Disabled and ill left in cold after Atos blunder

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Almost seventy disabled and vulnerable people were left waiting in the cold after Atos staff didn’t turn up to do work capability assessments.

The government-commissioned company – which warns claimaints could be stripped of their benefits should they fail to turn up themselves – sent letters calling 70 people to be assessed on Sunday.

But after a security guard phoned in sick, the meetings at the centre on Beetwell Street, Chesterfield were cancelled at the last minute as there was noone to open up.

Gloria Kestle was left waiting with her son, Paul Edwards who suffers from post-traumatic stress and can’t work.

“The assessments are so stressful” said Gloria, of Boythorpe. “For them to cancel without any warning is disgusting.

“What’s worst is that if he hadn’t turned up, they would have stopped his money. Are these staff going to have their money stopped?”

Colin Hampton, from Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre called the fiasco ‘double standards’.

He said: “They give us one rule poor people and another rule for big businesses. The way they treat people who can’t turn up to their assessments – often for very good reasons – is in stark contrast to the way the business itself is treated.”

Toby Perkins MP said he will be contacting Atos for an explanation.

He said: “This shows disregard towards people with health disadvantages. Disabled people, many in wheelchairs, had to endure the severe weather on Sunday before realising their appointments would not go ahead”.

A spokesperson for Atos Healthcare – who conduct assessments on behalf of the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions, said: “The security guard is employeed by Trillium on behalf of the DWP.

“Our employees were also unable to gain access to the building which is neither owned or managed by Atos. We did all we could to alert people to the building closure before they arrived for their appointment on the day and have subsequently rearranged all appointments.”