Friday, February 15, 2013
Campaigners have vowed to protest every month until the government scraps “inappropriate” tests examining if disabled people are fit to work.
And they renewed calls for the assessments by the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) private contractor Atos Healthcare to be held in a more accessible office in Norwich.
Tens of protesters with placards, whistles, horns and brass instruments gathered yesterday outside the Atos office, which is on the second floor of St Mary’s House, in Duke Street. 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 will 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.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said: “We have decided we will demonstrate monthly until the DWP and the government scrap work capability assessments and until they move Atos out of the inaccessible offices they are in. The whole assessment is completely inappropriate for the majority of disabled people. If you take people with neurological, mental health conditions, cancer, they are being declared fit for work as they get no points in the assessments.”
A DWP spokeswoman said they endeavoured to make it clear to people before appointments if an office was not accessible and organise an alternative.
She said: “The previous system abandoned people to a life on benefits without checking to see if they could, with the right support, go back to work. We’ve made substantial changes to the work capability assessment and the proportion of people being placed in the support group has more than doubled in just two years.
“We are working with Atos to ensure there is appropriate access at all sites used and we hope that this will be the case shortly.”