I put this contradiction to a JCP District Manager as follows:
“You are no doubt aware of the controversy and delays around the facility to audio record WCAs. In terms of the availability of equipment and the impact this might have on WCA scheduling, DWP has been quite clear that if a claimant wishes a WCA to be recorded, Atos must comply. It has further stated in direct response to a FoI request:
“……..if a claimant is unable to attend their WCA because Atos Healthcare are (sic) unable to comply with the request the postponement will not be attributed to the claimant.”
However, the Atos website (http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/07/audio-recording-of-the-wca/#respond) states:
“We will make every effort to accommodate requests for this service and hope that we will be able to meet demand. However, under the terms of our contract with the Department, we cannot postpone an assessment on the basis of audio-recording.”
I would like to know:
1) Who is right and who is wrong?
2) Assuming it is Atos, who authorized this posting on their website?
3) How quickly will it be corrected?
4) Who will now contact any claimants who have been wrongly advised by Atos and rearrange their appointments as necessary?
I would like a clear, point by point answer.”
The reply was as follows:
“Thank you for your e-mail of 17 July. You ask for a point-by-point answer, but this may not be necessary in view of this reply, taken from the latest published guidance agreed between DWP and Atos.
We requested Atos to attempt to accommodate requests for audio recordings made in advance of the assessment. We introduced a limited facility to audio record at a time when we anticipated only small numbers of requests. Since that time, the number of requests has increased significantly and this has put pressure on Atos' ability to provide sufficient capacity to meet all requests. We have agreed with Atos that they can inform claimants when a recording cannot be made, and in these circumstances, that the WCA process should continue.
We are currently looking at ways to improve the availability of audio recording in the short term and Atos have indicated that it remains committed to assist us in the evaluation of the audio recording of Work Capability Assessments later in the year.”
My response has been:
“Thank you for your prompt reply dated 17th July - you have certainly fuelled an already raging fire in what you have said. Perhaps you can point me to where I can find a copy of the publication you mention.
It is of course totally wrong that claimants should be made to suffer the consequences of the appalling way in which this project has been organised and the ineffective way it is being managed now. Atos only has 11 recording machines to service 141 MACs, so the logistical problems would be self-evident from the outset. Add to this the fact that anything up to 10 of them have been out of commission on occasions and you have effectively removed the facility altogether.
Remember, the trial took place early last year & Atos published its report in June 2011, although you chose not to release it for 12 months whilst it was “under consideration”. One of the obvious considerations, best in the form of a risk analysis (standard management best-practice) would have been “what if we have underestimated demand?” and you would have devised a contingency plan according. From what you have said, the “contingency” is to refuse the facility as and when you think it appropriate on a random basis. This of course allows Atos a free hand to refuse, whether equipment is available or not – we cannot check and you will not be policing. You cannot possibly offer the facility to some and not to others. You will no doubt then use this highly suppressed & distorted level of demand to support the underlying strategy, which I have to say is pretty transparent.
There has been an obvious plan in DWP to do all it can to falsely engineer down demand, so that at some stage the exercise can be deemed cost ineffective and abandoned. It rather looks like the plan has backfired and DWP has egg on its face again. Would you consider recording a session with your GP? Of course not, so why then with an Atos HCP? It is of course a simple matter of trust, confidence and integrity all of which have clearly fallen a long way short of what is acceptable.
I do not wish to question your authority, but as you have directly contradicted your FoI Act colleagues and the statement Chris Grayling made in the HoC (recorded in Hansard), how can you authenticate what you have said here? Certainly the MP who extracted the statement from the Minister in the HoC will be interested to know that he has been lied to. The Minister promised the facility to anyone who requests it.”
I will post the reply I receive next.