Anger as a disabled assessment centre has no wheelchair access
He did this 4 months after his Department had committed to closing the inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich and re-locating to suitable premises. That centre is still open, still inaccessible and is still turning away disabled people 8 months after the decision to close it was made.
The Department for Work and Pensions publicity states:
The Accessible Britain Challenge encourages communities to be inclusive and accessible. That means working with disabled people to remove the barriers that stop them participating fully in their community.
Far from working with disabled people Mr Harper has ignored us and refused to enter into a dialogue or even answer our letters.
What makes it more perverse is that a new provider Maximus, an American outsourcing firm takes over the multi million pound Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract from Atos next Monday and will continue to operate from St Mary’s House, 3 years after the DWP was made aware of the access issues.
Disabled campaigners and our supporters will be demonstrating between 12.30 – 1.30pm on Monday 2nd March outside St Mary’s House against this injustice.
Mark Harrison, CEO of Equal Lives said “This shows that the Accessible Britain Challenge is just a publicity stunt. We have been campaigning for 3 years outside St Mary’s House. They are even presenting awards in conjunction with the British Institute for Facilities Management and one of the categories is ‘innovative use of buildings, spaces and places’. The winners are to be announced on 15 March. I am sure the irony of this is not lost on the thousands of disabled people who have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for their assessments because the DWP won’t lease a suitable premises.”
“It also demonstrates the contempt this Government has for disabled people. How can you appoint a new provider for the hated assessments and force them to use an inaccessible building which the DWP leases through another private sector provider Telereal Trillium? This clearly demonstrated that we are not all in this together. There is one rule for disabled people and another for the private sector, bankers and Ministers who see themselves as being unaccountable and above the law”.
The scandal continues same old flawed assessment process in the same inaccessible building
The disgraceful and embarrassing situation regarding St Mary’s House, Norwich continues with a new company taking over disability assessments. On 1st March Maximus, a foreign owned outsourcing company take over the contract for carrying out the notorious Work Capability Assessment (WCA). They take over this failed service from Atos in the same inaccessible building in Duke St, Norwich.
Disabled campaigners and our supporters will be demonstrating between 12.30 – 1.30pm on Monday 2nd March outside St Mary’s House against this double gross injustice.
Maximus, a company with a history of disability discrimination and improper practices, will be paid more than double what Atos was for the contract. Meanwhile very little will have changed: Maximus will be using the same building which is not accessible to disabled people. Many staff will remain the same as they move across from Atos and, most significantly, the fundamental flaws of the assessment which tests functionality as opposed to employability will continue.
Mark Harrison, CEO of Equal Lives said “What a great way to start a new contract with a significant proportion of your customers unable to access your service because they can’t get in your building for their disability assessment! The only way to ensure a fair and just social security system is to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and bring benefit tests back within the public sector in a building which disabled people can access. Changing one private sector provider for another does nothing to address the core problems. The jobs market is completely inaccessible to most disabled people for a variety of reasons – lack of support, inaccessible work environments and discrimination; these are the things that need to be addressed.”
Press/TV/Radio: Interviews are available
Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives: 07825 600195 or 07979 400564
About Equal Lives
Equal Lives is a user-led human rights organisation supporting all disabled people in Norfolk. It was formed in 1996 by groups of disabled people in Norfolk. The organisation is led by a Board of Trustees all of whom are disabled people and elected by and from its membership. The organisation undertakes a wide range of services including:
Comprehensive advice that covers all Department of Work and Pensions benefits relating to illness and disability. We offer support, advice and information to families and carers of disabled people
Providing advice and support to people considering or using Personal Budgets or Direct payments in Norfolk
Support for vulnerable adults and juveniles detained in police custody
Advocacy support for users of mental health services to make sure that their views and concerns are heard by others
Advice and support to people considering or using Direct Payments in Suffolk with our Suffolk Independent Living service
Projects and activities with our membership and others to work towards achieving Equal Lives
More details Maximus
What a Waste!
In the words of Ian Drury – What a waste! I am referring to the exclusion of disabled people in society and the attitudes and behaviours of Government, both local and national, towards us. As a society we need to turn our approach to disability in its head.
This Government has initiated a poisonous discourse in order to justify targeting disabled people through austerity. By the 2015 election, more than £28bn in benefits and entitlements will have been taken away from disabled people. At the same time, disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. In Austerity Britain, where the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer continue to claim “We are all in this together”, disabled people will pay 9 times more towards reducing the budget deficit than the average citizen. Those who are severely disabled will pay nineteen times more.
We are not benefit scroungers or burdens, we are not too expensive or units of costs that we as a society cannot afford, we are not brave, courageous or ‘special needs’. We are human beings like everybody else. If you cut us we bleed. You call us names and bully us, we hurt. You pity us and stick us in the charity box, we behave like charity cases. You segregate us in separate institutions and we become institutionalised. You do everything for us and wrap us in cotton wool then we become dependent. You have low expectations of our abilities and you damage our growth and development.
Disabled people don’t want this; we just want to be treated equally. We don’t want to be labelled as ‘special needs’ and charity cases. We want to live in the mainstream like everyone else. We want the barriers to us leading equal lives removed. If you label us as charity cases then what happens when you lose interest and move on to the next ‘good cause’? Labels are for tins not disabled people
So what is to be done to address this waste? It is our responsibility – all of us – to remove these barriers. The barriers are ‘man made’ so it is our responsibility to break them down and consign them to history together. Disabled people can’t do this by ourselves we need allies. We need non-disabled people to get along side us and not accept the apartheid lives many disabled people are forced to live. We need disabled and non-disabled to be passionate about disability equality just like we are about women’s, racial and sexuality equality.
Disabled people have enormous amounts to give if afforded the opportunity and responsibility. Let’s end this waste and call time on out of date 20th Century attitudes and behaviours. Together we can consign them to the dustbin of history where they belong. Let’s get passionate together about disability equality and removing those barriers, wherever they are. Our Government has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://www.un.org/disabilities/
This provides a comprehensive road map for achieving disability equality – let’s implement it.
CEO Equal Lives