‘I’m owed £5k as I can’t access assessment centre’
A WOMAN has lost out on more than £5,000 in disability benefits… as she cannot access her local assessment centre. Jaki Whyte, from Colchester, has been out of work for 10 years as she is disabled.
In order to claim her Employment and Support Allowance she needs to attend the assessment centre in Colchester. However the centre in Wellington Street came under fire recently for its inaccessibility.
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Hundreds have signed a petition for the centre to be made accessible by wheelchair users, as it has a 5ins step to the entrance. Jaki has been asking for a solution for the past two years.
She said: “It has affected me badly, in June the department for work and pensions classed me as fit to work as I am failing to attend appointments, but the reason is because I cannot get into the building and have to be manhandled in.
“It’s a matter of life or death for people like me, it’s so important.”
The DWP registers someone as fit to work if they do not register their presence at the assessment centre.
As Jaki has an electric mobility scooter, she cannot get inside the building. Because of this, her attendance has not been registered and she is now owed more than £5,000 in benefits. She has been trying to find a solution for the past two years.
She said: “I have been asking for a ramp there since 2016, I have suggested other venues but they refuse. “They class you as not attending even if you are sat outside the building, I have asked them to come and do an assessment outside in the car park but they will not do it.
“They also say I’m not sick enough for a home visit, but this has adversely affected my mental health.” She has asked her GP to apply for a home visit twice, but nothing has come from her requests. She has now been without benefits for 43 weeks.
She has been offered appointments at the centre in Chelmsford, but explained she cannot get there. Jaki has also suggested the DWP use the PIP centre in Hawkins Road, which has disabled access, but she was told there would be health and safety issues.
A DWP spokesman explained all of its Centres for Health and Disability Assessments comply with the Equality Act and where a centre is not directly accessible from street level, this is made clear before a person’s appointment.
The authority has also promised it will ask the assessment provider to revisit what else can be done to make the building more accessible. A spokesperson said: “We’re absolutely committed to ensuring disabled people get the right support that they need.
“All our centres meet legal accessibility requirements, but we go further and can arrange to meet at more accessible sites nearby or discuss whether a home visit would be appropriate.”