Why won’t ATOS let us record our Work Capability Assessments?

As you will know if you have read my recent blog post “What’s wrong with ATOS“, there is often a large disparity between what is said during a Work Capability Assessment and what ATOS actually reports to the department of work and pensions. The reports take no account of context in answers (“I can do x IF…”) and often fail to note that an action or activity may be possible for a patient, but will have consequences for their health and may not be repeatable. As a result claims are often appealed and ultimately referred to a tribunal.

At that tribunal the patient must demonstrate that the ATOS report is not true for the above reasons.  It is permitted for the patient to be accompanied by a friend to witness the assessment, but an audio recording would be the ideal proof. Unfortunately ATOS have made it nearly impossible for anyone to record their assessment.

Many people have attempted to record their assessment using mobile phones, digital sound recorders or dictaphones. Nearly every time ATOS have halted the assessment and refused to continue while being recorded. On some occasions the patient has relented and stopped recording, on others they have been asked to leave and their report has stated that they did not attend their assessment, resulting in their benefit being stopped.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request made at the end of 2010 the Department of Work and Pensions provided the official guidelines to ATOS staff regarding recording of assessments. The most important parts are quoted here.

“Such a request can only be agreed with the prior consent of the HCP, and then only if stringent safeguards are in place to ensure that the recording is complete, accurate and that the facility is available for simultaneous copies to be made available to all parties present. The recording must be made by a professional operator, on equipment of a high standard, properly calibrated by a qualified engineer immediately prior to the recording being made. The equipment must have facility for reproduction so that all parties can retain a copy of the tape. The responsibility for meeting the cost of the above requirement rests with the claimant”

“It is for Atos Healthcare, in conjunction with their legal advisers, to determine the action to be taken in the event of a claimant making an audio or video recording without the prior knowledge and consent of the HCP, or without ensuring that the safeguards defined above are in place”

“If you suspect a customer of trying to film or record an assessment the following action should be taken

Advise the customer that such action is not permitted, explain why not, and ask them to switch the device off. If the customer refuses to comply:

  • The assessment should be suspended
  • Inform your site manager and/or medical manager immediately”

From this it is clear that recording by the patient will not be permitted, will result in the assessment being stopped and might result in legal action by ATOS. What is strange is the circumstances in which they will allow recording. It must be

  • Recorded by a professional operator
  • on professional equipment
  • immediately duplicated in front of ATOS staff
  • paid for by the patient

This is obviously impractical to arrange and priced far out of reach of the patient,  who is receiving Employment and Support Allowance to live on, at approx £60 – £100 per week.

In a court case in June 2008 a judge ruled on a patient who had been denied benefit and lost his appeal after ATOS reported that he did not attend because he attempted to record his assessment.   The judge ruled that he should be allowed to start his assessment process all over again, because he had not been advised that he could arrange for recording of the assessment in stricter circumstances. What is interesting is the other comments by the judge in his findings.

45. The appellant makes a number of good points in this context. He draws attention to the considerable (and probably prohibitive) cost that would be involved for an individual living on benefits in meeting the Department’s restrictive criteria. He rightly points out that those conditions (which include the presence of a qualified engineer) are actually stricter than those in place for police interviews with suspects. He might also have added that the Department’s own protocols for interviewing claimants under caution in the course of benefit fraud investigations do not require the presence of a qualified engineer (although dual-tape machines and sealed tapes are used).

Let me repeat that: ATOS’ requirements are stricter than those for police interviews, and stricter than their own interviews for benefit fraud applications.

So, we get to the really important question. Why do ATOS make it so difficult to record assessments?

There is one relatively good reason. They are worried that a single recording taken by the patient could be digitally altered and then presented before a tribunal as proof. They wish to counter this by having a duplicate recording in their own possession. This does seem a reasonable request, but their chosen methods are over the top and unnecessary.

ATOS also state that “Medical Services view unauthorised and secret recording to be an invasion of privacy.” Now, if this were a private conversation between two friends, that might be the case. But this is not. This is an assessment carried out on behalf of the government and with life-changing consequences for the patient.  It often starts a process which ends up in the legal system. In these circumstances, it is wrong to claim that recording is an invasion of privacy. In an assessment as grave and important as this, are they really saying that the assessor is going to say something which should not be reported, and that he won’t do so when officially being recorded? Because to me, that suggests that they think their staff might be unprofessional in their behaviour.

I think ATOS is clearly wrong to obstruct recording of Work Capability Assessments. At best, this is an uncaring attitude which shows lack of respect for the patient or of any concern over the outcome of their benefit claim. At worst, this is wilful obstruction of justice and a prevention of a proper outcome at a tribunal. There is a simple solution to this. ATOS should allow every patient to record their interview in any way that they wish to, openly so that their staff need have no concerns about privacy. If they are worried about a recording being altered to be used against them, then they should also record every interview themselves. They need not go to the expense of dual recording equipment if they allow patients to make their own recording.

Of course, they won’t do this. ATOS must be fully aware of the failure rate of their assessments and the large number of successful appeals against them. They know that if a large number of recordings were to be made, they would be shown up by the vast contradiction between what is said and what is recorded. They would be shown to be either incompetent or to have an agenda against benefit claimants.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

17 thoughts on “Why won’t ATOS let us record our Work Capability Assessments?”

  1. Whislt in hospital for 3 months patients were actually encouraged to use a dictaphone during their meeting with the specialist doctor so that they can listen and recal what the meeting was about for the benefit of that treatment.  It’s rediculas that Atos goes against that policy of encouragement.  What are they actually trying to hide? Stupid question.  True and respectful doctors know that many patients suffer brain fog, and this is way this was encouraged to benefit the patient.  After all if recordings were to be encouraged during such assessments it surely can only benefit the patient at future assessments by reducing ones anxiety levels.  This resulting in benefits to Atos by the reduction in time scales on carrying out assessments.

    What have you got to hide ATOS for you simply don’t care a toss.

    1. Atos have a set of questions for which they want a set answer. That is why they look at their computer all of the time. I beleive this software is called LIMA. Atos fit the answers they want to give the computer and their masters, and the software takes you down a yes or no answering road which often takes no real account of your illness. They make up what can only be described as lies. For instance they claimed that a claimant walked to a road ten metres away from the medical centre, and that he managed the stairs ok. There was no road 10 metres from the medical centre and there are no steps where a client climbs them. The centre is on the ground floor, so there are no steps inside the building. On the outside are two identical doors. The one on the right 128 park Road Peterborough. You use this door to go into the centre via. There is no steps there. On the left is 126 Park Road Peterborough. It has one single step and another white door but this is the reception area for staff use only. You would walk in the door to the right, and on your left would be a reception desk. Face the receptionsit and you would be facing the reception area and the white door behind the counter that they use to get in and out of the reception area. Go to google maps, type in 126 -128 Park Road Peterborough and you will see that there is one step one 126 Park Road and no step on 128 Park. The only thing at 128 park Raod is a concrete slab. This sticks up about an inch or an inch and a half. Where are the steps that are supposed to exist on the public entrance at 128 Park Raod. They do not exist. Why is Atos saying they do exist and that clients have no difficulty climbing these non existent steps. Dont forget this can cost you your benefit and a lot of hardship as you will be on or off benefit according to what Atos put down. No wonder they dont want anything recorded or filmed.

  2. hey its England.why actually do anything that makes sense and is practical?
    we vote for this. reap the benefits of  big brother Europe. 
    i have just witnessed a huge gas pipe cutting, approximately  8 feet deep, two meters wide,
    1 mile long. you guessed it! straight down the middle of a brand new showcase road.
    in Manchester’s gateway project.
    3 things here. it has caused havoc with the traffic, having to use barriers and diversions.

    it has cost a fortune to implement the digging in the carriageway. 

    and now the road has an ugly substandard trench ruining the tarmac surface.

    the new road is less than a year old. why didn’t some bright spark go through the future planning specifications, when the road was first done?
    it would have been a days work, to just drop the piping in the foundations with very little digging involved.

    ( please send your answers to htpp//: i am Englishandwillputupwithanyoldcrapyouwishto throwatme.org)  or just eat your own brain.

  3. A simpler solution would be for ATOS to provide the assessed with a copy of the completed assessment. The assessed should then be given a reasonable deadline for submission of comments *before* DWP reach a decision.

  4. GIven as the police already represent a significant market for the sale and maintenance of simple dual-recording equipment, it would be very simple if they just used the same stuff the police does. Nice, simple and straightforward. If patients are unhappy, and to reduce costs, they could make it available on-demand only.

  5. I have recently been successful in my appeal against the decision made by the “secretary of state” to withdraw my ESA benefit based on the ATOS “assesment” I was subjected to.
    During the appeal the judge described my ATOS assesment as “inadequate” as part of the grounds for overturning the decision.
    I feel that the whole process has caused me anxiety/stress & been detrimental to my health & recovery.
    An official complaint was raised with ATOS after the obviously lacking & unprofessional “assesment” I received to no avail & I wonder now whether others like me are considering raising an action for damages against ATOS.  

  6. I have recently received my assessment form for ESA and am already expecting to have to attend a physical assessment as anything that is outside the box they want to see you.  You have chronic pain, why then you must be a faker madam.  I was already planning to take my other half to push me in my wheelchair, now I see I will have to set him to learning short hand before an appointment.  I can’t believe this ridiculous situation.  I appalls me. 

  7. I suspect the reason is simple really, some doctors are so poor at doing the WCA they would not want it recorded. My first PCA was carried out by a doctor so bad, the DWP sent another doctor, the first doctor did not speak a word of English or understand my answers.

    The second doctor came to see me and stated well it’s obvious your disabled with a spinal injury and that your not  going to get better sadly.

    I suspect when I have my New ESA WCA they will decide that I’m dead, but able to work.

    The fact is these doctors are not the best in the nation some are elderly, some are reaching death or sorry retirement and some are down right rubbish, who would want that lot of a recording device.

  8. I had my assessment 18 months ago and asked if I could record the assessment. The reason I did this was because I had heard horror stories of Atos’ ‘Healthcare Professionals’ filling in the opposite of the replies given by claimants during the assessment.

    I requested this right at the beginning of the process and was told as is related above with regard to a professional recording (on professional equipment, software etc). I was also told that I would have to telephone my assessment center for verbal permission; they then said that I would also have to write a letter requesting permission for this to the ‘healthcare professional’ or doctor at the assessment center as well as listing the equipment/software to be used and also the qualifications of the sound recordist. I was also informed that the recording would have to be at my own cost. Additionally, they said that it was at the doctor’s discretion, but when they said this I told them that they couldn’t actually deny permission as it was a right.

    I think they were quite surprised when I said that it would be no problem since I had a dual honours degree in music and music technology, as well as the professional equipment to do it!

    I arrived on the day and checked into reception. The receptionist said that they were excited because no one had been able to do a recording before; it was the first time. Unfortunately, they said that they couldn’t find a healthcare professional who was willing to be ‘the star’; none of them wanted to be recorded apparently. I reminded her that I had a legal right to record the assessment.

    My appointment was for 11.30; it was not until 2pm that I was called for my appointment. By that time I was in a lot of pain and discomfort and completely exhausted. My healthcare professional was a doctor. She asked if she could be chaperoned! What she thought I was going to do to her I cannot imagine. My carer helped set up the equipment and we were ready to record!

    I was actually treated with a lot of respect, and unlike some assessors I have heard of, she did not inisist on ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Within a week I was informed that I was to be put into the support group. All in all, I cannot help thinking that insisting on recording the session greatly affected the outcome of my claim. Now that I’m not working however, although my recording equipment is still up to date, I will not be able to afford to upgrade my software, so if I am called in again I don’t hold out much hope.

    It is a pity that sound engineers are not made available to people on the day for those who want them even if it is at their own cost. There are some out there who are willing to work at reasonable rates so it’s always worth enquiring even if you have to borrow the money somehow. The only downside is that if you were made to wait like me, you would also have to pay for that time as well, but it would be well worth it in the end.

    I don’t see why they cannot just allow you to take a basic recorder in, and they use one for their own reference. As you say, the reason is that it is not to their advantage.

  9. Instead of asking ATOS if a recording can be made just tell them you will be making an audio recording for your own reference, helps even more if your forms you sent in say POOR MEMORY or VERY POOR MEMORY.

    ATOS did, or is still doing, a trial of using a Dictaphone  to record the assessment, in selected areas, so their BS excuse about a duplicate copy is just an excuse to stop claimants recording.
    Just imagine asking the HCP for your copy of the assessment recording from the Dictaphone.

    ATOS work on instilling fear into the claimant beforehand then use the good guy approach to make you open up and reveal things that none of their questions would ever reveal.

    In my opinion ATOS hate claimants who will stand up to them that is why they are ignoring my last email.

  10. I wonder if just complaining about this situation just prolongs its use.
    Surely a proper test case may actually stop it.
    If the Atos monkey is allowed to consider the client “Did not attend” and thus immediately cancel the benefits received then this MUST be illegal or against their human rights.
    If I insult a member of the HMR&C they can’t instigate that I forfeit tax allowances.
    I think it is the abuse of power that might snooker these nazis.
    “Did not attend” SHOULD mean physically not arrived at the interview and not “Y’know he/she really bugged me”
    When you get classed DNA and your benefits are stopped what if you tell the DWP “I WAS there”?
    SURELY DNA is a supposed statement of fact.
    What about a record of time in and time out of the interview? I would imagine a one and a half hour visit proves that DNA is a lie.

  11. So what happens if the applicant is Deaf and uses BSL as their main means of communication? How can anyone know what the Deaf person actually said without a video record.

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