Due to a lack of recording equipment, claimants who ask for their work capability assessment (WCA)to be recorded can face postponements and weeks of additional waiting before their medical takes place, Benefits and Work can reveal.
Since late last year it has been possible to request that your WCA be audio recorded by Atos at no cost to the claimant. However, a request will only be considered if it is made in advance rather than on the day of the medical.
The recording equipment, which produces two identical CDs, one for the claimant and one for the DWP, has to be shipped to the medical examination centre as there are not enough sets to go round. In fact, one benefits and Work member was informed that there is only one set for the entire country, although there is no official evidence that this is the case.
Where a date has already been set for a medical before the request for a recording is made, there is a strong possibility that the appointment will have to be cancelled and a new one arranged. Atos appear to require at least two to three weeks’ notice in order to arrange for the equipment to be available. Our advice to members who wish to have a recording made is to ask as soon as a medical is arranged and, if this is done by telephone, always confirm in writing to both Atos and the DWP that you want your medical recording.
Where a recording is made, you are asked to sign an undertaking that they you not publish the recording or publish transcribed notes of the recording.
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Atos/DWP are hoping to ensure that as few people as possible know about the option of recording your medical, so that they can drop the facility due to lack of take-up.
Employment minister Chris Grayling was asked on 6th March by labour MP Chris Ruane “what steps his Department has taken to draw the attention of claimants, their representatives and claimants' advice agencies to the audio recording facility in work capacity assessments.”
Grayling’s entirely evasive answer was:
“As stated on 1 February 2012, Hansard, columns 291-92WH, we have asked Atos Healthcare to try and accommodate requests for audio recording where a claimant makes a request in advance of their assessment. This approach began in late 2011 and we will monitor take up during 2012.”
Ruane again pressed the minister for an answer on 20 March, asking “how recordings of work capability assessments (WCAs) are provided to claimants; and what steps he is taking to increase claimants' awareness that WCAs may be recorded.”
This time Grayling responded that:
“As the 1 February 2012, Hansard, columns 291-2WH states, we have not implemented universal recording for claimants going through the Work Capability Assessment.
“However, claimants can request an audio recording by contacting the Benefit Centre which administers their claim or Atos Healthcare directly. In these circumstances Atos Healthcare will, where possible, endeavour to provide the requisite audio recording equipment which will give each party a CD recording of the assessment.
“A process guide is currently being agreed by Atos Healthcare and the Department for Work and Pensions to improve claimant awareness of the steps they should take if they wish to request audio recording of their assessment.”
It is clear then that the DWP are dragging their feet as best they can to ensure that the opportunity to record your medical remains a well-kept secret so that they can then argue that take-up was so low that it is not worth continuing.