Did Minister for Disabled People lie about closing inaccessible disabled people’s assessment centre?


Last June the then Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning announced the inaccessible Atos assessment Centre at St Mary’s House, Duke Street, Norwich was to close.  This announcement was hailed as a victory by local MP Chloe Smith and was reported in the Norwich Evening News and on Radio Norfolk.  It followed a 30 month campaign by disabled people who highlighted the injustice of having a centre to assess disabled people that they could not get into.

However the centre is still open, with no timetable for closing has announced.  In spite of repeated requests, letter and emails the now Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper is refusing to answer correspondence.

Mark Harrison, CEO, Equal Lives said “It is now over 6 months since they announced the centre will close but it is still open for business.  As far as we know they are still expecting disabled people to travel to other parts of the region and country because they have an inaccessible building.  I wrote to the Minister on 13 October asking for a date or timetable for closing as promised by his predecessor.  To date I have not had a reply in spite of several follow up emails.  I have even had a reply from a civil servant saying a letter has been written and is on Mark Harper’s desk for signing.  That was over a month ago and still nothing has arrived.”

“This Government has got all its priorities wrong when it comes to disabled people.  I think this is a complete con as Atos are still being paid and making profits on the backs of disabled people as are Telereal Trillium the landlords.  They also conned our local media who are made to look unprofessional as they believed and published what the Government Minister put in his press release.  There has also been silence from Chloe Smith who partial claimed credit for the original announcement” he added.


Press/TV/Radio: Interviews are available with Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives:  01508 491210, 07825 600195 or 07979 400564

About Equal Lives

Equal Lives is a user-led human rights organisation supporting all disabled people in Norfolk. It was formed in 1996 by groups of disabled people in Norfolk. The organisation is led by a Board of Trustees all of whom are disabled people and elected by and from its membership. The organisation undertakes a wide range of services including:

  • Comprehensive advice that covers all Department of Work and Pensions benefits relating to illness and disability. We offer support, advice and information to families and carers of disabled people
  • Providing advice and support to people considering or using Personal Budgets or Direct payments in Norfolk
  • Support for vulnerable adults and juveniles detained in police custody
  • Advocacy support for users of mental health services to make sure that their views and concerns are heard by others
  • Advice and support to people considering or using Direct Payments in Suffolk with our Suffolk Independent Living service
  • Projects and activities with our membership and others to work towards achieving Equal Lives


Mark Harrison


Equal Lives