrup poured on a frosty morning, it is very much like being in shock so my ability to think things through is very severely impacted. I thank you all for your fascinating updates and links, much appreciated ! :-)

Jim Otram left an annotation ()

Kenny. Unless I have missed a beat somewhere, among the puzzles in your ongoing saga is what would happen if the same circumstances were to apply all over again?

You appear to have secured a deferral of your WCA after refusing the sign the silly 'consent form' – but I take it they have not indicated that you won't be asked to sign one next time (if they are indeed otherwise ready to record).

I have to say that I would not wish to risk the point twice, myself; however, that is at least partly because (having seen the latest version courtesy of ACS' enquiry here) I now think the thing isn't worth the paper it's written on in the first place .Others may have more (or less) cautious views.

As a separate point, if they are not ready no record, then the 'Ok then, here's my smartphone' approach is enjoying a resurgence of interest. See, for instance, post no. 716 in the CAG thread on this subject:-

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/for...

The commentary refers to a situation in which there has been no previous discussion about recording the WCA at all, but in principle I do not see why it should not also apply to a situation in which the claimant has had no previous advice from DWP or Atos about the circumstances in which the claimant can record for himself\herself.

People who are kind enough to give me details of their tangles with DWP\Atos privately, online or off it, make me increasingly aware of the strength of feeling about this situation. They are flaming well NOT going to give up the right to a recording, and the more the ill and disabled are forced onto the misery-go-round of repeated re-assessment, the wiser and more determined they become.

Let's conclude with a small cheer for the fact that a recording of a WCA (so far as it went) has been online for nearly two weeks and one can only assume that the DWP and\or Atos have tried to get it removed, and failed: because of s36 DPA:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nggHa_0JdB0

J Newman left an annotation ()

Firstly, there is no way that Atos would log WCA failures through recording “issues” as no-shows WITHOUT DWP agreement. One of a contractor’s greatest fears is being caught fudging stats, which is normally treated as breach of contract.

At the end of the day, DWP can take whatever policy stance it wishes (as long as it is legal) over recording rules AS LONG AS THE CLAIMANT IN NO WAY SUFFERS and as long as there is no additional cost to the public purse. Sadly, if they do impose a sanction on the claimant (albeit through a situation created unnecessarily through their own actions), they rely on the appeals process to sort it out. In their own minds this allows them to forget/abdicate any moral responsibility or accountability to the TS – different budgets and someone else’s problem (I have a statement from JC+’s previous CEO that says exactly this). So, getting it right first time is in reality getting-it-right-eventually-with-some-outside-help-to cover-our-incompetence-and-who-cares-about-the-heartache-and-cost.

Kenny Bain left an annotation ()

Jim, if I am presented with another identical form to sign, then I will still refuse to do so. But this time I will present the appropriate documentation re the Data Protection Act. If I was refused the WCA again and then sanctioned, this would be the basis for my lawsuit, citing stress, mental and physical health results (inevitable, as my ulcers respond to stress and this causes depression due to lack of serotonin)as a basis for punitive damages. Fat chance of course, but if I am on no money at all, what do I have to lose ? It is however dependent on shall we say external factors - which I will not mention on a forum which the DWP may monitor. I have not a clue how to start that process, but I was born to research...if only I am fit.
A close relative who is severely ill with ME, is facing a WCA in less than a fortnight, with no real idea of what the context is. (Cannot afford the internet.) Last time two years ago, she waited 11 months without money for the appeal, didn't have time to sit down before she had won. She barely survived the process; she has as much chance as chaff in the wind. I have blood in my eye...I want to stop this process in its tracks. Even if I am only soaking up staff time and postponing the evil day for some other poor slob, that's progress.
Mr Newman, I doubt that the contract between Atos and DWP is being adhered to any more than the contracts between A4E and DWP were. There is no efficiency without accountability, whether in the private sector or the public, and this situation is living proof, as were the fraudulent A4E statistics.

DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear A C Smithson

Please find attached response to your request from our Internal Reviewing
Officer.

<<FOI 3920-IR624 A C Smithson.pdf>>

Business Management Team| | Contracted Customer Services Directorate
Department for Work and Pensions | Room 306, Block 3, Norcross Lane
Norcross Blackpool FY5 3TA

"Working together to use resources wisely"
P Save paper - Do you really need to print this e-mail? 

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DWP DWP Medical Services Correspondence, Department for Work and Pensions

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Smithson

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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