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One of the worrying features of mandatory reconsideration for employment and support allowance (ESA) is the decision maker’s phone call.  The evidence gathered in that phone call can be used to support granting or refusing you an award of ESA.  So, here at Benefits and Work we’re asking- is it time to start recording phone calls from the DWP?

If you ask for a reconsideration of the decision about your ESA and he decision maker cannot change the decision in your favour, they will telephone you.

The decision maker will try 2 or 3 times to contact you. If they are not able to make contact they will carry out the reconsideration without any further evidence, unless you have already told them that you will be sending some.

During the telephone call the decision maker may ask you for further evidence of specific aspects of your disability and may ask you which descriptors you think have not been applied correctly. They will tell you what evidence they would like to receive and where you can send the evidence. You will have a month to send in the extra information and the reconsideration will not take place until you have sent it. If you haven’t sent in the extra evidence after a month the reconsideration will happen anyway.

However, you should be aware that what you say in this phone call may be used as evidence in the mandatory reconsideration and may form part of the evidence used by the DWP if you appeal the decision following the reconsideration.  

The telephone call will probably not be recorded by the DWP, but the decision maker will keep their own written record of what they consider was said in the course of the call.  

So, the big question is: do you trust the decision maker to fully and accurately reproduce what you told them? If not, what is the best way to avoid getting caught out by misleading evidence?

You may decide to try not to answer the phone call.

Or you may answer the phone but take notes yourself, or put the phone on speaker and get someone else to take notes.

Or you may decide to tape record the call for your own records.  

You are not under any obligation to inform the decision maker that you are doing this, provided you only intend to use the recording to help your memory of the call and do not pass it on to any third party.  

If, at a later stage you need to dispute what the decision maker has written, you can provide a written transcript of the relevant parts of the call and provide a copy of the recording to the DWP or a tribunal, if they request it.  (This will not count as providing the recording to a third party).

 What we’d like to know is whether Benefits and Work readers would record calls in this way – or already have?  And, if so, which of the many methods of recording, from the microphone in the ear to the plug in black box, you have used?



#27 Ninkharsag 2013-11-19 12:55
I have a neat little Olympus digital voice recorder that turns into a usb stick to download recordings to my pc. I have just bought a little Olympus gadget for £17.99. One end plugs into the voice recorder and the other end is an ear bud that goes in the ear. You hold your telephone (cordless or otherwise) against the ear and it picks up the two way conversation. Just tested it out with my mum....pin sharp clarity and no feedback. It is a very easy solution.
#26 carruthers 2013-11-17 19:23
Quoting Jim Allison:
If you have a hands free phone you can download Audacity free. It needs Windows 7

Just to add some notes on Audacity:
1) You can get versions which work on earlier sorts of Windows (e.g. XP), but it works better the more processing power you give it.
2) Give yourself some time to work out how to use Audacity - because it's free, there's no fancy manual. It's very powerful and can do a great deal more than most people want, but that can mean that doing quite simple tasks requires a little more knowledge than you'd think.
3) For example, if you want to deal with mp3 files, you have to download an extra "plugin" and then import mp3 files and "export" rather than saving them. It's straightforward - once you know what to do, but you do have to go and find out. Google is very helpful!
4) PRACTICE! Don't make the DWP you're very first expedition into recording. Get the technology down to a routine - record phone calls to your mother or your children first.

Be re-assured. If you can tackle DWP forms, you can use Audacity :-)
#25 Badback 2013-11-17 19:14
I use a small USB digital recorder that I bought for a few pounds from Ebay,there are lots of them on there. You can use it with cordless phones on hands free or even take it into an assessment with you (its very small and unobtrusive). Afterwards just plug it into your PC, download and store the recordings for later. Very easy
#24 miwevy 2013-11-15 21:03
I helped my dad with his ESA application. We recorded every phone call as we had read of the amazing mismatches in what you say and what they hear!! On calling them, their system advises that "calls are recorded for training purposes" so felt no need to tell them that we were also recording. But what was interesting that one time they called us, my dad told the woman we were recording the call for his personal use, and she put the phone down on him! Classic. She called him back and said she would carry on if he switched it off.
#23 Jim Allison 2013-11-11 14:53
Can I just clarify that there is nothing illegal in an individual recording covertly a telephone conversation. Organisations have to inform you that your call may be recorded for training purposes etc. etc.

There is also nothing illegal in covertly recording a medical assessment for benefits such as IB/ESA or DLA/PIP. However, it would advisable if you go down this road, then you provide the other party with a copy, which they are entitled to under disclosure of evidence.

Information recorded either with or without an organisation's knowledge is classed as 'hearsay evidence' by a Tribunal, but they have the power to accept 'hearsay evidence which a more formal Court of Law may be unwilling to accept.

Despite what others have said, sophisticated equipment is not required.

If any member wishes to have advice on recording 'phone calls or medical assessments by, for example ATOS, just post in the forum and we'll guide you.
#22 Banzai 2013-11-11 00:53
The favoured item here is a Watsonlinc. The telephone cable from the socket (corded phone required) goes into a tiny red container and is entrapped by a lid. This device picks up the telephone transmission by induction and does not count as illegal because the telephone system has not been 'cut' into. The device has a shortish cable with a 3.5mm jack plug on it will fit almost any tape recorder, dictation machine or dictaphone - digital or analogue - that has a 'microphone' input socket. Best quality recording (if there is a choice available) is selected.
The only trouble with digital recordings is they can easily Deleted by mistake and, if still on the recording device at the time of deletion, almost certainly cannot be recovered. This 'deletion' process is nearly always impossible with tape once you have broken out the tab at the back of the 'favoured' 90min or 120min cassette. A machine like the Sony BX800 is very good device as a recorder. Standard cassettes are preferred to the very small tapes used on some dictaphones which are not very long, time-wise.
There are numerous 'other' possibilities for small gear like this as one might guess but here endeth the lesson. . . .
#21 Jim Allison 2013-11-09 11:12
There is nothing illegal in recording phone calls without telling the person/organisa tion who've phoned you.

Most mobiles already have a voice recorder built into the phone at least I know Vodafone phones have had for years. My mobile has it built in and it's about 4 years old. It's not actually a phone call recorder, but can be used to record voices including phone calls. I can't use a smart phone like an Android or iPhone because with MS the touch screen is impossible for me to use.

If you have a hands free phone you can download Audacity free. It needs Windows 7 or Mac OS X to run it and the quality is superb, plus you can save any recordings you make for future reference.

Hope this helps.
#20 carruthers 2013-11-08 20:43
i intend having a bit of fun when they call me in, i'll tell the examiner on the day they are being recorded wether they are recording it or not and wait for their reaction, i'll even show the the copy of the neuro-psycologists letter saying he supports my use of an electronic device due to my verbal memory problem
Recording the WCA is a different matter - regardless of the legal position, Atos have their own rules about the WCA, which they impose. They take no notice of letters from specialists on this matter (as on others). They appear to think that they have no duty to make any concession for anyone's disability.

Your best bet is to put in a request to have a recorded WCA. That way they supply the machinery and should have told the HCP in advance.

If you are supplying the device(s) then check their regulations (on the Atos website).

If you do not comply with their regs then they will cancel the WCA and mark down that YOU refused to take it. Automatic benefit refusal.

Some people go for a covert recording - leaving a sensitive recorder in a bag or a pocket. This is risky, as they will stop the WCA, if they find out you are recording. They should resume once you have turned the recorder off, but many Atos staff are trained in the belief that they can say and do whatever they please - and get away with it. So covert recording is a strategy with some risk involved, but many people do all the same.

"Having fun" with Atos is only worth it if you aren't fussed about losing money, time and energy and enjoy the aggro it will cause you. All they have to do is say, "No."

Note: this does NOT apply to recording phone calls - stewthedarrener was talking about recording the WCA.
+1 #19 starshaped 2013-11-08 16:20
Just to echo what people have already said, I've been recording all my calls with the DWP pretty much since I started claiming in 2006. I would NEVER speak to them on the phone without recording the conversation; it's a tiny amount of effort for what could prove to be vital evidence in the long run.

Thankfully I haven't had to rely too heavily on any of my recordings until now, but I have used a transcript of a voicemail message from a DWP employee as evidence in a DLA appeal - no idea what difference it made to the tribunal's decision though. I've also made my own recording of an Atos medical in the past (but this was probably easier for me than it would be for others, as I was assessed at home). If it had been in the assessment centre, I would have requested a recording, or failing that, secreted a dictaphone in my handbag or something!

As for my method: I record calls on my laptop using a free app called Audacity (but any old audio recording program will do the same job), talking on speakerphone so the mic can pick up the conversation. I then save the file as an MP3 and back it up (very important!) If you have some money to spend, there's a service called Calltrunk that looks good - it records all your phonecalls automatically, and you can order transcripts, which might be useful for evidence in appeals etc. I haven't tried it myself yet though.

In conclusion, YES you should be recording your phonecalls with the DWP! You hang onto all your letters, claim forms and other written correspondence from them (or you should, anyway!), so it makes sense that you should keep a record of your verbal correspondence too - especially with the new changes to ESA. Trust me, your welfare rights worker will thank you for it! ;-)
#18 vic 2013-11-08 10:43
Go after nurse , make her/ his personally responsible for all nonsense in appointment time , if was any.To understand what is nonsense , what is not , check standards what MUST be apply in interview time and use compliant procedure , if need. Nurse will deny everything ,but if you can present your evidence even 20 years old, assessment would be not up to the standards of decision maker and decision maybe reverse .P.S. You can write to Atos and ask how many compliant and for which reason ,`your` nurse had since worked for Atos , on the some occasions Atos claim , this information could be public .
#17 redman 2013-11-08 01:08
Quoting kim:
I went for my first ESA medical yesterday I arrived well before my appointment time of 2.35 but after waiting for about 40 minutes I was told they were behind with appointments and they would make me another one. They didnt say this to anyone else and people came in after me so I am a bit confused. I am now in bed for the day as I am so upset, stressed and worn out from a trip into the city centre.

U were lucky, they did this twice to my wife! Once we got there 10 mins before the appointment and after an hour they said that one of the Dr's had phoned in sick in the morning. Our appointment was at 2pm, I had a right moan at them because they had cancelled 14 people that day. But did not bother to call anyone to tell them, just waited for them to turn up and have a wasted journey. It's as if they do it on purpose and enjoy doing so! They r just ATOS-SERS.
#16 redman 2013-11-08 01:00
My wife bad industrial accident 22 years ago at the age of only 24. She went onto invalidity benefit which changed to "long term incapacity benefit in 1995." She was given medical severance from here work, after over 4 years of seeing top back specialists from Harley Street and a "Professor of Orthopedic Surgery" all of which her work payed for! The "SPECIALIST'S ALL AGREED" that her condition was permanent and that she would never work again. She remained on Incapacity Benefit until August this year, when they sent her for a medical to transfer her across to ESA. But some idiot from "NURSE" from ATOS decided that all of the "EXPERTS" were wrong! And obviously all of the previous ATOS Dr's that my wife had seen were wrong as well. She only awarded my wife 6 points on the work capability assessment test. Even though she had scored over 80 points on all previous assessments. In 1998 the DWP even sent a letter saying that they would not need my wife to send in any more med certs. She also had been for anymore medicals to the ATOS centre since then. (until last August's medical) We obviously appealed against the decision to only award 6 points. We have just received a reply back from the DWP, saying that they agree with the ATOS nurse?? They also mention that they tried to phone my wife to talk to her, but the answerphone cut in. They did not leave a message and made their decision without even talking to her. In the "Professor of Orthopedic Surgery's Medical Report", he states that my wife's present situation fall's into a "back cripples condition" which after 5 years since the accident should now to be regarded as "PERMANENT". How can a nurse from Atos + a some knob from the DWP make such a poor decision to overrule someone from such a HIGH PROFESSION'S FINAL OPINION? Since we appealed they've not paid my wife any money, when I asked why they said that her med cert ran out on the day of their decision in Aug 2013. I said that 1998 was the last med she sent in.
#15 David 2013-11-08 00:42
Cor this takes me back to the days when I tried to record the Atos inquisition at home had to try and jump through hoops for the recording to be acceptable .
I .couldn't afford the recorder in any case but they didn't know that the black box with a light on it was a dummy device .

This telephone thing makes perfect sense I'm so higgledy piggledy in the memory dept these day i need to do this.

And I thought Atos etc were here to help me now I couldn't complete in the job market anymore through illness & injury ..... Anybody seen the fairies down the bottom of the garden yet ?
+1 #14 jura13 2013-11-07 22:17
Always record ALL phonecalls with any DWP PEOPLE. Its great for you to be able to check what was said , especially when it can be someone just promising to send a fictitious form just to get rid of you. It helps to keep your own notes in order. Remember, it is far less important to the person at the other end of the phone than it is to you. If you cannot do it via an app then pop the phone on loudspeaker and either "video" the call or buy a cheap Dictaphone for a tenner. Worth every penny. Oh and don't forget to inform them that you will be taping the call from the beginning. Its amazing how careful it makes some people. ;-)
#13 Pete B-Giles 2013-11-07 17:11
As "stewthedarrenn er" has already pointed out, also a judge who informed ATOS and DWP f similar legislation, not only are you allowed to record a call on your private telephone line, in the case of a call made from individuals as slippery and devious as those two bodies it become almost essential practice.
eBay has a whole raft of possible recorders for pocket-change and I have been using mine for a long time. In every case however, I have told the person at the other end of the line that my calls are recorded for security purposes.
If you are making a complaint, you are entitled to give them an official civil caution which is exactly the same one the Police use, which in my case with mobility reconsideration , got a result in five days.
Get a recorder and use it BUT be polite and very careful that you have planned everything you say, trust me, they have!
#12 Asbo 2013-11-07 16:15
Yes, I've recorded phone calls on behalf of another disabled relative but it was never necessary to use them. But just felt confident having that information to hand. I used one of those devices the size of a memory stick, just switched it on and held it to the phone extension.
I'm also scared about all this mention of the DWP phoning up. WE have a phobia of officials phoning us up out of the blue and also I can't cope when I'm tired which is a large chunk of the day. It shouldn't count against us if we can't answer the phone.
#11 teabag 2013-11-07 15:11
Yes I will in future record phone conversations now i know that its not illegal as long as its for your own use :lol:
#10 kim 2013-11-07 14:16
I went for my first ESA medical yesterday I arrived well before my appointment time of 2.35 but after waiting for about 40 minutes I was told they were behind with appointments and they would make me another one. They didnt say this to anyone else and people came in after me so I am a bit confused. I am now in bed for the day as I am so upset, stressed and worn out from a trip into the city centre.
+1 #9 shazz39 2013-11-07 11:26
I agree that recording should be used by the claimant.Ive had several assesments and the last one was unbeliveable. The health practioner got my personal details wrong.The questions i replyed to were wrong in several points,to which i lost my benefit for 6months before it was sorted. I appealed through my C A B i was contacted by someone form DWP and my appeal was upheld after clarifying numerous points to which THEY could not understand what this Health Profesional! was saying. It was just ridiculous .I aslo contacted my local MP has i got new forms to complete 2weeks later after i won the appeal to which i was devestated . He brought it up in Parliment that this was happening on a regular basis with clients. it appeared that my appeal had nto been signed off and i recieved an apology and £25pd for the stress caused and would not be required to go for another medical for 2yrs . im 61 in feb so i hope they will leave me alone . i should have had my pension this year but for changes i will be 62+.
+1 #8 Mockingbird 2013-11-07 11:10
I always record phone calls to DWP (and Atos) as on too many occasions they have gone into denial of any discussions I have had with them. I have cognitive deficit which, amongst other things, makes recollection of information very difficult so I need to have this evidence for myself too, not least of all because they lie about what you say to them. I use a dictaphone.

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