Recording medicals chaos plus Atos try to get on our forum

ESA Support Group again with no medical
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In this edition we investigate whether the recording of medicals has been killed off, as claimants are told they no longer have the right to one.  We also reveal how Atos hired an expensive public relations company to try to get onto the Benefits and Work forum.  Plus we have an update on the employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals video that the government still can’t kill. Oh . . . and we explain why some Benefits and Work members are getting their kit off.

Confusion surrounds the issue of recording ESA medicals, with some claimants telling Benefits and Work that they have been informed by Atos that the DWP have now brought the practice to an end and others saying they have been told that all the recording machines are broken.

The reality seems to be that some of the machines have indeed been damaged as a result of being constantly packed up and sent by courier from one examination centre to another.  In addition, the number of requests for recordings has been much higher than expected, in spite of the failure of the DWP and Atos to inform claimants of the option.

These factors have resulted in frequent cancellations of medicals because of a lack recording equipment.  It seems the DWP have now authorised Atos to buy more recorders but also decided that medicals can no longer be cancelled if the equipment isn’t available.

As a result, an increasing number of claimants are being told that they have to attend their medical without a recording being made, even though they have asked for one.

Benefits and Work members can read more on the issue here

Members may be almost as surprised as we were that Atos has used leading public relations firm Fishburn Hedges to try to get a right to reply on the Benefits and Work forum.

Fishburn Hedges say on their website that they ‘help leading organisations promote and defend corporate reputations in an uncertain world’.

Amongst many other contracts, Fishburn Hedges were allocated over half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money for PR work on the National Programme for IT, the online patient record system now widely seen as a disaster for the NHS. Much of the project has now been abandoned and many millions of pounds that could have gone on patient care has been wasted on private sector contracts.

We were intrigued to receive an email request from Fishburn Hedges for a ‘right to reply’ for their clients Atos and  asked for more details.  The PR company’s  response was that they had designed a ‘forum engagement process’ to allow Atos to engage with customers in a ‘safe and comfortable environment’ and to ‘put their customers at ease’.  

In reality it seemed more like an opportunity for Atos to post a lot of links to Frequently Asked Questions on its own website from our forum.  The email conversation came to an abrupt end after we asked a question about recording medicals.

There are issues that even a leading PR firm struggles to gloss over, it would seem.

Benefits and Work would be very interested to hear from other benefits groups who have been approached by Fishburn Hedges.

Members can learn more about our encounter and comment here.

Just to wrap up Atos-related news, you may want to ask your MP to sign the early day motion criticising Atos (external link) which has already been signed by 54 MPs

You may also not be entirely surprised to learn that whilst the boss of Atos has just received a one million pound bonus, Atos Healthcare support workers have voted by an overwhelming 95% to reject a below inflation pay offer and are now being balloted on strike action (external link) which may see medical centres closed.


In our last newsletter we told you that a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) video aimed at encouraging claimants to attend ESA appeals in person had reappeared on YouTube three months after it was taken down due to complaints from a Chris Grayling, minister for employment at the DWP.

Grayling objected, amongst other things, to the fact that it told claimants that they are twice as likely to win their appeal if they appear in person rather than having a paper hearing.

We asked Benefits and Work members to help publicise the video and make it the MoJ’s most popular production ever.  Within two days you had done that, with over 8,800 views, more than doubling the previous best for an MoJ video.

And then once again, the ministry took  it down with no explanation.

Happily, this time it hasn’t proved so easy to prevent the public getting access.  A number of people had made copies of the video and have now reposted these online.

You can find a copy of the video here or by typing ‘’Making an appeal to the Social Security and Child Support tribunal” into the search box on Youtube or Google

Members can read more and comment here

Benefits and Work has a thriving Facebook community and things are sometimes done a little differently there.  So we weren’t entirely surprised that some of you are planning to get naked for a good cause.  Yes, it’s true, brave members of Benefits and Work (you know who you are) are signing up for North East Skinny Dip. Arranged to support awareness of Mental Health Issues, people are encouraged to raise money for charity. It will be for individuals to choose who/what their sponsorship supports.

The event will be organising its own website, but for now the the north-east skinny dip is on facebook  and if you can give it a ‘like’ it, that will help with publicity. 

As always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this newsletter. Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, Jim Allison, papasmurf, Crazydiamond,.

Stories include:

Doctors demand end to work capability assessment

WCA ‘pretty crude’ says judge

Half a million benefits sanctions

Atos miles behind medical targets

Atos does its own mystery shopping

Citizen’s Advice drowning in ESA enquiries

Shadow minister calls for Leveson to think again on media hostility

Finally, as always,  there’s just room for a selection of good news from the forum:

Success at IB to ESA appeal, from no award to Support Group
“We would like to say a very massive thank you to the moderators, advisers and everybody else who contributes to this community.”

From IB to ESA WRAG with no medical
“received letter today transferred from ib to esa without medical thanks to b&w”

From IB to ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“I've just been migrated from IB to ESA with no medical, and went straight into the Support Group!”

IB to ESA appeal, from no award to support group hours before appeal held
“on the morning of the tribunal I had a telephone call saying my appeal had been allowed”

DLA decision revised, high rate mobility and middle rate care awarded indefinitely
“Thank goodness for Benefits and Work, it really did help with anything I was unsure of. Thank you.”

Success at ESA appeal
“don't give up keep going and use B and W to help you”

Successful migration from IB to ESA on appeal after 0 points awarded
“Many thanks for all the help that this site has given me from the very start in completing my ESA50”

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter provided it is properly attributed to

You can also read this newsletter online (open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No.  5962666

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