I have posed the first part of this blog as a FoI Act request to DWP:
The answers given to a variety of seemingly innocent and innocuous questions posed within a WCA can have a very precise interpretation by Atos and/or DWP. Some quoted examples are:
· Visiting a supermarket: ability to walk unaided, without pain or exhaustion for 800m+
· Driving a car for 10 – 15 minutes: ability to self-propel in a wheelchair 200m+ without pain or exhaustion.
· Walking 30m: ability to walk 60m on the basis of 30m outbound + 30m return journey
· Use a bus: ability to stand in a queue for 30+ mins.
· Watch films on TV: ability to sit continuously for 90+ mins.
· Watch soaps on TV: ability to sit continuously for 30 mins.
· Holiday to Cornwall: ability to sit for 3 hours at least.
· Appointment 30 mins late: sat in the waiting room continuously for 30 mins.
1. Are these 8 examples accurate and if not, what are the correct versions?
2. Are there other instances where assumptions are applied within a WCA and if so what exactly are they – physical and mental?
3. Where are they all documented?
4. Is each and every one based on authenticated scientific evidence that is open to inspection or just based on opinion/hearsay albeit by so-called “experts”?
5. How do you ensure that they are equally and consistently applied by all HCPs/Decision Makers in Atos/DWP to all WCAs?
6. The Civil Service code of conduct emphasises the absolute need for integrity and honesty within the public sector. Do you regard the general approach of not declaring the full purpose of certain questions and extracting information in such a way as it may not be appropriately qualified by a claimant as complying with these requirements?
You must therefore make sure you explain fully all of the small but significant perspectives of your condition that affect your life and ability to work. Do NOT assume that whoever you are talking to will know what you mean, be on your side and be prioritising your best interests. It is far safer to assume precisely the opposite.
Do not be rushed and do not allow what you describe to be heavily paraphrased to the point where it is no longer representative, but equally not exactly inaccurate – more incomplete. Atos and DWP will at some stage fall back on what they claim you have said as recorded on the ESA85 whether it is true or not. It is very important to correct each error as it arises rather than have to backtrack subsequently, which can make it look like you are just changing your mind.
HCPs and Decision Makers are taught and encouraged to “read between the lines” on the assumption that this will get them nearer to the “truth”. The associated assumption that they think justifies this underhand approach is that all claimants are potentially or actually fraudsters, so there is a need to trip them up, catch them out etc. to uncover the deception they are bound to be perpetrating.
Quite how this attitude fits with the Civil Service Code of Ethics requiring integrity and honesty is a mystery and just another of the contradictions and overt hypocrisy being demonstrated by DWP through its welfare reform plans.