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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

WCA Audio Recording - Project management at its very best

The exchange below stemmed from an FoI request and took a staggering 6 months to get some straight answers

WCA Audio recordings (2)
22nd March 2012
Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

In 2011, a trial was undertaken and recently Chris Grayling has confirmed that it was successful and the facility is now available on demand nationwide.  Please provide me with a copy of the following, all of which would have been produced before implementation commenced.
1)        The risk analysis
2)        The risk register
3)        The impact assessment
4)        If they are not available, who authorised implementation without them?

23rd  April 2012

In response to Qs 1, 2 & 3 the decision was taken that as the Audio Recording pilot scheme was considered to be an interim solution that there was no requirement for detailed impacting or the undertaking of risk analysis. The Pilot scheme was put in place to allow consideration of the potential volumes of requests and recording methods, to therefore ensure that an appropriate solution to the recording of medical assessments was found.  In answer to Q 4 this decision was taken by Atos Healthcare and the Head of DWP Medical Services – Commercials.
23rd  April 2012
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' handling of my FOI request 'WCA Audio Recording (2)'.  I would be grateful if you would ensure this is passed to a manager who has the ability to see how absurd the DWP response is.

Issue of audio recordings is high profile and a specific recommendation from Professor Harrington. This nprofessional & haphazard approach is therefore a serious letdown to him and his team.

The pilot scheme was established to determine the best solution to a problem. Only once the final solution is known, can any other temporary fix be described as “interim”. It is simply impossible to set out to establish an interim answer to anything without knowing what the anything is!!!

On this basis, the decision to waive the three key processes was clearly unjustified and fundamentally wrong. An IA was VITAL as the potential consequences of this trail are immense and could spread through the not only JCP, but the TS too. Its omission was therefore a serious dereliction of duty. For the record, Atos has NO part to play in the decision anyway – accountability and responsibility sit EXCLUSIVELY with DWP.

There are likewise a number of serious risks – lengthening the WCA for example and to ignore them is an equally serious dereliction of duty.

The (unexplained) limitations imposed on the trial rendered it totally incapable of assessing true demand, so this suggestion is not only completely at odds with other FoI responses and information published, it is simply fabricated.

The response to another FoI request states that the report and all the associated documents will be available on 04/05/2012. In will be interesting to see how well considered and professionally produced it is.
 DATE 21 May 2012

At the time of your request, the Audio Recording Pilot had ended and an interim solution was in place whilst the Department was considering the evaluation. As this was considered an interim solution there was no detailed impacting or risk analysis undertaken. I apologise that the previous response implied that the actual pilot was the interim solution and for any confusion that may have arisen.
Since the request under review was made, the full evaluation report has become available using the following link:
In reviewing your request I uphold the decision of the Freedom of Information Officer in part and have added information where appropriate. I am therefore satisfied now that all the information that DWP are able to supply to you has been supplied.
29 May 2012

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’ handling of my FOI request 'WCA Audio Recording (2)'.

I’m sorry, but you are hedging the issue.

1)  The report published by Atos is 12 months old and includes a number of questions that it feels need to be answered before a full roll-out can take place. Over the past 12 months what information has DWP produced that addresses these questions?

2)  If as you say DWP has been “evaluating” the pilot, what conclusions has it so far drawn, given it has already had 12 months?

3)  To what timetable is DWP working to produce a definitive statement of what it regards as the final solution, bearing in mind it has had 12 months already?

4)  At what point will the statutory requirements for risk & impact analyses plus a risk register be produced?

5)  DWP will have a defined project plan to ensure the evaluation is completed on time and comprehensively includes all of the relevant issues. Please provide a copy.

6)  Who is DWP “owns” this evaluation and the subsequent implementation – i.e. has direct accountability for the success of both.

7)  Is any form of consultation planned and if so, at what point?

Can I respectfully remind you of the overarching requirements of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodied within UK legislation (Principles 1 – 3 particularly) adherence to which would have offered this information voluntarily. All I am seeking is a clear understanding of DWP’s real attitude to this piece of work and how enthusiastically it intends to pursue it - the impression you are giving is that you have no enthusiasm, little interest and are actively engineering its failure.
11th Sept 2012

In response to Q 1 the questions in Section 8 relate to national rollout. No final decision has been made about this. The answers to these questions have therefore not been formally considered and are therefore not available.

In reply to Qs 2, 3, 4 & 5 DWP are developing criteria in order to evaluate the success of the current approach which will take into account factors such as value for money and the value it adds to the Work Capability Assessment process. Therefore no conclusions have been reached and the information is not available. A timetable and a project plan will be produced as part of the evaluation process which will include the undertaking of risk and impact nalyses.
In answer to Q 6 the evaluation of the pilot scheme is owned by the DWP Health and Wellbeing Directorate.
In response to Q 7 there has been no decision taken in relation to this point.

Having seen the Atos report from the trial published in June 2011, it rather looks like Atos set it up in reasonably good faith albeit without much thought and rigour, so that the dilemmas that subsequently arose were entirely predictable.  It would have helped if Prof Harrington had provided more guidance and continual reminders as to why the idea ever arose in the first place.
The shameful organisation within DWP is apparent from this last response dated 11th September.  In essence DWP has done nothing to constructively take this forward for a year and a half and even now can only offer faint promises for unspecified dates in the future.
It is bad enough being screwed by a group of so-called public servants but twice as painful when it is done so inefficiency that it costs a lot and achieves nothing.

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