I received the dreaded ATOS medical assessment earlier this April and I immediately phoned to ask for the appointment to be recorded. The woman at the call centre said this wasn't possible as the recording equipment need to be booked; after persisting with my request the appointment was rearranged April 30th 2012.
Last Thursday April 26th I received a phone call from some man from ATOS who tells me my appointment for 30th needed to be rearranged again; I told him this date had already been rearranged because I wanted the assessment recorded, he then asked if I still wanted this and when I said I did, he said he'd get back to me, hopefully in the next 4/6 weeks!
Over the 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. 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 through 3 really heavy fire doors I got to into the assessment centre where I spoke to Sarah on the desk; after showing her two pieces of ID she said my appointment had not been rearranged but that I could still be seen but the interview would not be recorded.
I politely declined this and reiterated I wanted to have anyy assessment recorded; Sarah then smiled very apologetically explained there was only one piece of recording equipment for all the centres in the Nottingham region. I live and had gone to a centre in Leicester, so I can only presume that Notts has become the regional centre for the East Midlands!
Sarah then said she needed to speak to someone called Simon at head office to confirm that he had actually contacted me to rearrange the assessment; she asked me 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 saying "and why did you attend the appointment"; I explained why and then it was '"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 "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.
I expect this is no more than another day for staff at ATOS, happy to force sick and disabled people into situations where they can be sanctioned/removed from a corrupt system that we rely on to survive. But to me, the cost of struggling to attend because their communication is crap is far more than financial; it drains my already depleting energy reserves never mind can leave me without any money at all.
When are the people of the UK wake up and realise that it is Companies like this that are running (or should that be ruining) the Country