Referred to a psychologist – for wanting to record Jobcentre interviews


My series of posts about the fake psychometric ‘test’ and the DWP/Cabinet Office’s attempts to deny it, became big news earlier this year. Among the facts that the DWP denied, then admitted, then denied again and admitted again, were:

  • they were threatening jobseekers with benefit sanction if they refused to participate
  • that no qualified psychologists were involved in the decision to threaten potentially-vulnerable into becoming guinea-pigs
  • that no training was given to Jobcentre Plus (JCP) advisers in how to select people for the test beyond telling them to do it
  • that the experiment had been subjected to none of the usual validations or safeguards

and more. The whole thing stank of the contemptuous, reckless attitude of the DWP and the Cabinet Office’s ‘Nudge Unit’ toward unemployed people.

It turns out that the psychological abuse of jobseekers – and the abuse of psychology by the government – are by no means limited to the fake test.

Disability benefit claimants are able to ask for their Work Capability Assessments (WCA – usually conducted by Atos) interviews and assessments to be recorded. The DWP’s guidance states that claimants do not have a legal right to record, but that

all requests will be accommodated where possible

The guidance also states that recording requests should always be submitted in advance, and that

Although this may slow down the benefit process it will not affect your entitlement to benefit.

(More on WCA recordings here if you need it).

Many disabled people have complained that obstacles are placed in the way of any wish to record Atos assessments. But if you’re not disabled and are simply unemployed, it appears that these commonsense rules do not even apply in theory. On the contrary, if you ask to record your JCP interviews, it appears you are likely to be labelled psychologically unstableand deprived of your benefits.

A jobseeker has forwarded me a copy of correspondence sent to them because they insisted that they wished to record their interviews at the JCP – a request which is more than reasonable in a context of such ridiculous decisions as sanctioning a claimant for attending a job interview – something so ridiculous that even the Daily Mail condemned it!

The two documents in question are quite stunning in what they demonstrate about how claimants are regarded and treated by many within the benefits system under this government. Here’s the main letter:

063 copy


The claimant was referred to a ‘work psychologist’ simply for wanting to record his/her JCP interviews. The psychologist – contrary to the guidance given to disabled people – states that the request to have interviews recorded is impacting on benefit entitlement, a thinly-veiled threat that the claimant will be sanctioned or have his/her claim discontinued if s/he refused to stop asking. The claimant is then asked to sign and return the following ‘reply slip’:

064 copy


A stark choice: attend the ‘discussion’ and agree not to record it, or don’t agree – and don’t attend (with obvious consequences for the continuation of benefits.

Each time I think it couldn’t be plainer that this government despises the unemployed and has set up the system to torture them, it turns out I’m wrong. But it’s very, very evident that our current excuse for ‘leadership’ considers psychological abuse a perfectly acceptable measure to take against jobseekers for even the most reasonable requests – or for that matter, just for existing.

89 responses to “Referred to a psychologist – for wanting to record Jobcentre interviews

  1. Just when I thought that I couldn’t be shocked any more, I am shocked again! This is dreadful! Why is it a problem to record an interview anyway? It’s not as if the technology was only invented next week.

  2. A couple of points:

    Firstly, only if the claimant is happy to see the psychologist without being recorded is there a requirement to return the enclose reply slip. Obviously, the claimant should bin it forthwith.

    Secondly, the last sentence of the psychologist’s letter invites the claimant to submit details of their complaint in writing. That’s way better than even a recording of an interview, especially from a legal standpoint – and more importantly, it should elicit a written response, which can then be used in future meetings. Moreover, it’s much more difficult to come across as mentally unstable when clearly expressing one’s concerns in a typewritten letter (well, I say that, but I suppose even letters are typeset these days, aren’t they?), which can only work in the claimant’s favour.

    God knows, I have no reason to doubt that JCP employees generally regard claimants as what they have to wipe off their shoes on leaving work for the day. But in this case, I’d suggest that the psychologist, at least, is not entirely happy or in agreement with the situation presented to them. It might well be worth at least exploring the “present concerns in writing” route, perhaps with an argument similar to the one you’ve developed here. My guess is that the psychologist won’t be entirely unreceptive to such a concern.

    Although how much good that will do will, of course, depend on whether the psychologist has been called upon to assess whether a claimant is too unwell to satisfy their JSA obligations, or to argue that extenuating circumstances should forestall a sanction; it may be that appearing too rational would count against the claimant in this instance.

    (Disclaimer: I know jack about squat, and should be listened to about even less.)

    • Fair points – but what’s clear from the letter is that no matter what concerns are raised, under no circumstances is the claimant going to be allowed to record interviews. This means that any subsequent claims about what has/hasn’t been said are inevitably limited to hearsay and provide little or no protection.

      • Just secretly record the fucking interaction-no need to tell anyone you’ve recorded anything unless the bastards start making up lies about what you said they said you said etc. Take the recording home, store it for safety in case it’s needed.
        It’s not f-ing rocket science is it!? Honestly!

  3. Yes and, although practically every phone call we as members of the public make to public/private organisations receives an aural warning that it will be recorded for training and other purposes – whether we like it or not (yet, even if we like it, our next call is always met with amnesia about previous ones!) – if the most vulnerable reciprocate, they’re told directly or indirectly that such a wish to record smacks of psychological instability.

    I presume any unemployed person judged to be suffering from this condition – total but justified mistrust of official interlocutors – must qualify for, and so merit immediate receipt of, the generous new Instability Benefit..?

    • “Your call may be recorded for training purposes” – That is a vague statement to me. I take it as meaning I can record as long as I use it in unspecified training purposes…. such as showing others how to talk to a DWP employee without rising to the bait.

      This is the thing with those messages, it’s purposely kept vague, but use that to your advantage.

  4. Poor post…

    “.. it appears you are likely to be labelled psychologically unstable”.

    This claim is not supported. The claimant is invited in for a meeting. No diagnosis is made. Also, this one incident does not support your conclusion re the any likely hood of other claimants receiving a mental health diagnosis.

    The letter only states that there has been an apparent request to record. This is weak.

    Futhermore you do not detail what the claimants concerns were re attending the job centre. We have no idea what these are or whether they were reasonable or not and might also be the cause for the request for a meeting.

    ‘Impacts on benefits’ are not specified and could be interpretated to mean that not all entitlements are being claimed for some reason.

    You might be right about all this but the evidence presented doesnt support your interpretation at present. I’d expect better from someone claiming they have a knack for analysis.

    • The referral itself implies that someone in the JCP considers you need to see a psychologist. There is nothing in the letter or form to suggest any issue other than the desire to record. Your interpretation of ‘impact on benefits’ seems frankly naive.

      Is it a watertight case yet? No. Is it indicative of a serious problem with process and attitude. I think that’s beyond question.

      • While I find myself in uncomfortabel waters saying this, there are some people that do take the piss. I’m not talking about benefit fraud or any of that nonsense, which I consdier to be a victimless ‘crime’ if it can be considered a crime at all.
        What i’m referring to are the sort of people that believe in things like ‘common law’ and ‘freemen on the land’ nonsense. There are a ton of videos of such people and they invariably end up in an argument with someone for no reason other than just to argue the toss about everything.
        I fully advocate people standing up for their rights, particularly in respect of the DWP. But these people have gravely misinterpreted the law and only end up causing trouble for themselves. There are youtube clips of people arguing exactly this sort of thing with JCP staff and all they seem to do, and I’m not defending JCP in any way here, is cause trouble. Arguing that you want your meeting recorded when that facility isn’t available is not going to get you anywhere, rightly or wrongly. This may be the reason why, again rightly or wrongly, the individual concerned has been referred.

        Some people just do themselves no favours. I’m not unsympathetic at all, but there’s a lot of misinformed people out there.

      • Again (just for completeness, since the same issue is raised in several different comment threads) – the claimant wanted to record the sessions himself. He wasn’t asking the DWP to do it for him.

      • @ ghostwhistler – This is about vulnerable people protecting themselves from sanctions and destitution at the hands of a toxic and sociopathic organisation – not bratty kids fooling around for youtube. With the level of security in JCs, any member of the public attempting to harrass a DWP employee, is hardly likely to get very far.

        I have been shouted at and bullied by a JC disability ‘advisor’, WITH NO PROVOCATION (other than being a soft target due to disability) on a number of occasions. The last time this occurred, I quietly pressed the ‘record’ button on the phone in my hand while being harrangued and shouted at for the crime of ‘failing to’ appeal my latest WRAG sentence because I had been too ill to fill in the (voluntary!) forms and gather evidence before the deadline.

        Possessing the recording meant that I could take the traumatic and severely abusive incident to my MP, as I’d been unable to do after any of the previous incidents.

        Were it the case that JC staff were fair and honest in theri dealings with the public, then they’d have absolutely nothing to fear from being recorded.

      • Yes, Ghost Whistler, those episodes must waste loads of JCP staff time. Most of us are uninformed or misinformed though. Very few know which route is best or even ‘allowed’.

        If CABs are clogged up, perhaps clear (national, clear, supportive-to-the-client, what’s possible/not) guidelines pinned on the doors of those private interview rooms might be a start.

      • It’s very difficult to comment without knowing the circumstances.

        The DWP has a nasty habit of explicitly saying ‘your benefits may be in jeopardy’ on almost every letter it sends. This never helps people and only exacerbates their anxiety, I know this full well. They never listen and their staff simply aren’t up to the job.

        But my experience of the Work Psychology department isn’t quite as bad as others seem to think it will be. I don’t know whether it was appropriate to refer this person and any hint of ‘your benefits may be at risk if you don’t comply’ is utterly unacceptable. However there’s a possibility this department may well be something that helps us. It’s easy to assume otherwise given how the rest of the organisation seems to work.

        I think the issue here is the pretty explicit threat to the person’s benefit. Not the Work Psychology service. Noone should lose benefits for wanting to record their interviews. At all. Ever. These sorts of frivolous reasons must stop and are why I have zero faith in the PCS union who seem to condemn them but whose members must include those that issue them.

      • @anon I know what it’s like dealing with dodgy disability advisors, believe me. I’m certainoly not here making excuses for people like that; they are scum. End of.
        However, IME, the Work Psychology service is different. Not quite sure how they think they can help this person but as I say they (claim to) have the power to make life a bit easier when signing on. That has to be worth something.

    • The Jobseeker is entitled to request a private room and for the interviews to be recorded. What we do not know, is the cause of the person’s fear. If the individual has not declared a mental health issue, it is a highly unusual response for a government department to call in an expensive psychologist based on the simple request to record interviews at the Jobcentre; it seems so over the top and heavy handed.

      The impact on benefits is due the Jobseeker’s fear of going into the Jobcentre; if she/he is not attending or attending late sanctions may have been applied. If she/he does not respond to the letter his/her benefits will not be paid. She/he has 2 choices; to attend the meeting ideally with a representative or to give her/his reasons in writing why she/he is so fearful and feels the need for all the interviews to be recorded.

      I know a number of people who experience significant fear and anxiety about going into the Jobcentre each time they attend, due to what has happened to them, their friends/family or the stories they have read about in the press. None of them has mental health issues.

      There is evidence submitted to the DWP select committee by a highly educated and articulate man who describes his very poor experiences during his few visits to a Jobcentre Plus office. Fortunately, he covertly recorded all his meetings with DWP and captured his Adviser lying about him wanting to make a complaint about his treatment.

      • Yes, suspect many more people, esp. those vulnerable or with understandably low self-confidence after losing a job perhaps, will be fearful of decisions which may affect their benefits or which will help determine eligibility, so prefer to keep verbatim records in case the pressure widely perceived from Govt policies has serious repercussions for them and their family.

  5. Here we go again. Any old excuse to sanction claimants and put the frighteners on. I would show that letter to my GP and the mental health services cos frankly, I smell BS

    • Yes! The Instability allowance was tongue-in-cheek but, of course, an admission of eligibility for ESA via FOI would be much better!

      • Not sure which has better chance to work: ridicule, slamming lies & treatment of vulnerable or current Nov 5th plan in cellar..

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  7. There’s nothing about not being able to take a friend or advocate to the meeting. Perhaps the friend could ‘take notes’:) on the meeting.

  8. Why would be a problem to record the interviews? Shocking abuse of power.

    • Certainly may help if a friend managed to record the session.

      But yes, basic point remains with regard to abuse/bullying of unemployed, already often with tattered self-respect.

      Is this a hypocritical violation of a human right, that a client in a ‘DWP environment’ effectively merits their duty of due care?

      Should Raquel Rolnik – or other EU equivalent – be asked to visit again to investigate?

    • Surely if they’ve nothing to hide then they’ve nothing to fear?
      But, after having looked at the work psychologist mumbo jumbo I can see why they wouldn’t want it recorded!

    • Do you really think the JC have recording devices on hand, for all claimants that want their appointments recorded? Have you ever heard of such a thing?
      My advice would be to record it yourself and just don’t ask them before hand, if possible.

      • Again (just in case anyone’s reading this comment but not the others) – the claimant wanted to do his own recording, not have the JCP do it.

  9. So, the Jobcentre has no problem with the alleged recording of telephone conversations, yet they insist that formal interviews are not recorded? What do they have to hide I wonder?

  10. It might be worse than the commentators have realised. Being referred to a psychologist of any sort, and being asked to submit such a reply, can be placed on one’s record. This can stigmatise the writer, perhaps for life.

  11. It’s like the Soviet Union, all the person wants is basic rights to be respected.

  12. I wonder what would happen if the claimant from day one requested in writing on forms and in letters all interviews to be recorded due to problems with memory. There would be a paper trail of the same request.

  13. It smacks a little of the tactics of Stalinist Russia, where psychiatrists used to stifle dissenters.

    • We do not know what has happened before the referral. If it has come totally out of the blue, then this is most inappropriate. Anyone would be shocked to receive a letter like this, if they were not seeing a Disability Adviser prior to receiving it.

      The fact that the letter starts off by stating “I hope you do not mind me writing to you” indicates the Jobseeker had no prior knowledge of the referral, which is wrong and a complaint would be in order.

      The sensible approach would have been for the manager to have contacted the customer and invited him/her in for a chat and allowing the Jobseeker to record the meeting or to have a representative present. After finding out what the issue was, a referral to another source of help may have been suggested and the client’s consent would have been required.

      Sadly, thoughtfulness and common sense is not always in abundance at the Jobcentre these days.

  14. Pingback: Referred to a psychologist – for wanting to record Jobcentre interviews | johncresswellplant·

  15. This is of particular interest to me as I will almost certainly be claiming contributions-based JSA from 1st November and it is my normal practice to take recordings in meetings as well as making notes. I don’t have a very good memory and sometimes I can’t put my notes into context without the backup recording. I will be taking my notebook and dictaphone along to the jobcentre and I will explain, truthfully, that I will be very worried about not remembering some important detail of the conversation. The recording will not be with the intention of trying to catch them out, or for anything other than my own peace of mind. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Good luck with your meeting. Will be very interested to hear of your experience. Hope not as bad as the experience related above though.

    • DWP would be in breach of the DDA if you declared your health issue and they did not allow you to record your meetings at the Jobcentre.

      It is likely, that they will take you into a private room so that you do not pick up other Jobseekers’s private information.

      • Yes, understandable if a health issue declared.

        If the issue was a perceived insecurity during a local interview which could help determine benefit eligibility/levels – with no declared health link – a surreptitious recording might be prudent.

        With CAB offices choc-a-bloc, already advising others on related insecurities, perhaps the DWP should be persuaded to announce unilateral guidance – regardless of legal/common law precedence/uncertainty – which will reassure interviewees they’ll be seen privately & can use their mobile to record, even if merely apprehensive.

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  17. I have had met a Work Psychologist. I’ve spoken about it in my blog. In fact I posted a response to an earlier posting on here suggesting that anyone falling foul of JCP should ask to speak to such a person. I said this because, on balance, my experience has been positive.
    It’s not perfect; dealing with the WP has been like taking one step back for each two you take forward, and, I suppose, it depends on the person you see. Mine has said that they have the ability to, essentially, get the JCP frontline staff (such as the people that sign you on) to back off. Just how much authority and influence they really do have, I don’t know. Unfortunately they can’t deal with the Work Programme or ESA (I asked in respect of an appeal) the same way, so it may well be they are utterly ineffectual.
    I would say that if you can get one on board it’s probably a good thing. From what I can gather mine is actually qualified. They have some credibility.
    I was given the option to see one prior to going on the WP. I had never heard of them before and I agreed just to get JCP off my back. I told the Psychologist that I had been trying to get an Aspergers diagnosis. Here’s where it gets a little shaky (hence the one step back comment above): she initially said ‘i can do that’, but that got scaled back and instead she started talking about ADD and that she could do a test for that, which turned into a sort of unoffical test to see if I had a tendency toward that…but not an actual diagnosis.
    That annoyed me a bit and consdequently I take what she says with a tiny pinch of salt, but she is supportive, though I know there are limits. I wouldn’t say, though it depends on the individual, they are to be 100% relied on; it’s the DWP after all. But it’s worth habving someone on the inside, so to speak. She did conduct that test at my local GP surgery and it was (afaict) a proper test. I’m using her write up to help with my ESA appeal, however she won’t explicitly get involved beyond that (or can’t – who knows).

    in this case I can sort of see what the JC are saying. Though I don’t much care for JCP, particularly not for the current horrible regime toward claimants. However it’s just not going to be the case that Jobcentres will have recording equipment in an office; some might, most i suspect won’t. Consequently they end up, unfairly perhaps since there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to have your meetings recorded I suppose, thinking there’s something up with the person who makes that request. It’s just a sign of the times. A symptom of how messed up everything is and the climate of fear that some advisers seem all too happy to foster.
    Hope this helps.

    • Yes. Just re your last para:

      Similar climates of fear seem to be a deliberate feature of this Govt – or their policies or their scaremongering or the public deceptions they are happy to spread – in many areas, especially in the public services.

      They’re just the consequence of party political attacks designed to blame, denigrate, undermine, smear as failing, destroy staff morale, publicise any bad consequences, convince us privatisation is the only solution – and then to privatise ..step by step.

      So, to challenge even an apprehensive interviewee for using their mobile to record, looks tantamount to blaming the victims for a climate heated from above – for purely party political reasons.

  18. I understand, Ghost Whistler

    Yes they might, but if it was me I would be offended to receive such a letter without my consent. I have several medical problems including poor concentration.

    Most mobiles have recording options and the majority of Jobcentres have recording facilities as well as private rooms for fraud interviews.

  19. They say they have to protect other people’s information in a public space. However, if you go into any Jobcentre any day or time, you can hear people’s names, addresses, dates of birth etc. If you are in the next booth you can find out all manner of things, such as a person’s criminal record, work history, debt problems etc. This means DWP are failing to protect their customer’s privacy every day!

    There is nothing to stop anyone asking for a recording to take place in a private room, but Jobcentre staff can object.

    Under DPA, you can record for personal use only. Section 36 of the Data Protection Act, which states: “Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles.”

    It remains a grey area in the courts, but no-one has ever been prosecuted. The starting point is the English court system’s pragmatism. English judges support the maxim that cheats never prosper. At common law there are few exclusionary rules in civil cases. If highly relevant, evidence will usually be admitted. Illegal or unfair methods of acquisition can be dealt with by another route.

    Jobseeker’s do not go to court, they use the information to protect themselves when they feel bullied or are disbelieved. Some Jobseekers have disabilities and need to record their meetings.

  20. Just record it! Fuck the DWP! I record JCP interviews, WP appointments/’workshops’ as and when I see fit.

  21. as im the releasor of the above letters heres some more letters to prove that the jobseekers claim was shut down before that letter was sent out

    as i have been unable to complete a new jsag as the manager has not offered or provided a room or an adviser for this to take place at the local jobcentre or at another jobcentre

  22. Dear skwalker1964
    I hope this message reaches you. I’m a freelance researcher, interested in mental health and the struggle for social justice and also active in Boycott Workfare. I’m currently looking at how psychology is being used to punish and coerce people on JSA and other benefits – and I’ve been reading your blog with interest. Especially ‘referred to a psychologist for wanting to record an interview’. I am writing a paper about these issues – partly to raise awareness of what is going on – and partly to try and bring pressure on various ‘professional’ bodies like the British Psychological Society. I’m getting in touch to ask if you would be happy for me to quote your blog – obviously I’d include a link so people can read it themselves – I’m also happy to send you a copy of the paper when it is complete. Let me know how you feel about this. and thanks again for a great blog.

    Lynne Friedli

  23. Pingback: Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy – The Case of Workfare | Centre for Medical Humanities Blog·

  24. This is really interesting, I hadn’t heard of this before. I’m currently working on a blog about people’s experiences at the job centre. I’ve heard some interesting stories but this is new! Ironically, many psychology graduates who are trained in this field are out of work and claiming benefits! I’d love some comments on my page about peoples experiences of job centres if anyone would find it interesting. I’d love to include people’s stories too, if you have any you’d like to share. Would you mind if I included a link to this story on my page?
    You can find my page at
    Many thanks.

  25. My disability advisor is just another tool in the box. I get the feeling my interviews are being recorded as when she knows I’m right she answers with her face or just nods. I got sanctioned for not looking for work whilst i was on one of their courses, she couldn’t say, ‘don’t do it again, I appreciate you are trying but rules are rules’, nope she just stopped my money and refused to give me proof of benefit so I had to leave the course as well. I had one of their bouncers go out of his way to come up to me and ask how I was, when I explained I wasn’t well, he said ‘good’. I complained and three days later I get a non signed letter about an incident two weeks before, which I was sorta guilty but they had twisted the words to make it sound like I was threatening. In the unsigned letter, I was to be reported to local authorities but it wouldn’t affect me financially. Ha ha ha, a ghost letter if ever I did see one, just so I wouldn’t take the bouncer thing any further. When I said to my advisor ‘your bull s41t letter’, she just let it go, when usually she analyses everything I say. Bunch of bastards, they are worse than Ian Duncan smith, he doesn’t have to see the pity in people’s eyes when they tell them they are getting no money for two weeks.
    I got sanctioned for letting them know I would be late and them giving me a later appointment because I had a test that day on my course, they even signed me later and said squat. I could go on but I won’t, these people must be dead inside.

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