Two years after it was first highlighted how Norwich’s assessment centre for disabled people does not have wheelchair access, campaigners have gathered to protest because nothing has changed.

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The centre is on the second floor of St Mary’s House, in Duke Street, and the work capability assessments to determine whether someone is “fit for work” are held by private company Atos on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

People in wheelchairs or who have restricted mobility are advised they must be able to walk downstairs in the event of an emergency, as the lift would be out of use. They are offered appointments at home or at assessment centres in areas including King’s Lynn, Cambridge and Ipswich as an alternative.

However, Equal Lives and Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), Norfolk, which organised the protest outside St Mary’s House today, say people are being sent as far afield as Nottingham and Coventry for assessments.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “This Government is both uncaring and arrogant as far as disabled people are concerned. Despite having a duty in law and two years campaigning the DWP still refuses to act.

“It is a sick joke that disabled people can’t get into the building of the contracted service that assesses their ability to work.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Where an assessment centre isn’t on the ground floor we endeavour to make this clear to people before they arrive for their appointment. If people have mobility problems, which may make evacuation in the event of a fire difficult, a home visit or an appointment at an alternative assessment centre is arranged.”

Campaigners across the country also took part in the protest because of concerns about the way the assessments are conducted.

Amanda Lewis, 51, from Beeston Regis, has a chronic pain condition and is appealing against the outcome of her assessment. She said: “They don’t use your words and you don’t see what they write about you. Then you get your assessment six months later and realise what they have written is wrong. By the time you appeal it the person who did the assessment can’t remember it. It’s an attack on your integrity to have so much written down and filed about you that’s so incorrect.”

A DWP spokesman said: “The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was introduced in 2008 by the previous Government who appointed Atos the sole provider. “We have made - and continue to make - significant improvements to the WCA process since then.

“However we think it’s right to see what work people can do with the right support, rather than write people off on out-of-work sickness benefits as sometimes happened in the past.

“This Government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people. In fact independent reports show how we are world leaders in support for disabled people with the UK’s spending on disability-related benefits a fifth higher than the EU average.”

11 comments

  • Is there not a law that states government offices have to be wheelchair accessable??? and is this not a government sponsored office??? in which case the DWP is in contrevention of its' own government laws. There seems to be a lot of logic missing in the UK these days, what a shame!!

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    canuk

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • "....well done Ian Duncan Smith...." . So far John he has devised an IT system for benefits that is a complete disaster and will cost the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds and has enrolled just 3200 people onto his universal credit system at a cost of £200,000 each . The man is a genius .

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

  • Igno Wag is correct in saying the whole building needs gutting and re-designing. As an Unemployed person I am going to create a Company called uncontrolled Demolition Inc, and flatten Anglia Square, with lack of knowledge and experience I am sure I can take out half of Norwich out with uncalculated amounts of Explosives

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

  • Workers for ATOS need the lift treatment. To be crushed to death under said lift !

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

  • Surely, Kiln House Jobcentre is wheelchair accessible. If people are unable to access the ATOS centre surely ATOS could have a desk in Kiln House?

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    Lynda Edwards

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • I suppose it is one way of cutting down the number of benefit claims!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • The DWP's WCA,administered by ATOS,is nothing short of state-sponsored murder.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

  • Sadly, those disabled wheelchair users are unable to get upstairs and trash the office, because thats what it needed two years ago, wholesale gutting and re designing!

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • ATOS have wrongly assessed 158,000 people as fit to work when they are not according to the government and yet ATOS still made £40 million profits last year.The cost of their mistakes in human misery is a reminder of the early years of Nazi Germany when disabled people became "the other".You may have thought the nasty party had gone but here they are in all their eugenic glory.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

  • At last the ones who can work have been scragged. Benefits hand outs for nothing crowd sussed,The real disabled should and will be looked after.well done Ian Duncan Smith a brave man standing up against this lot.

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Lynda I said the same thing around a year ago, and clearly the DWPATOS are not fit for purpose. Maybe both organisation should be tried for crimes against humanity :)

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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