The Countess of Mar tabled a question that asked the Government whether, in the light of the relevance of oral evidence to appeals against work capability assessment decisions, they have given consideration to decision makers taking oral evidence directly or by telephone at an early stage of the decision-making process; and what, if any, are the reasons against adopting such a policy.
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions, provided a written reply on 14 March 2013. He wrote:
Following recommendations made in Professor Harrington's first independent review of the work capability assessment we have introduced changes to the decision making process.
After the face-to-face assessment takes place and before a final decision is taken, a decision maker will try to telephone the claimant to explain what will happen next. This is known as the decision assurance call and provides the decision maker the opportunity to discuss the proposed decision with the claimant and for the claimant to provide further documentary or oral evidence if appropriate.
The decision assurance call is an important opportunity to further explore with the claimant if further documentary evidence is available/required to help ensure that the correct decision is made from the outset. We are committed to continually improving the WCA and to ensuring that, wherever possible, decisions are right first time. The decision assurance call plays a key role in this, as well as helping ensure the WCA process is more empathetic and less mechanistic.