Last month (12 June), Mark Hoban said this during a debate on people’s right to ask for a recording of their employment and support allowance face-to-face assessments: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130612/debtext/130612-0004.htm#13061288000001
“The Department and Atos are in the process of amending written communications to claimants by updating the WCA AL1C form. The document is sent to claimants when they need to arrange a face-to-face assessment and will provide more information on how to arrange an audio-recorded assessment. We expect the revised form to be sent out to claimants by the end of next month, once the necessary changes have been made and the form has been cleared for use.”
In other words – the DWP was finally going to change the documents it sends to ESA claimants to let them know that they can ask to have their Atos face-to-face assessments recorded. It’s vital that people know they have that right, because with a recording, they are able to demonstrate beyond doubt what was said and what happened at their assessments.
By “the end of next month,” Hoban surely meant the end of July – and we’ve just gone past that deadline.
Jayne Linney, DPAC, Black Triangle, False Economy and Public Interest Lawyers (who, with disabled man Patrick Lynch, took a legal action against the DWP last year on people’s right to record their assessments http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/13/disabled-man-government-court-benefit-test ) are publishing this blog and asking you to reblog and share it to find out if the DWP has changed the documents it sends out to ESA claimants and if people have noted that. Earlier this month, the DWP sent Public Interest Lawyers this document as an example of the leaflet that claimants should receive about their face-to-face assessments. This document includes information which advises people of their right to ask for a recording. We want to know whether people are getting that document and if word is spreading that people can make that request.
This is important for a number of reasons. The first is, of course, that people need to know they have this right and that they can request a recording when they are called to an Atos ESA face-to-face assessment. The second is that Hoban claims that he is evaluating the demand for recordings and that he’ll be doing so until the end of summer 2013. (It will be important for people to respond to these blogs as soon as possible – by the end of August 2013 at the very latest – that being the case). http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130612/debtext/130612-0004.htm#13061288000001
Hoban continues to argue that the demand for recordings is not high. Campaigners have argued, rightly, that their surveys https://dpac.uk.net/2012/11/dpac-survey-responses-on-wca-what-harrington-didnt-ask/
and calls for information show that people do want recordings – and that demand may well increase if people actually know that they can ask for a recording. Unfortunately – or intentionally – Hoban says that the evaluation of demand will finish at the end of summer. That isn’t far away and doesn’t give anybody much time to find out if the amended documentation (presuming that people are receiving it) is having an effect. The third reason that this is important is that the DWP says it has based its decision NOT to offer recordings for Personal Independence Payment assessments on the ESA experience: “the DWP has not seen evidence from other disability assessments that this would improve the quality of assessments,” Esther McVey told parliament this year. So evidence of the demand for ESA recordings is very relevant to the PIP debate. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130418/text/130418w0003.htm#13041838000125 The department’s whole approach to recording PIP assessments is a mess – Capita, which has a contract to carry out some of the PIP assessments, originally said it would offer recordings. McVey put a stop to that and said that it wouldn’t. Meanwhile, the DWP was telling journalists that recordings would be offered for PIP assessments. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/07/secret-cuts-part-four-personal-independence-payments They’re making it up as they go along, so pressure needs to be applied.
The aim should be to get rid of the work capability assessment altogether – but while it’s there, safeguards like recordings of assessments need to be in place. Claimants and campaigners have fought hard for the right to record their face-to-face assessments. As we’ve said, people need to be able to demonstrate beyond doubt what is said at assessments. Atos is notorious for returning fit-for-work reports which ignore a claimant’s true circumstances and the details shared in face-to-face assessments. The ever-increasing number of ESA appeals http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/esa-appeals-more-than-double-and-decisions-in-the-claimants-favour-are-increasing/ prove Atos’ problems with accuracy.
Campaigners have won some concessions through their hard work. These include a commitment from the DWP to offer ESA assessment recordings (on “official” dual-CD recording equipment – people still can’t bring their own recording equipment unless it can dual-produce a CD or cassette). The changed paperwork was another concession. Let’s see if they’ve done it and if people are aware of it.
Download DWP Notes Sheet on assessment