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?