Friday, 20 July 2012


Two bits of news which could, loosely, come under the heading of openness.

The Guardian reports more "chaos" around an outsourcing company which could have a bearing on the behaviour of companies like A4e.  The story is about Atos and its fitness-for-work tests.  I hadn't realised that last year claimants were given the right to record their assessments so that they could ensure that their details were correctly registered.  Thinking to save on the costs of all those appeals, the government told Atos to equip themselves with recorders.  The firm has complied by buying just 11 (that's eleven).  And most of those are broken.  Chris Grayling thinks that's okay.  However, if it's officially permitted (if very difficult) to record Atos assessments, maybe that opens the door to recording encounters with other companies which can have a very damaging impact on clients' lives.

The Exaro site reports that the Public Accounts Committee is demanding greater openness in outsourced public services contracts.  They want "all data" disclosing, and for the companies (and charities) to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  At the moment all the stuff we should know is covered by "commercial confidentiality".  The PAC's Chair, Margaret Hodge, cites the current G4S fiasco, and the fact that we don't know what penalty clauses were in the contract.  While some MPs and civil servants like the idea, I'm doubtful whether this will get anywhere.  There are simply too many vested interests.


  1. If a private individual wishes to record a meeting, be it with ATOS, A4e, or any other outfit, there is little the company can do about it. They may try to threaten the individual (client) claiming a breach of the Data Protection Act, but the act allows the client to gather data and maintain records for their own personal use. The other piece of legislation that *might* be used as a cudgel is the Regulation of Investigative Powers - Here, the RIP act has a clause that explicitly allows a private individual to record meetings either openly or covertly.

    In both cases, unless both parties have given prior consent, any recordings are inadmissible in a court of law (but transcripts may be accepted subject to a judge's discretion).

    The only legislation that would prevent recording of a meeting is the trespass laws if the company in question had clearly posted notices regarding the "unauthorised" use of recording equipment - But this is a civil offence requiring considerable legal expense from the company in question just to demonstrate a vindictive streak. A course of action that would be bound to attract negative publicity.

    In the case of ATOS, I doubt they would have a leg to stand on if clients have the right to record the meetings. As for A4e, in light of many of the OFSTED reports that have pointed out the poor record keeping, one could reasonably stick a finger up at A4e - I certainly did, and the recordings came in handy when refuting allegations of threatening & abusive language.

    1. I believe Anonymous is quite right. From memory the DWP guidelines to providers cover recording. The situation being that both overt and covert recoding is allowed. If the advisor is aware (or should be aware) of the recording then the onus is on them to ensure any third party's (e.g. other customers') privacy - by providing a suitably private room/area where inadvertant recording of someone else won't happen.
      Recording can include videoing (e.g.on mobile phone).
      Any recording should be for personal purposes only as publishing without permission(e.g. on U Tube) would be a copyright infringement
      I think everyone should record everything! Just watch how some advisor's attitudes and behaviours change when they realise (or are told) that the interview is being recorded.

    2. Im advising everyone i know who is on the work programme to record every meeting with their work coach. Thankyou

  2. In the past I have had tasks assigned to myself by my adviser(WP) and requested them in writing,so we both understood what was expected,with the exception of appointments this is all ways refused as it against policy. Thursday I reported in to the WP and was ushered in to a classroom,a new Training adviser was present,she seemed very switched on and was personable...Step 1 Please write down 3 Training courses that you would be interested in doing...I wrote down 3...She consulted her list,sorry not available,please write down 3 more..Could I please see the list of available courses? No. Why not? It is against company policy..Why?..(Phone call) (enter programme manager) Would you please come with me..I complied...What is your problem? I just wanted to know what training is on offer? This is data that is commercially sensitive and we deal with clients on a one to one basis concerning training..Why are we doing a group session then?..I am scheduling you in for a session this Monday 0915..For what? A session,see reception to confirm...End of.. I will see what a session is Monday.

    1. Jray: You do know you are not required to attend any so called training courses offered by your provider unless you want to.

      And if any of you have been duped into signing the Action Plan. You might want to consider making a complaint. I have seen a DWP response to a FOI inquiry which states their no legal requirement for the Action Plan to be signed by the client:

  3. I record all my meetings, and has been invaluable in persuing a serious complaint.

    Since revealing that I had been recording and making sure they know that I continue to do so, I have had my advisor accuse me of violating their human rights & being aggressive, and the regional manager inform me in their reply to my written complaint that I am in breach of the Data Protection Act(2012) and then attempts to assert that I am behaving unlawfully according to the Data Protection Act(2010) a few sentences later.

    They're panicked and really do not have a clue :)

    1. You're right they don't have a clue! The Act is the Data Protection Act 1998 (details here:
      The "acts" they quote don't exist.

  4. To be clear, ATOS DIDN'T buy the recorders. WE DID!!

    They were purchased by DWP (using taxpayers money) and given to ATOS - who promptly broke them "in transist"! Apparently another 22 are on order (paid for by us). We are spending money on recorders, yet ATOS can pay their boss a £1m bonus? Surely they can afford to supply each of their centres with a recorder and keep them running? We are paying them £100m per year FFS!

  5. A friend of mine has lodged a formal Appeal against ATOS' assessment of her (several) medical problems. The CAB helped her to lodge the Appeal but she says she thinks she is entitled to Legal Aid, so she told me that she plans to find a Legal Aid solicitor to represent her in the Appeal. The taxpayer must be paying a huge bill for the costs of all these Appeals against ATOS' assessments.

    I agree with Margaret Hodge. The taxpayer is paying colossal amounts of money to the private sector contractors supplying so-called public services. The taxpayer is entitled to know - and to judge - the details of these contracts.


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