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Atos PIP assessement appointments / venues (again)

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Peter Turville
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This is not a new issue but given the Minister was questioned by the Work & Pensions Cttee last week…..

Claimants in Oxon are being offered appointments at out of county venues in Reading (where there are three venues) rather than our two ‘local’ assessment centres. However the appointment letters do not advise that they are being offered a more distant venue to ensure the are given the earliest available appointment but have the option of a nearer venue if the location is not suitable. Nor does the letter advise of the max. 90 mins each way be public transport criteria (our local venues are more than 90 mins travel from many parts of the county let alone Reading ones!).

Having spoken to Atos helpline today I was advised that it is an agreed policy between DWP & Atos not to advise claimants of more local venues (at the expense of longer waiting time) or the 90 min. travel time criteria. Atos say that the majority of claimants ring to advise the venue offered is not suitable and they do not want to ‘put off’ the minority of claimants who can travel further afield (seems a bit counter productive if the majority seek to re-arrange their appointments). They said no one at a higher level in Atos would phone back to discuss the present situation with appointments locally or the content of the appointment letters.

Interestingly the Oxon assessement venues are still noted within the Eastern England venue list on the Atos website. So its not only Atos’s service that is ****.

1964
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And interestingly, many of our (Reading) clients are being asked to attend appointments in Slough (one assessment centre nowhere near the town centre so very difficult to access) or (very recently) Southampton (WAY outside the 90 minutes public transport travelling criteria).

Incidentally, for all there are supposed to be three assessment centres in Reading only one seems to be in use…

Ben E Fitz
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Coincidentally we have just had a client come in with a (quite threatening) invitation to attend an appointment in Sheffield (at 9am in the morning), despite there being at least three venues in the Manchester area. This is a client with severe (GP’s opinion) anxiety and depression, suicidal idealisation and real problems with leaving her home. Indeed we actually requested a home visit in view of the severity of her problems (So ATOS cannot claim they were unaware that the offered venue would be unsuitable).

As clients from Manchester are apparently not being routinely referred to local venues for assessment, is anyone aware of clients from outside Manchester who have been referred to “our” local assessment centres?

We suspect that any client able to attend one of these distant assessments may be refused PIP on the basis that they were capable of actually coping with the hassle of attending the assessment.

Peter Turville
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Yes - I forgot to mention that the appointment letter does contains the usual warning about the consequences of failing to attend (at an unsuitable venue).

DEAR DWP/ATOS READER.

I now expect you to contact me to discuss this issue further:
pturville [at] oxfordshirewelfarerights [dot] org [dot] uk

1964
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...And incidentally, the client who had been asked to attend an assessment in Southampton has agoraphobia and is unable to even access his local surgery without support (GP usually does home visits because of this). His appointment was 8.30 am.

Dan_Manville
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One thing to bear in mind, certainly in Capita areas although it’s worth suggesting it to ATOS, is the possibility of pop up assessment centres.

Capita are canvassing for premises where they can rent an office for a day a week/month to deal with areas where people have long distances to travel such as Wolverhampton. SAdly with the significant shrinking of both NHS and Council estates we’ve nto been able to find anywhere yet but I’m still keeping my eye open.

They are also very willing to do paper based assessments where I can provide contemporary medical evidence.

edited

My evidence gathering exercise last year revealed that ATOS areas are much worse than Capita areas for examples such as those discussed; much broader coverage means much longer distances to travel… 85 miles was the record IIRC. It’s plainly indirectly discriminatory the way they’re going about it and someone really needs to demonstrate as much in Legal Proceedings. Then, I strongly suspect, it will stop. A case going to trial will cost well into 6 figures and generate huge and unwanted publicity for them (again). It’s very persuasive!

[ Edited: 10 Feb 2015 at 11:38 am by Dan_Manville ]
Paul_Treloar_CPAG
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Advice line query, client living in London Borough of Camden, has mental health problems including difficulty leaving the house, etc, makes claim for PIP. Sent appointment, with less than a week’s notice, to attend assessment in Milton Keynes…..

Rosie W
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Dan Manville - 04 February 2015 04:59 PM

My evidence gathering exercise last year revealed that ATOS areas are much worse than Capita areas for examples such as those discussed; much broader coverage means much longer distances to travel… 85 miles was the record IIRC. It’s plainly indirectly discriminatory the way they’re going about it and someone really needs to demonstrate as much in Legal Proceedings. Then, I strongly suspect, it will stop. A case going to trial will cost well into 6 figures and generate huge and unwanted publicity for them (again). It’s very persuasive!


One might almost suspect Atos of wanting to lose this contract too. Maximus anyone?

Peter Turville
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Another case today - this time client with severe mobility issues being offered an appointment in Swindon (minimum journey time by public transport 2hrs+).

Is this a local issue or are Atos making a concerted effort to reduce the backlog across their contract areas by offering the next available appointment at any venue regardless of the distance, travel issues or claimants individual needs?

PS DWP/ATOS - you still haven’t contacted me. This clients MP is David Cameron hint hint.

[ Edited: 5 Feb 2015 at 01:34 pm by Peter Turville ]
Mike Hughes
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Ben E Fitz - 04 February 2015 01:33 PM

Coincidentally we have just had a client come in with a (quite threatening) invitation to attend an appointment in Sheffield (at 9am in the morning), despite there being at least three venues in the Manchester area. This is a client with severe (GP’s opinion) anxiety and depression, suicidal idealisation and real problems with leaving her home. Indeed we actually requested a home visit in view of the severity of her problems (So ATOS cannot claim they were unaware that the offered venue would be unsuitable).

As clients from Manchester are apparently not being routinely referred to local venues for assessment, is anyone aware of clients from outside Manchester who have been referred to “our” local assessment centres?

We suspect that any client able to attend one of these distant assessments may be refused PIP on the basis that they were capable of actually coping with the hassle of attending the assessment.

I am aware of referrals to Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Bradford. All are reachable from Manchester Piccadilly within an hour but the act of getting to Piccadilly in the first place adds time to that hour that in most cases comfortably takes people over the 90 minutes. Before 9:00am it is extended considerably thanks to the 2CC work in the city centre; the work at Victoria and the work on the East Lancs. A proportion of people will also simply be unable to navigate the station at peak times for a variety of medical reasons; will struggle to book support at peak hours and, in some cases, to even get a ticket.

Peter Turville
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An update on my original post ......

Client decided to contact Atos and request a local venue. Client advised that Atos call centre were very polite & helpful and were able to re-arrange the appointment at one of the Oxon venues (although not the one nearest to my clients address - only 4 miles away!) at a date earlier than that originally offered in Reading.

So the question must be why wasn’t client offered this date / venue in the first instance? I guess Atos will claim cancellation or some such .....

It is clearly worth claimants requesting a change of venue.

Incidently DWP/Atos have still not contacted me!

Mike Hughes
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I do wonder whether, in the long run, it may become apparent that this process was effectively a deliberate policy in order to claim monies, as you say, for cancellations.

Ben E Fitz
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I am also pleased to report that our client was also offered a local appointment, earlier than the one originally arranged, on telephoning ATOS.

So the line that these appointments are being offered as they are the “earliest available” doesn’t hold water, does it?  Peter’s question about why these people were not offered local appointments in the first place is a good one and I think requires an answer.

The matter has now been raised with the local MP

Also, as the option of telephoning for a re-arranged appointment isn’t explained on the appointment letters, how many people are struggling to attend unsuitable appointments only to have their claim refused on the basis that they were able to attend?

Do I smell duplicity and mendacity emanating from DWP/ATOS, yet again?

[ Edited: 6 Feb 2015 at 02:14 pm by Ben E Fitz ]
Dan_Manville
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The appointments are arranged by a computer with an algorith that ensures that it’s less than 90 minutes by public transort. In one case we saw the computer overlooked an overnight stop over; just did the travel time but that’s by the by.

I suspect that it’s just moving forward in it’s calendar and with lots of cancellations of automated appts there’re plenty of available appointments earlier than the pre ordained time when advisors go looking for slots.

Peter Turville
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Dan Manville - 06 February 2015 04:14 PM

The appointments are arranged by a computer with an algorith that ensures that it’s less than 90 minutes by public transort. In one case we saw the computer overlooked an overnight stop over; just did the travel time but that’s by the by.

I suspect that it’s just moving forward in it’s calendar and with lots of cancellations of automated appts there’re plenty of available appointments earlier than the pre ordained time when advisors go looking for slots.

I understand what you mean Dan. It adds further to the value of claimants contacting Atos and requesting a change.

Just for the sheer fun of it (Friday afternoon!) I re-checked the travel time for the journeys required of my clients above. Even excluding time waiting during each required change of bus / train the journey times still exceeds 90 mins (on the quickest available journey during the day - ignoring the journey time required to arrive for the specific appointment time). So the algorith clearly can’t add up or otherwise understand bus and train timetables let alone which day(s) of the week are involved. Or maybe it calculates the journey time by taxi?. Perhaps it uses the transport equivelent of fantacy football league?

 

benefitsadviser
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No consistency here.

In Sunderland Atos have 2 assessment centres, and they also use one in Newcastle and gateshead, which are ten miles up the road.

Newcastle reachable in 90 mins but gateshead one not.

Now im having Sunderland clients being asked to go to hartlepool instead. 40 miles away.
Involves a bus, train and a bus. No way you can do it reliably in 90 mins
Ludicrous