No ‘Proper’ Wheelchair Access At Maximus Glasgow Assessment Centre
THE office where disabled Scots are forced to take humiliating fit-for-work tests has no proper wheelchair access, the Record can reveal.
Campaigners have criticised the Department for Work and Pensions and American contractors Maximus for failing to install a permanent ramp at their Cadogan Street premises in Glasgow.
Despite being Scotland’s main base for the hated assessment interviews, wheelchair users have to ring a bell then wait for staff to lay a temporary ramp over steps at the front door.
We watched as Tracy O’Connor, 45, waited in the rain on Friday to get into the building. She said: “I had to ring the buzzer then hope someone would come and help.
“A worker was out quickly enough with the ramp but it was steep and even he admitted as we were going in that it wasn’t a good system.
“I think it’s disgraceful that disabled people are not treated better at this office of all places.”
Maximus run the Tories’ benefits tests to assess whether disabled people are able to return to work.
They were handed a three-year contract worth £500million by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith after French firm Atos resigned.
Marianne Scobie, deputy chief executive of the Glasgow Disability Alliance, said it would be up to lawyers to argue over whether the access at Cadogan Street was legal or not.
She added: “From the point of view of common decency and ethics, it is certainly not acceptable in my view not to have a proper wheelchair access.
“This building has been used to assess disabled people for various things for decades.
“In all that time, you would have thought that they could have a permanent ramp fitted.
“It’s not like it is a listed building or there isn’t ample room on the pavement to build a good entry system.
“When you consider the nature of the work carried out in this building, the least they could do would be to get proper access.
“There is a basic principle that buildings should be made easily and permanently accessible and that isn’t the case here.” Anti-austerity campaigner Sean Clerkin said: “It is disgusting that this firm are treating disabled people like second-class citizens, especially when you consider their work and the huge amounts they make for carrying it out.”
In 2012, it was revealed a quarter of premises where the tests were carried out lacked disabled access.
A Maximus spokesman admitted there had been one instance of a wheelchair not fitting on the ramp but said the DWP manage the building.
The DWP said: “Where an assessment centre isn’t directly accessible from street level, we endeavour to make this clear to people before they arrive for appointments.
“There is a ramp available at our Glasgow assessment centre – if people can’t use this, we will make arrangements to see them at an alternative location.”