I became too ill to work two years ago after a 30+ year career as a community development worker; I have, among other health problems, both Fibromyalgia and Sjorgens Syndrome. This leaves me unable to do most things people take for granted, such as make myself a hot drink or a sandwich.
In April this year, I was called for a regular disability assessment with ATOS to see whether I am still eligible for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). In-line with the Government's new policy, I asked my assessment to be recorded. ATOS told me that assessments are no longer available; when I asked the reason I was told that there are only 11 pieces of recording equipment in the country and all of them are broken. ATOS said they would not be repaired or replaced, and that the DWP has instructed them to cease the recordings.
ATOS assessments have a profound significance for me; if they say I am no longer entitled to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) then I will have no money to live. Unfortunately my experience teaches me that there are often problems with ATOS assessments; not only are they an inaccurate reflection of what was said and carried out, but they also get basic things such as your name wrong.
It is terrible mistakes such as these that resulted in the Harrington Report November 2010 which recommended that everyone should have the right to have assessments recorded, so there is a record of what was said. The Government responded to the report by purchasing 11 Neal 9102 dual CD interview recorders so that people could request from ATOS that their assessment is recorded. And in a private members debate on 1st February 2012, Employment Minister Chris Grayling stated: “On audio recording, we will offer everyone who wants it the opportunity to have their session recorded.”
This sums up the reason for my petition, I do not accept that all machines are broken beyond repair and I do not understand what has changed since the Government announced that everyone has the option to have their assessment recorded.
I am calling on DWP to protect my right to have my disability assessment recorded, and to ensure that ATOS has enough working recording equipment to make this possible.
More information: ATOS is the company which holds the contracts with the DWP to carry out all Disability assessments, and decides whether you will be given Government support. The assessment itself consists of a medical professional asking lots of often strange questions such as “do you watch Eastenders”, and then a limited test of movement.
Background to arranging my recorded assessment: In April this year, I was called for an assessment and in-line with the new policy, I requested that it was recorded. I was told my appointment needed to be rearranged to allow for this, which was done for April 30th. I was contacted by phone, 2 days before my assessment and told the equipment would not be available and another appointment would be sent out; it was, and the next appointment duly arrived but when I called to check it would be recorded again I was told no. This situation rolled along through May and most of June and my eighth appointment arrived for July 2nd yet when I made the obligatory call I was told assessments were no longer available; when I asked the reason I was told all 11 pieces of equipment were broken and would not be repaired or replaced, and that the DWP has instructed ATOS to cease the recordings.