An elderly disabled woman who accompanied her son to Keighley’s Jobcentre Plus was told by staff she would have to wait outside in near freezing conditions.
Martha Ward, 74, of Long Lee, described her treatment as discrimination and she refused to go outside.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has since offered an “unreserved apology” and acknowledged its staff should have been more flexible.
Mrs Ward said her son Richard had gone to the centre’s Worth Way premises last Wednesday afternoon to resolve a failure to pay his Jobseekers Allowance into his account.
She happened to be with him at the time and said she had waited inside the centre before on a couple of occasions without any problems.
Mrs Ward has osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis – a disorder which causes chronic neck pain – needs to use a walking stick and is on painkillers. “I can be standing up for five minutes and I’m in
absolute agony,” she said.
She said the cold exacerbated her condition and the temperature in Keighley last Wednesday afternoon was just 1C.
When she entered the centre, she asked if she could have a chair but said she was instead told she could not remain in the building while her son’s payment issue was being dealt with.
“They told me that I’d have to leave the building,” she said. “I told them that I’m disabled and refused to go. It wasn’t right, it was freezing outside and I’m really quite ill. I told them I had
arthritis. It’s discrimination against someone who is disabled.
“I wouldn’t go outside. I waited in the foyer and one of the staff kept an eye on me.”
Richard Ward, 44, who has been carrying out voluntary work in Skipton, said: “She’s been into the Jobcentre with me before but they’ve never said anything like this.”
The DWP spokesman said: “Although we don’t have the space in Keighley Jobcentre for people accompanying Jobseekers, in the circumstances we should have used our discretion and allowed Mr Ward’s
mother to wait for her son.
“We would like to offer an unreserved apology and will be in touch with the family to apologise directly to them.”