Norwich assessment ‘disgrace’ set to end, minister claims

PUBLISHED: 13:50 09 January 2015 | UPDATED: 13:50 09 January 2015

St Mary's House, Duke Street Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

St Mary's House, Duke Street Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

The “disgrace” of disabled people being sent miles from Norwich because an assessment centre cannot be used by wheelchair users is expected to be brought to an end this month, a minister has indicated.

The government said in June it would stop sending people by taxi or public transport to Ipswich or King’s Lynn, and even further afield, for assessments to decide if they are fit to work. Campaigners have spent three years calling for the issue to be addressed.

But Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, has said in a letter to South Norwich MP Simon Wright that the medical assessment centre, used by private firm Atos, has taken on two extra rooms and that the Department for Work and Pensions was drawing up final proposals and was working towards a “go-live” date at the end of January.

He claimed it would be “considerably more cost effective” and “quicker” than a complete relocation of the service.

Until then people will continue to be offered an assessment elsewhere or a home visit.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the charity Equal Lives, which has led the campaign to prevent people being sent miles for assessment, wrote to Mr Harper in October and has still not received a reply.

He said: “At least he is communicating with someone.

“What a sorry state of affairs that it has taken three years to get to this point. It is a disgrace that people are still being expected to travel to other towns and cities for an assessment which is not ‘fit for purpose’ and often results in disabled people having their benefits cut inappropriately.”

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