Disabled forced to walk 400m to get to proposed benefits centre

The Department for Work and Pensions is “playing a cruel trick” on the disabled and unwell of Croydon over plans to open a benefits assessment centre in the New South Quarter development off the Purley Way.

Whitestone Way, where the DWP wants to hide away a benefits assessment centre

That’s according to a letter from three Labour councillors, sent to Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd this week.

“This assessment centre is really not very easy to get to at all,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon.

“If you’re a disabled benefits claimant, or you have had ill-health, and you manage to get all the way to Whitestone Way, then you’ll be passed as fit for work, whether you are or not.

“If you can’t get here on time, then you’ll have your benefits cut.”

It is not the first time that the DWP has been criticised for its choice benefits assessment offices in Croydon. Back in 2011 the then ATOS-run benefits assessment office on the first floor of a building on Cherry Orchard Road made national headlines because it forced wheelchair users to climb a flight of stairs to prove they are disabled enough to get benefits.

Labour councillors from Waddon ward have this week written to Rudd with a highly critical letter about the DWP’s choice of Whitestone Way as the location of another medical assessment office.

The DWP has chosen a hostile parking environment around its assessment office

Almost hidden away among high-rise private apartments, the DWP’s chosen site off the A23 is hemmed-in by strictly enforced double yellow lines to prevent people parking their cars nearby.

The centre will offer just four parking spaces for its visitors and staff, for an assessment operation which is likely to have 16 applicants attending at any one time.

The proposed assessment centre is 400 metres from the nearest bus stop, and nearly 300 metres from a tram stop.

The matter was discussed at this week’s Croydon Mobility Forum meeting, and Jane Avis, the council cabinet member responsible for health and social care, has recommended that officials from the DWP should be summoned from Whitehall to attend a Town Hall scrutiny meeting to explain their choice of assessment centre.

The DWP lodged an application with the council’s planning department in November for a change of use for the premises.

The Waddon councillors, Robert Canning, Andrew Pelling and Joy Prince, in their letter to Rudd, say that “we were most encouraged when you said in the House last week that, ‘We care enormously about making sure there is correct access for disabled people’.”

Amber Rudd: presiding over a hostile environment for the sick and disabled

But they then add of Whitestone Way, “The location chosen is notable for its lack of on-street parking, complete with totally comprehensive double yellow lines, in what was built as the residential New South Quarter…

“We are most concerned that, as proposed, the provision will set up applicants to be failed in their assessments because of the location chosen requiring long walks from public transport or parking spaces an assessment failing distance away.

“With the DWP’s current reputation for poor management of the needs of the unwell and the disabled some will perceive this location as a cruel trick.

“We would like to know as whether it would be possible for the Department to choose an alternative location in Croydon that provides closer public transport provision and parking spaces,” the councillors wrote, offering the benefit of their local knowledge by suggesting alternatives.

It may be significant that the objections have been led by the ward councillors, and not put to the DWP by the council leadership.

One of the Waddon councillors, Pelling, has written on social media that he has placed an objection to the planning department under The Croydon Plan, which talks of making Croydon “a place of opportunity for everyone” and of a Caring policy where “individuals and communities are supported to fulfill their potential”.

Pelling wrote, “With my experience of how the DWP treats, or mistreats, people, and of questions asked at appeals about ‘How did you get here?’, I fear that applicants will, after the walk from the tram (300 metres), Purley Way John Lewis car park (450 metres),  Argos car park (200 metres) or Mill Lane (500 metres), under the hostile environment mobility applicants face, end up being failed for making the walking effort to reach the assessment centre.”

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader may wish to write to Rudd on this issue (The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NA), or they can lodge an objection to the planning application by clicking here.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Andrew Pelling, Croydon Council, Joy Prince, Planning, Robert Canning, Waddon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Disabled forced to walk 400m to get to proposed benefits centre

  1. Adrian Dennis says:

    As Chair of the Croydon Disability Forum and having experienced these Assessment Centres, as have all the members I represent, it is clear that the private companies doing the dirty work for the Government have no consideration for disabled people. They claim most ‘clients’ are are non-drivers but they do not collect information from ‘clients’ about their mode of travel or why they were unable to drive, so this is one of the agent’s lies. Lack of parking near assessment centres is why many do not drive to them by car. Many ‘clients’ also cannot manage buses (or trains) so would far prefer to drive or be being driven by car and use a blue Badge. The Agent’s statement on access shows a complete ignorance and disregard for the needs of disabled people and is quite frankly a disgrace.
    The private companies employed to do assessments have reduced their criteria for walking distances to 20m but deliberately make those required to attend assessment to walk 400m plus, obviously part of the justification they seek to reduce the number of people receiving benefits, which has always been the aim of this government.

  2. Steve Aselford says:

    Other office space is available for example the ground floor new units under the tower blocks in London Road on a main road near buses

  3. Reblogged this on Govt Newspeak and commented:
    This is very similar to Capita’s assessment centre in Birmingham
    Why is There No Disabled Access or Parking at Capita’s Birmingham PIP Assessment Centre

  4. Pingback: Disabled forced to walk 400m to get to proposed benefits centre | Inside Croydon | Britain Isn't Eating!

  5. Anthony Mills says:

    Thanks for the article, from which I copied and pasted bits and paraphrased others for the objection to the application, and a letter to Amber Rudd. This is typical of the cynical and deliberate persecution of those most in need. I cannot imagine what makes those at the DWP and the likes of ATOS so full of hatred and spite towards those they are supposed to be helping. Echoes of nazism and certainly a despicable social darwinism.

  6. The distance from car parks and public transport understates the accessibility aspects of this location. People get grid-locked on the Purley way for hours, so really the only reliable route is the tram, but that is not accessible to many communities across the Borough never mind those that cannot physically or emotionally get on/off the tram.

  7. The proposed new centre is too Far away from the bus stop 400 m across a buisy A23
    With no parking. I feel that one of the 4 units under the blocks of Flats in London Road some never been let. Near Bus stops ànd West Croydon Could be more suitable.

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