I became aware of your website last year and have been a weekly visitor ever since. I myself have been experiencing the joy of Atos – and now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – for over a year now.
Leaving aside that I was wrongly assigned to the ‘Work-Related’ Activity Group (WRAG) and had my case illegally sent for Mandatory Reconsideration by the DWP, those may be stories for another time.
My immediate concern is the fact that DWP allowed Atos to blatantly discriminate against disabled people and yet refused to acknowledge this, let alone actually do anything about it! It is now clear why – they are indulging in this themselves.
When I was first contacted by Atos, I made clear that, due to fatigue caused by my disabilities, that I must sleep in the afternoon. Atos continually sent me afternoon appointments and despite DWP being copied to any correspondence, I never heard from them on the matter.
Eventually, after two formal complaints, Atos finally sent me a morning appointment which was cancelled shortly thereafter and the process promptly began again! Again, deafening silence from the DWP.
When I pointed out to Atos that they were calling people for assessments they knew to be disabled and yet provided no disable parking, they responded by stating that disabled parking was available in the street immediately outside the centre.
When I again challenged this and provided photographic evidence that it was a lie, they lied again and essentially re-stated the original lie. Again, deafening silence from the DWP.
As stated above, DWP have been copied into all correspondence between myself and Atos yet, when I received the appointment letter for Jobcentre Plus this was not only for four days hence (two of which were a weekend) at a time of year when many people are away on holiday, but yet another afternoon appointment.
I immediately telephoned and explained (again) why a morning appointment was necessary and they sent me yet another afternoon appointment. It took a formal and quite strong letter before I received a suitable appointment.
I have not been in a Jobcentre since 1995 when DWP or whatever it was called at the time, gave me a little green card and classified me as disabled.
My local Jobcentre has, I believe moved twice since then. I had to attend my first WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) interview this morning and, despite having written three times to ‘Marion’ at the Burnley Jobcentre, they have provided no details as to the location (other than the postal address) and no details on parking availability at all, let alone parking for disabled drivers.
That aside, the visit was actually a pleasant surprise as ‘Marion’ patiently explained to me that I was now in the Support Group and that it would be unnecessary for me to visit again for three years! In that hour, I received more information that was actually relevant to my case and more sensibly explained than any other thus far. I do however, as I explained to her, intend to pursue the discrimination issue.
To minimise the chance of error and lateness, I located the Jobcentre on a map and went out early yesterday (Sunday) morning to locate and scout the location and found that:
- The entrance to the Jobcentre is not on the street stated in the postal address, but another street, which provides no on-street parking whatsoever, let alone for disabled people.
- The street stated in the postal address is, at its closest more than thirty metres from the entrance to the building and, while there is parking available on this street, it is usually all taken unless one is very early or lucky.
- The building itself has a car park which has two disabled spaces, but this is controlled by a keypad and barrier and appears to be for staff only. The car park to the east of the building is contract parking only on weekdays.
How simple would it have been for them to have answered my queries on this or to have taken Atos to task for their failure? Yet in their arrogance, incompetence or both, the DWP appear to believe that the Equalities Act and Disability Discrimination Act do not apply to them.
You might ask: Why hasn’t he contacted his MP? I have, and not only has he proven to be of less practical use than a unicycle, he does not even bother to respond, but then he is a Lib-Dem and part of the odious coalition who compounded this Labour-initiated mess.
You might also ask: Why hasn’t he contacted the Equalities Office? I have, three times. The last time I directed the complaint to the principal Minister (now ex-Minister) Sajid Javid, castigating him for his Ministry’s failure to respond. Not even an acknowledgement was received at any time.
Mr John Lockett
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