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MPs to tell minister Norwich disability assessment centre situation is just not good enough

PUBLISHED: 07:46 11 June 2014 | UPDATED: 09:36 11 June 2014

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

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

A minister will be told today that the scandal of a disability assessment centre with no wheelchair access is just not good enough.

MPs will take a catalogue of complaints about the way work capability assessments and personal independence payments are being handled in Norfolk to disability minister Mike Penning.

It comes as his department admitted it had no idea how much taxpayer money is being spent on taxi bills because of the assessment centre blunder.

MPs have branded the answer to the Evening News’ request for information “not good enough”, after the Department for Work and Pensions was unable to put a figure on transport costs.

Officials are trying to send Norwich disabled people, who have to be assessed before they can claim benefits, as far afield as Nottingham by taxi, and also to Ipswich and King’s Lynn.

In the latest twist to the two-and-a-half year saga, which disability campaigners claim is causing undue stress to vulnerable people, now those needing an assessment are being sent a map and told to travel by public transport.

In a letter to Norwich MP Simon Wright, Mr Penning said his department was compliant with the Equalities Act, but said any new assessment centres would have ground floor rooms.

But he said his department was not yet in a position to review the decision of relocating the Norwich Assessment Centre, after deciding to give the contract to another provider.

Mr Wright said: “It cannot be right that those in need of an assessment are sent on a nearly 90-mile round trip.”

Norwich MP Chloe Smith said: “The current situation is completely unacceptable. We hope to cut through DWP red tape and find a common sense solution to ensure our constituents have equality of access to assessment centres in Norwich”.

Mark Harrison, of the charity Equal Lives, said: “People are just tearing their hair out. This is unacceptable.

“This government is putting the profits of providers before the needs of disabled people.”

He added: “Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP need to be held to account. The DWP is a failing department.”

He also called for urgent action on the delays to personal independence payments.

He added: “The DWP promised us the PIP would work – it is clear that it is yet another cock-up by Iain Duncan Smith, Atos and Capita. We said it was just a cost-cutting exercise and we have been proved right.”


  • They have a lift! They just refuse to let disabled people use it, because (and I quote) "during a fire the lift doesn't work". Well I'm sorry but that's pathetic, any other building would need an evacuchair or the fire safety doors by the stairs to give disabled people an hour of safety until the fire department can get to them. Absolute joke! ATOS don't give a toss!

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    Heather Willis

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

  • They've only just realized? I'm sorry this building has always been unfit for purpose, please see Disability Discrimination Act, applied since 2004? I believe.

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    Paul-Michael Ebbens

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

  • It is not just the Norwich site which is not fit for purpose the majority of ATOS sites are exactly the same according to their own website. All government contracts require the supplier to provide disabled access etc so how did ATOS manage to get the contract. The new supplier will also meet this requirement ??. Yes Mr Pennington there is no excuse for ATOS or any supplier not to provide these facilities all these contracts were placed after the disabled access legislation. Why is this contract not placed with NHS as the profits could then be retained.

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    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

  • As an ex service man I had to attend this centre to have a knee injury assessed. ten or eleven years ago. To reach it requires the use of a totally inadequate lift or stairs. I seem to remember that the lift was too small for some wheel chairs. Whilst waiting an alarm sounded. The receptionist and the rest of us waiting assumed that it was a car alarm outside and this continued for around twenty minutes ,very annoying. A very angry young man emerged from the lift. It was the lift alarm that was sounding off. The receptionist had no idea and it was pure luck that the lift started working again. This is indicative of the place that disabled and injured people have to attend. It is disgraceful that this situation has been allowed to continue over a number of years. Shame on all those jobsworths involved in choosing such an unsuitable place and allowing it to continue.

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    norman hall

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

  • Mike Penning obviously has no idea what he's talking about. Denying someone access on the basis of a protected characteristic (inability to walk unaided) is a clear breach of the 2012 Equalities Act. Sending someone to another city, solely because of their disability is, of itself, a discriminatory act.

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    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

  • This just goes to show the lack of dignity and respect they give to Disabled People, I wonder if they would be happy for a close member of their family to be treated in the same way?

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    mark trench

    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

  • “This government is putting the profits of providers before the needs of disabled people.”...Who do you think gives the money to the Govt to help get them elected? You scratch my back...but in other counties bunging money for favors is deemed bribery..We need to get from a system where parties are bank rolled by people expecting something back.

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    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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

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