Mar 222012

from NCODP Press release

Disabled people and supporters will mount a protest on Friday morning (11am on 23 March) outside the Norwich premises of ATOS – a company which carries out medical assessments of disabled people who receive benefits – but which has a ‘No Entry’ policy to wheelchairs users. ATOS’s Norwich offices and other offices around the country are not accessible to wheelchair users.

Norwich Access Group and Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) are assisting the protest at ATOS’s premises in Duke Street, Norwich.

ATOS is employed by the government to assess whether unemployed disabled people receiving benefits are fit to work. Last year The Guardian newspaper revealed that ATOS had been set targets by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on the numbers of people to fail their assessments.  Norwich Access Group and NCODP believe some local *cases prove this cynical policy is being applied in the Eastern Region.

The Norwich protest has been called after the treatment of Norwich couple Glen and Ellie Everet at the Norwich ATOS office and an incident at the Ipswich ATOS office involving an ex-serviceman, Dene Carter. {*SEE CASE STUDIES, below IN NOTES }.

Many organisations representing disabled people believe ATOS is profiteering off the backs of some of the poorest members of society by helping the government to cut welfare benefits in ways which ignore the real conditions and needs of many disabled people.

“Our Government has awarded a multi million pound contract to a company which can’t even rent a building which their customers can access.  I think this is a real statement of the Coalition Government’s attitude towards disabled people“ said George Saunders, Chair of Norwich Access Group
“It gets worse as the public transport links are too far away for disabled people to get to the building.  How can an agency that gets this so wrong be trusted to do proper assessments of disabled people when they have no understanding of the realities of being disabled?” Mr Saunders added.

Mark Harrison, CEO of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People said:

“This is a bizarre situation where ATOS earns its money carrying out medical assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and other Government agencies.  This multinational company makes profits from disabled people and disabled people can’t even get into their premises.  Everything this Coalition Government does seems to have a negative affect on disabled people, their families and carers.  This is yet another example of our elected representatives putting the needs of private business before those of the poorest in society.”



The protest takes place outside ATOS at St Marys House, Duke Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR3 1QA this Friday 23 March at 11am:

TV/Radio: Interviews are available at the demonstration with Mark Harrison, NCODP  (07825 600195), George Saunders, Norwich Access Group (01603 413485) and Glen and Elly Everett (01603278075)

Dene Carter is only available for interviews on: 07919212014

Picture Editors:  Pictures available at the demonstration


1) The demonstration has been called as a result of the treatment of Norwich couple Glen and Elly Everett.  Glen and Elly are both disabled and are having to be reassessed for benefits were given 2 separate appointments and told to go to the  Duke Street headquarters of ATOS Health Care for assessment. Ellie, who is a wheel chair user and also the carer for husband went first, and although the toilets were no good for wheel chair access, she was able to attend her appointment. She then went along to support her husband for his appointment a few days later and was told she would not be allowed to enter the building, even though she had been in the previous week, as they did not allow wheelchairs in the building.  This meant the assessment was cancelled.

“We felt humiliated.  The receptionist said she has to turn people away everyday.  How do they think we feel?  We feel like second class citizen”. Glen said.

2) The demonstration has also been called to highlight the case of Dene Carter.

On 12 November 2011 Dene Carter, an ex-serviceman, was ‘assaulted’ by an ATOS employee as part of an Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment at the companies Ipswich office.

Mr Carter who has been granted a medical discharge from the army because of injuries sustained during his service in the Infantry was manhandled and manipulated by an ATOS staff member to the point where he was in “horrific pain”.

“The doctor asked me to bend my legs as far as they will go which I did.  She then grabbed my leg and carried on pushing them into positions they won’t go.  I was in horrific pain.  It is bad enough living with constant pain, I am on really strong morphine based painkillers and for a doctor to hurt me in this way isn’t right” Carter said.

As a result of this so-called ‘assessment’ Dene was declared ‘fit for work’.

However there is a parallel process going on with the Army and the Veterans Agency who are also reassessing him.  Mr Carter has a war pension with a top up attributed pension because of his disabilities.  He has also been on DLA since 1993.  This reassessment has shown that his condition has deteriorated from 40% to 60% disability and he has been declared ‘not capable of work’ by the ATOS medical staff, on behalf of the Army,  and is going on to their UNSUPP disability pension.

“I worked until last year when my firm went into administration.  I had been struggling for years not sleeping nights through pain but I didn’t want to go on benefits” he said.

“They treated me like a lump of meat.  I have had 4 assessments by ATOS and 2 of them have been horrendous.  I get the feeling the doctors are under pressure to test people to get them off benefits.  No matter how bad you are she forced my leg into an angle to prove I can do it.  This gives a false picture as she manipulated my leg to places it can’t go by itself.  Most days I have to be helped to dress and I can’t take a bath by myself.  I was co-operating and doing everything they asked me to do.  They need to look at the patient properly as in the NHS.  My wife was with me and she will corroborate my story”.

Mark Harrison CEO of NCODP said:

‘ This case raises wider questions than just the ethics and malpractice of the ATOS staff member.  How can an ex-serviceman be treated in this way?  How can one system declare him fit for work (knowing that medical investigation was still ongoing) and the other declare him unfit for work – which assessment would you trust?’