Atos abandon disabled man on 2nd floor as fire alarm evacuates building
Mr Meegha is 32. He suffers from early-onset Parkinson’s. He cannot walk far. So. He claims disability benefit. During his assessment with the Atos at a building in Neasden, London, the fire bell sounded. Everyone ran for the exists. Apart from Mr Meegha who was left on the second floor. In his wheelchair.
You can imagine the Atos staff peeping at their CCTV screen, watching for Mr Meegha to get up and run.
What do we know about Atos?
Atos Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If you are claiming benefits as a result of a disability or injury, you may be required by the DWP to have an assessment with a qualified health care professional as part of your claim process. Atos Healthcare conducts disability assessments, using criteria set out by government, and provides the DWP with independent advice which is used by a DWP Decision Maker, along with any other information they have received, to decide on your entitlement to benefit.
Mr Meegha waited with his support worker Nick Ephgrave, from the charity Parkinson’s UK, and his sister, one of his carers:
“The doctor held the door open for us to come out but then ran down the stairs and left us there. We weren’t allowed to use the lift and asked a security guard for help – he said he’d send some but no one came. Eventually another security guard came past and stayed with us, even though he had been told to evacuate. Even though I can tackle stairs with help, it was a highly stressful situation and I felt like it was far too risky. I was worried that flames might come up the stairs and that I might fall or something. It wasn’t a drill. We could see the fire engine arriving outside. I feel like there was a general lack of respect for disabled people at Atos – they make you feel as though you’ve done something wrong by being disabled – like you’re being persecuted.”
An Atos spokesperson replies:
“This should never have happened and we apologise unreservedly. We will be getting in contact with Mr Meeghan directly. We have since reviewed this case internally with the building security and management team to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
In furure everyone arriving by wheelchair will be required to wait outside and have the word “FIRE” screamed into their faces.
You can read more about Atos here.
Photo: Disability activists protest next to Atos central London headquarters, England, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. A dozen of disability activists unhappy with the way Atos, the main sponsor of the Paralympics, has administered incapacity benefit were protesting against the company’s involvement with the Paralympics. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)