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Tribunal in red tape travesty

Wednesday, 06 February 2013

REFUSED: Sylvia Middleton and her son, Peter, outside Acorn House. Picture by Mark Cleveland

REFUSED: Sylvia Middleton and her son, Peter, outside Acorn House. Picture by Mark Cleveland

Jobsworths admit ‘we got it wrong’ after disabled access debacle

DISABLED people have been banned from attending a disability tribunal court because they arrived in wheelchairs.

The Catch 22 policy, enforced by officials of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, prevented disabled people from proving they qualified for benefits.

They were banned from the fourth floor courtroom at Acorn House, Great Oaks, Basildon, over red tape. Officials feared they were a health and safety risk in the event of a fire.

Sylvia Middleton, from Wickford Place in Pitsea, was turned away last Wednesday.

She said: “They said they couldn’t guarantee my safety and they didn’t let wheelchairs upstairs.

“Why are they holding disability tribunals in a building disabled people aren’t allowed in?”

The 65-year-old has been told she has to wait two months for a new hearing 12 miles away at Southend.

Officials had originally ordered she attend the court or risk losing her disability benefits.

She explained how she had worked for 30 years before being diagnosed with arthritis in her knees, neck and back.

She said: “I worked packing boxes in a factory but it got so bad I couldn’t stand up anymore. I was assessed and the doctor said I needed help.”

Government inspectors ordered her to attend a tribunal to prove she was a genuine Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimant 20 years after she was first assessed.

Sylvia’s son Peter wheeled her into Acorn House, only to be told her hearing had to be moved and delayed because she was in a wheelchair.

A court spokesman confirmed that wheelchair users had been barred since November, but claimed it was an error.

James Rea, press officer for the Courts and Tribunals Service, also claimed that he was only aware of a small number of disabled people being refused access.

He said: “Due to a misinterpretation of health and safety legislation by a security contractor, a limited number of users with mobility issues have wrongly been refused entry.

“We have taken immediate action to ensure that this does not happen again and we apologise to those affected. Full access to the Tribunal is now being facilitated for users with mobility issues.”

Mr Rea said a written apology had been sent to Ms Middleton. He claimed that others were apologised to as they were turned away.


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Comments on this news item:

2 comments on this news item

Posted by : Alan, Cheltenham | Wednesday 06/Feb/2013 | Report this comment

I find it difficult to comprehend the total incompetence of some of these officials. Indeed, I fail to comprehend the total incompetence of almost everything under our government’s control!

Posted by : Lee, Basildon | Wednesday 06/Feb/2013 | Report this comment

I had exactly the same thing. I’d waited 18 months for my dla tribunal and ended up having to use crutches to go. Not only did this cause me a lot of pain as I cant walk far, but it was the horrible choice of waiting yet more time on top of the 18 months or to insist I could go up without my wheelchair that I use outside the house.

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