Users of Norwich disability assessment centre left confused over access

Mick Hardy and Marion Fallon from DPAC Norfolk and Mark Harrison from Equal Lives protest about disa

Mick Hardy and Marion Fallon from DPAC Norfolk and Mark Harrison from Equal Lives protest about disability access at St May's House in Norwich.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Users of a disability assessment centre in the city say they are still faced with confusion over access after plans to move assessments to a new building were abandoned.

Marion Fallon, chairman of Norfolk Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and a member of the Unite Com

Marion Fallon, chairman of Norfolk Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and a member of the Unite Community Union, at the Jobcentre Plus for the protest against the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), after figures were released of people dying after being found fit for work. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Problems with accessing rooms on the second floor of St Mary's House in Duke Street led to an outcry more than four years ago, with some disabled people pointed to a map and told to travel to Ipswich.

After Mike Penning, minister for disabled people, described the situation as 'wholly unacceptable', the Department for Work and Pensions said they had secured eight rooms at Carmelite House.

But instead, two rooms have been opened on the ground floor of St Mary's, a fact users say has not been communicated.

Marion Fallon, 55 from Norwich, said she was left 'disgusted and angry' after attempting to access the centre and again being told the nearest ground floor services were in Ipswich or Kings Lynn. 'It seems very little has changed, wasting more public money on this nonsense and sole aim is to deny disabled people money,' she said. 'Once again this has caused me huge stress, therefore aggravating my health conditions and nothing is solved by this. I have contacted my MP Clive Lewis about this, I had seen him in recent weeks and told him I still had concerns about St. Mary's House and it looks like I was right. He has assured me that he is looking into this urgently, as I won't be the only person experiencing these issues.'

Maximus UK, the company responsible for the assessments, said their communication is already clear but they would be taking steps to make it 'unambiguously clear'.

'All Assessment Centres are owned and operated by DWP,' said a spokesman. 'Two ground floor assessment rooms were added to St Mary's House several months ago. Our communication to customers makes clear that if they are unable to use stairs in the event of an emergency evacuation they should tell us in advance so we can allocate them one of the ground floor rooms for their assessment.

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'We are not sending people from Norwich to other sites. However, we will closely review the documentation we send out to make sure that is unambiguously clear.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions added, rather than moving to Carmelite House, two extra ground floor assessment rooms had been provided at St Mary's House since November 2015.