Put PIP and WCA Assessments On The Record, A Call To Action

Recovery In The Bin are joining forces with Disabled People Against Cuts (shoutout to Manchester DPAC, Sheffield DPAC, and GM Coalition of Disabled People) to offer assessment compliant recording kits for people to borrow to record their PIP assessments. We are doing this because there is overwhelming evidence that when assessments are not recorded and there are no witnesses, the assessment reports are persistently and fraudulently inaccurate, and are then used to deny people the support they need. Recording the assessment is a solid step in ensuring more transparency in assessments and they also give you good grounds should you need to appeal a decision, although by recording, you reduce the likelihood of getting a bad decision in the first place. Recording acts as a deterrent to the DWP, Atos, & Capita.

As of now there are recording kits available in: Manchester, Sheffield, London, and Cardiff.

The next stage of this project is to encourage others to purchase the components and make assessment compliant kits themselves to offer to people in their locality. Crowdfunding to do this is possible, you’ll need about £120, but be careful who is named, as DWP can be nasty to people on -means tested especially- benefits.

So first- Atos and Capita insist upon certain conditions if they are to accept people recording their assessments, they are here and here (DWP guidance here). What this means in reality is the best way to record assessments is with dual audio cassette recorders. These produce identical contemporaneous recordings that at the end of assessment you date and sign, give one cassette to the assessor, and keep one for yourself.

Recipe

To build a kit of your own, you need:

2 Audio cassette recorders, eg Argos sell these which are ideal.

1 five metre extension cord with double sockets in order to power the recorders, such as this.

A case or bag for the recorders and the cable, for robustness we recommend a large equipment case such as this or this.

Blank unopened audio cassettes (it is important they are sealed/unopened, some assessors will refuse to allow already unwrapped out of their plastic seal audio cassettes) such as these.

PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) stickers, it is important for you to ascertain the electrical equipment is safe, see HSE guidance, that it is undamaged and functioning correctly, once you have done this, fill in the sticker and attach to each plug of the kit (that’s the two cassette power lead plugs and the plug of the extension cable). Such as these.

NB. We are not endorsing any retail provider but for ease of showing people what they need to get we have used commonly available links. Ebay is also useful, but any second hand electrical device must be PAT tested.

So that is your assessment compliant recording kit. But there are also basic procedural steps you have to make to record your assessment:

  1. Contact the assessment centre and tell them at least three working days before your appointment of your intent to record, giving them more time is even better. Three working days is the bare minimum (this is because a lot of assessors refuse to be recorded, make of that what you will, so they need time to find and schedule an assessor who is willing to be recorded).
  2. On the day it is best to attend with a friend, family member, advocate, or witness. You will need to sign a recording agreement form that the assessment centre will provide. Your accompanying person can take care of operating the kit and then also during the assessment it is ideal if they can also make contemporaneous written notes of the assessment.

Taken together: Recording kit, giving them notice, attending with an assistant. Gives you a better chance of gaining a PIP award that more accurately reflects your support needs and narrows the freedom that Atos, Capita and the DWP have to make false assertions to deny your PIP award. None of this is fair, the fact remains the assessment system, legislation, and corporations implementing it, are all part of a deliberate hostile environment towards disabled people, survivors, services users and people with lived experience. None of this is right, we should not have to jump through these tortuous hoops and have our health made worse by a system that is meant to support us. But we are where we are and this is about surviving an abusive system and taking self defence measures to mitigate the harm it causes. Together with continuing campaigning to change the regime and end the hostile environment. And also, make sure you are registered to vote and have photo ID (Passport or driving license or Citizen Card).

A note on ESA/Universal Credit: the Work Capability Assessment- in theory the DWP contractor Maximus should be letting you record and providing the equipment to do so. However this is not reliable and is often begrudgingly done, so these kits are also advised for use with the WCA. Overall the government has repeatedly mooted the use of bodycams for video and audio recording of all assessments, this is not an ideal solution (fundamentally the problem is the legislation and the assessment model, and control of recoding lies with the assessors and use of video should only be done with consent of client) and as yet does not appear to be a functioning provision beyond limited pilot programmes.

There is a lot of poor advice and gossip floating around the internet about how to record and what to do. This guide has been made by activists who have been building recording kits for the past three years and have accompanied and recorded numerous assessments. This advice and these specifications are tried, tested, and proven to work, safely, reliably, and repeatedly. The point of doing it openly and in this approved way is that it acts as a deterrent towards the assessors, so they know they have less room to make misleading assessment reports. While covert recoding is your right, it does not act as a deterrent and is only of use if a tribunal is persuaded it is admissible (they may allow if there is genuine complaint the assessment was misleading, but you will have to argue that forcefully). Also if you are discovered to be covertly recording the assessment they will ask you to stop and may also halt the assessment entirely. The function of recording as deterrent is to get the right award first time and thus avoid the stress, poverty, and potential year plus wait for a tribunal. Please also see our Advice Links page, getting the ward you need starts from the very first contact with the DWP and having reputable battle tested advice from qualified experts is essential.

To arrange to borrow a kit these are the contact details:

  • Manchester manchesterdpac@gmail.com
  • London or Cardiff recoveryinthebin@gmail.com
  • Sheffield dpacsheffield@gmail.com

Note: we are fellow disabled people, service users, survivors, people with lived experience, we are not funded service providers, so we will do our best but please be patient and appreciate we have our struggles too.

If you create a kit and want your locality added to this list please email

recoveryinthebin@gmail.com

Call To Action: We Ask

  • Recovery Colleges
  • Community Mental Health Teams
  • User Led Organisations and Disabled People’s Organisations
  • Charities
  • And any other organisation that professes to care about the health and wellbeing of people.

To purchase and build kits immediately and provide them to people undergoing assessments. If you do, please email us so we can add you to the list. The Grassroots are already engaged in this struggle, so we ask- Where are you? Let us know at recoveryinthebin@gmail.com and we’ll put you on the map!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.