My saga began in early April this year when I received the dreaded ATOS medical assessment, I immediately phoned to ask for the appointment to be recorded; after persisting with a request to have the appointment recorded it was rearranged April 30th 2012.
On Thursday April 26th I received a phone call from a man named Simon from ATOS who tells me my appointment for 30th needed to be rearranged again as no recording equipment was available. Following a discussion where he tried to reassure me, I didn’t NEED to have my assessment recorded, he conceded to my persistence and said he’d get back to me, “hopefully in the next 4/6 weeks”!
Over the following weekend, I read an article where another claimant had an almost identical situation and as a result her benefit had been stopped due to her ‘non-attendance’. So in an attempt to avoid this I decided to turn up the next morning to make sure they knew the appointment had been rearranged.
After struggling to get to a truly awful building, and through 3 really heavy fire doors without automatic access, I got to into the assessment centre where I spoke to Sarah on the desk, who confirmed my fears, my appointment had not been rearranged! She did however stress, I could still be seen, but the interview would not be recorded. I politely declined and reiterated I wanted to have any assessment recorded; Sarah then smiled very apologetically and explained there was only one piece of recording equipment for each of the 10 ATOS regions. Sarah then said she needed to speak to Simon at head office to confirm he had actually contacted me to rearrange the assessment; and I was advised to wait whilst she spoke with him.
I sat down fuming that whatever I said clearly was taken with a pinch of salt and after 5 minutes or so, Sarah called me back to the desk; apparently Simon wasn’t in yet, but she assured me she would speak with him as soon as she could. I ask if I could have a number to call him on but, no, she wasn’t allowed to give head office numbers to customers. I asked her to request Simon to call me to ensure I would not be classed as a non attender, and I left the centre.
Simon called back fairly swiftly and initially asked to speak to Jennifer, when I questioned the name he got it right on the 2nd attempt and then immediately proceeded to tell me off, “and why did you attend the appointment”; I explained why and he retorted ‘”but I spoke and told you, it had to be rearranged”.
I stated I was aware of that but wondered why the assessment centre hadn’t been informed; that was it, off he went ranting “I just wanted to blame someone and he wasn’t apologising “; I insisted this was not so, I merely wanted to know why a Company that advertised itself as a large successful technological information company, didn’t use this to ensure everyone knew what was happening. He said “they didn’t need to know”! He went on to say that nothing that nothing that happened with appointments had any effect on people’s benefits; and when I informed that the DWP only allows clients one rearranged appointment before sanctions were enforced, he didn’t respond
I went on to ask why there was only 1 piece of recording equipment available for the whole region, he said it was down to finaces; so I suggested that maybe ATOS should use some of the large profit made from the Contact with the DWP to buy more equipment? Again I received no reply, he merely reiterated that ”I was trying to blame someone” but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t reply when I asked him what I was blaming anyone for, at this point I ended the call and Sat down to write my complaint to ATOS.
I received the reply on May 15th, it was a three page letter on paper headed “Medical Services – Provided on Behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions; it began with the usual” so sorry … “and I would like to extend my apologies” the usual waffle you expect from this type of epistle and went on to explain their “procedures on the recording of assessments”.
Within this tome I was informed that the DWP had only funded 10 dual recording machines, so ATOS has a contract worth millions yet the recording equipment we purchased from public funds!
Furthermore I was assured 5 times that staff are ‘polite’ and ‘courteous’ at all times when talking with us ‘customers’.
I then at the beginning of this month received 2 letters on the same day offering me 2 further appointments, which when I contacted ATOS neither were available for recording! Following my reiteration of my assessment to be recorded, both were cancelled.
Last week I received an appointment for Monday 30th June, after the by now regular follow up phone call, this date was finally going to be recorded.
Then on Wednesday (27/12/12) I had another phone call from Simon, apologising that the appointment for next Monday wouldn’t be recorded after all, and that he could not offer me another date as ‘all the equipment is broken’!! I asked what had happened and he said it was down to damage the machinery had suffered at the hands of the couriers “TNT”.
I asked when they would be mended/replaced and he spluttered something that sounded like he didn’t think they would be be, I queried this and was told it was out of his hands and I needed to talk to customers services; the line was engaged so he gave me a number to call.
I immediately sent an email outlining my concern that recordings of assessments were no longer to be available, through the website. I ten spent the next 90 minutes trying to reach customer services.
When I finally got through I wish I hasn’t bothered, I was ‘greeted’ by a woman who after hearing my question told me I needed to write to them, I explained I had done this but wanted to talk to someone about the saga; that was it, all she would say is you have got to put it in writing; and I mean that was ALL she said, getting louder at each reiteration. I gave up and ended the call.
I now am waiting for the next episode in what is becoming an epic!