A few days ago, I got two very strange letters from ATOS. One was informing me that my appointment on 11th May had been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, and the other said that my appointment on 7th May (huh?) was also cancelled. The one about the 11th was odd enough, but the 7th? What appointment on the 7th? And according to the letter, that one had been due to be held in Gloucester. Gloucester? Are you kidding me? It’s 30 miles away!
Puzzled, I got on the phone to ATOS yesterday. They denied all knowledge of the 7th, and said the appointment on the 11th was going ahead, and that a BSL interpreter has been booked. No explanation for the letters. I asked what the 7th had been all about and the advisor suggested it might have been linked to DLA. I asked why DLA would suddenly arrange appointment. They said they didn’t know, all they could see on their system was my old ESA claim – which stopped nearly two months ago – and that I would have to call DLA as it was two different departments. They said that ATOS handle all benefits, but I would have to contact the DLA department. I asked, reasonably I thought, that if ATOS handle all benefits, why DLA wasn’t showing up on their system as it’s all the same company. They replied that they were two completely seperate benefits (Are they? REALLY?) and that I would have to call the DLA department and – surprise, surprise – they didn’t have the number. I said I’d find it and hung up.
There you have it. As part of the radical overhaul of the benefits system, instead of government departments that don’t share information, you get two corporate departments – of the same company – who don’t share information. Fantastic.
But it didn’t end there. I couldn’t find a number specific to DLA for ATOS, either in the letters or online, so I called the general helpline again today. Again, they denied all knowledge of the 7th, and having been reassured that I wouldn’t be accused of deliberately missing the appointment if it turned out to be for real, I let the matter rest. Then I brought up my other reason for calling. I am nervous of the medical, and I have read few, if any, good things about them. I have no idea of who the BSL interpreter will be, and thus no idea of the qualifications they will have. I asked if I could tape the medical and have it transcribed so that I could be sure of what the interpreter was saying for me.
They said that I could tape the medical, but that I needed to call the centre directly and let them know, and helpfully gave me the number, and even more helpfully, it turned out to be the correct number.
I got through on the fourth attempt, having been cut off twice. After the usual security preamble, I explained my reason for calling; that I was concerned about my interpreter accurately translating everything I signed, and that I would like to tape the medical and have it transcribed.
They asked me to hold the line while they ‘got advice’.
After a minute or so, they came back and said that all they could say was that a “signer” had been booked, and that they were a “professional signer” and that that was all they could say. Ignoring the slur on interpreters and choosing not to correct the ‘signer’ term – cowboy terp anyone? – I asked “but does that mean I can record the interpreter?”
They said they had no provisions for recording medicals.
I said my Dad has a couple of old tape decks (he does) and I could bring them.
They asked me to hold the line.
When they came back, they asked if they could have a number to call me back. I said that I was calling from a minicom and I wouldn’t be around all day and my mobile is strictly text messages only. They said they completely understood and promised to text me back.
I’m still waiting.