A woman was left “humiliated and disgusted” when she was turned away from Croydon’s only disability assessment centre – because wheelchair users are banned from using the lifts under health-and-safety rules.
The bizarre state of affairs, at a centre run by a private contractor that carries out fitness-to-work tests for the Government, has forced claimants to make a 14-mile round trip to Balham for an assessment. The assessment service, run by Maximus, is on the first floor of Stephenson House, near East Croydon station.
Sandra Hall, 37, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and cannot walk unaided, was turned away from a fitness-to-work evaluation appointment of July 4. She is required to attend yearly assessments to prove she is not able to work and is therefore entitled to benefits.
Despite giving Maximus prior notice she is wheelchair-bound, Mrs Hall was turned away from the meeting after being told the building was unsuitable for her. Staff said that in the event of an evacuation she would be expected to use the stairs to leave the building and, since she cannot climb them, it would be a health-and-safety risk to allow her access to the first floor.
Mrs Hall, who lives in the town centre, said: “I was absolutely fuming. I was crying because I thought they would stop my money because I couldn’t come, it was really upsetting.
“It is very difficult [to move] – my hips, my knees, joints are in constant agony. To get down the stairs when I’m at home I have to shuffle on my bottom, so if there is a fire how can I shuffle down the stairs on my bottom? I have never felt so humiliated and upset and disgusted in all my life.”
She added: “For a place that is meant to be for disabled people it is not really disabled-friendly.”
Mrs Hall’s appointment was rescheduled to Balham last week, forcing her husband Geoff to take another day off work and putting more financial strain on the couple.