July, 2019 Archive
Work and pensions ministers have been accused of another attempt to avoid improving the safety of its “fitness for work” test for benefit claimants with mental health conditions.A year after ministers told a tribunal – following a lengthy judicial review – that it would test ways to make the work capability assessment (WCA) safer by collecting medical evidence about each claimant from their doctor and psychiatrist, the promised pilot project has still not been launched.DWP’s efforts to avoid taking steps to improve the safety of the WCA – by ensuring that all the necessary evidence is gathered before a decision on a claim for out-of-work disability benefits is taken – stretch back all the way to April 2010.Six years ago, coroner Tom Osborne wrote to DWP to express concerns that it did not automatically seek further medical evidence from a claimant’s GP or psychiatrist if they had a mental health condition, following an inquest into the death of Stephen Carré in January 2010.DWP finally unearthed a draft response to Osborne’s letter last month, but it has all but admitted that it was never sent to the coroner.Four years later, in 2014, another letter was sent to DWP by a coroner, raising the same concerns and making almost identical recommendations, this time following the death of Michael O’Sullivan, from north London.And almost exactly one year ago today, after the upper tribunal administrative appeals chamber ruled that the WCA discriminated against some people with mental health conditions, DWP promised to work with Maximus – the discredited US outsourcing giant that had just taken over the WCA contract from Atos – to develop a pilot programme to test new ways of collecting further medical evidence.But that pilot project has still not begun.In January, DWP told lawyers from The Public Law Project, who represented the two claimants who took the judicial review case, that it had been working with Maximus on a “feasibility study”, which had to be completed before the work could begin.A spokeswoman for the Mental Health Resistance Network, which was behind the judicial review which tribunal case, said the aim of the pilot project would be to find a “reasonable” way to remedy the discrimination faced by claimants with mental health conditions.But she said: “All we are getting back is ‘they are in discussion, they are in discussion.’”The network is planning a campaign to demand that if and when DWP eventually launches the pilot project, the government is completely transparent in how it is carried out.But the MHRN spokeswoman said she feared the government would conduct the pilot in such a way that would make it look as if gathering further medical evidence was an “unreasonable” adjustment to make under the Equality Act.She also said she was “shocked and disgusted” that DWP had never informed their lawyers about the existence of the Stephen Carré coroner’s letter, or – later on in the case – the Michael O’Sullivan letter.She said: “They withheld very significant evidence from that court case.”DWP repeatedly refused this week to confirm that the pilot project has yet to start.A DWP spokesman said the government began work with Maximus in December to “develop new and better processes for people with mental health conditions”.When DNS asked for further clarity, he then added: “We started testing new processes with [Maximus] in December. “We will analyse the findings once we’ve completed this work and then make a decision concerning the next steps.”When DNS asked again whether this meant the pilot project had not begun, he said: “The testing is a key part of this process, which is currently on-going.”DNS asked yet again whether this meant that the pilot had not yet started, he said: “As previously stated, work has already begun on this with initial testing starting in December.”But DNS has since seen a letter from a DWP lawyer to The Public Law Project, which states that the work that began in December related to “a small-scale feasibility test” and not the “larger-scale pilot”.This letter states that the test is “likely to take three to four months, following which the result will be evaluated and the learning and improvements suggested by the feasibility test will be incorporated into the proposed process to be tested in a larger-scale pilot”.
A train company that has received more than £100 million in public subsidies to pay for new carriages for a sleeper service from Scotland to London has failed to provide any accessible on-board showers, even though it is providing such facilities for non-disabled people.The Scottishgovernment contributed £60 million towards the replacement of the CaledonianSleeper fleet, while the UK government has provided another £50 million.CaledonianSleeper has put the cost of the new fleet at £150 million, while the Scottishgovernment – through its transport agency Transport Scotland – claims it cost£120 million.ButCaledonian Sleeper, which is run by the outsourcing company Serco, hasconfirmed that while the new fleet includes cabins with ensuite showers andtoilets, none of the wheelchair-accessible cabins have such facilities.And althoughthe carriages include accessible toilets, none of them offer accessible showerseither.This meansthat any wheelchair-user who wants to take a shower is likely to have to do soin a train station instead.The newservice launched last week between London Euston and Glasgow Central orEdinburgh Waverley, and will be followed later this year with a route between Londonand Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.Accessibletransport campaigner Doug Paulley said the failure to provide accessibleshowers made him “very angry and very sad”.He said hebelieved the use of public money on the project meant the UK and Scottishgovernment were breaching their public sector equality duty (PSED) under theEquality Act.He said: “Itstrikes me that accessible showers would be considerably more important fordisabled people than for non-disabled.“It is agreat shame that the vehicles don’t include accessible showers, and retrofittingthem seems unlikely. “Perhaps thevehicles will be in use for 40 years, like the old sleepers were.”Thecarriages themselves probably meet the technical requirements for railaccessibility, so the company itself is unlikely to be guilty of discriminationunder the act, said Paulley.But headded: “I don’t see how investing £110 million of tax-payers’ money in stockthat has facilities for non-disabled people to have showers but not disabledpeople meets the requirements of the public bodies involved under the PSED.”Paulley hastried to discover what discussions took place about including accessibleshowers through a freedom of information request.He told the Scottishgovernment: “Many disabled people’s impairments, including mine, mean that theyneed showers more than non-disabled people. “The sameimpairments mean that it is much more effort to use showers in stations – gettingdressed and undressed, and dried and all the rest of it, is a massive effort,logistically and otherwise. “Goingdirect from bed to a shower then back onto the bed to get dried and undressedcuts out so much of this.”But he wastold the Scottish government holds no information on discussions about whetheraccessible showers could be installed.Among othercampaigners who have raised concerns about the lack of accessible showers isBaroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who said it meant disabled people did not havethe same choices as non-disabled people. And “JellyHead”, who tweets at @LordOrk, said: “Let’s not forget these new trains will bein service for decades so consequently disabled people will be disadvantagedlong into the future which simply isn’t morally reasonable or acceptable.” Even thoughthe UK government contributed £50 million towards the project, the Department forTransport has refused to answer questions about the lack of accessible showersor its own PSED legal duties.TransportScotland has refused to say whether it ever considered the need for accessibleshowers or had any discussions with Caledonian Sleeper about the possibility,despite investing £60 million into the programme.It said thedecision for leasing and ordering the trains “rests wholly with Serco” butrefused – despite repeated requests from Disability News Service – to saywhether it ever discussed the issue of accessible showers. A TransportScotland spokesperson added: “All accessible rooms are located directly besidethe accessible toilets. “Weunderstand the option to include accessible showers was declined based onsafety grounds but we do not hold the details.”She added:“We don’t believe that Transport Scotland is in a breach of its public sectorequality duty.”A spokesperson for Serco Caledonian Sleeper said the company had not beenable to “find a safe or acceptable way” to provide accessible showers on boardthe train.Magnus Conn, new trains programme director for Serco Caledonian Sleeper, claimed the company had “worked extensivelywith accessibility experts to investigate all options and develop an offeringthat goes above and beyond while complying with relevant legislation” and had “soughtto ensure the best experience possible for disabled users”.The price of an accessible room on the service includes the use of accessible showers at the company’s own first class lounges at Dundee, Inverness, Fort William, Leuchars, Perth and Stirling, and to shower facilities run by other rail providers at London Euston, Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Aberdeen.Picture: Scottish secretary David Mundell (second from right) at the launch of the new serviceA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
A FANTASTIC second half comeback was just not enough as Saints were edged out 18-12 in the Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final.Two tries in three minutes had Saints facing down a 16 point deficit but they rallied with a brace of their own to set up a grandstand finale.But they had left themselves too much to do at the end and despite some heroics from the busted up James Graham and James Roby Wigan reached their first Wembley final in 13 years.A tight first half saw Saints 6-2 down despite having the majority of ball, pressure and territory.Repeat sets, three forced drop outs but only one Jamie Foster goal told the story of chances lost… before Wigan converted their only one through George Carmont after Josh Charnley’s break was felled by Paul Wellens.In the second half, Saints had yet more pressure without a cutting edge and Wigan punished them as Charnley found space down the right.Sam Tomkins added another seconds later but Saints hit back through Francis Meli’s mazy run which saw Foster go over in the corner.Foster then grabbed his second as Leon Pryce and Paul Wellens cut the Wigan defence to shreds.But the clock ran down on their final hopes and they couldn’t find the killer last play to see off their old rivals.Team news centred on the return of Francis Meli and Sia Soliola after they missed last week’s game at Castleford through injury.Tony Puletua moved into the front row – leaving Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook to come off the bench and provide impact.Paul Clough also returned but there was no room for Kyle Eastmond who had a hamstring injury.Wigan named a predicted side – the only surprise Gareth Hock being left out.Jamie Foster got the match underway in a raucous atmosphere.Both sides exchanged penalties and Saints could have opened the scoring only for Josh Charnley to intercept Francis Meli’s pass to Foster.Saints then had three sets on Wigan’s line but couldn’t find a way through.Meli and Foster then had another chance to combine but the ball went to ground.Pat Richards missed a simple chance in front of goal to put Wigan two to the good on 15 minutes but Jamie Foster didn’t miss his opportunity five minutes later.Saints had had the majority of ball and pressure but couldn’t make it pay.And when Wigan scored from their own try line it underlined the fact they needed to take their chances.A great kick had Sam Tomkins struggling just over his own try line – but Josh Charnley broke down the field only to be felled by a superb Paul Wellens tackle.But the damage was done and as the ball came left through hands George Carmont cut inside Tom Makinson.Richards with the conversion.Half Time: Saints 2 Wigan 6Saints began the second half on the front foot but Lomax’ cheeky break from James Roby’s pass wasn’t punished as it should have been.And on only their second real chance of the game Wigan seemingly went further ahead.They won an unexpected scrum even though they clearly knocked the ball forward and Sam Tomkins made it pay – showing all his strength to go over.But the video referee ruled it out for an obstruction by Ryan Hoffman.Saints almost hit back – but once again Wigan’s defence was too strong.Josh Charnley was next in for Wigan – using a gap on Saints’ left to outpace the cover defence.Sam Tomkins added Wigan’s third shortly after – thanks an appalling decision to give them head and feed at a scrum from the touch judge.But with 15 minutes left, Saints gave themselves a lifeline when they ran it on the last and Francis Meli cut Wigan apart to send in Foster.A couple of minutes later Saints forced a drop out and after a couple of thunderous drives Leon Pryce combined with Paul Wellens for Francis Meli to feed Foster once again.A staggering turnaround…Saints tried and toiled in the final stages to get over the line, but penalties went against them and they couldn’t get back into the Warriors’ territory.A sad end to a pulsating match – but Saints did themselves and their fans proud.Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Foster (2)Goals: Foster (2 from 3)Wigan:Tries: Carmont, Charnley, TomkinsGoals: Richards (3 from 5)Penalties:Saints: 10Wigan: 10HT: 2-6FT: 12-18REF: Richard SilverwoodATT: 12713Teams:Saints:1. Paul Wellens; 28. Thomas Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 6. Leon Pryce, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 11. Tony Puletua, 13. Chris Flannery, 4. Sia Soliola, 12. Jon Wilkin.Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16. Paul Clough, 25. Lee Gaskell.Wigan:1. Sam Tomkins; 25. Josh Charnley, 12. Joel Tomkins, 4. George Carmont, 5. Pat Richards; 17. Brett Finch, 6. Paul Deacon; 15. Jeff Lima, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Andy Coley, 11. Harrison Hansen, 16. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.Subs: 9. Michael McIlorum, 21. Lee Mossop, 22. Liam Farrell, 35. Ben Cross.
KEIRON Cunningham says Saints to treat every game like a Grand Final as they aim to close the gap on the top four.Two wins on the bounce have pulled his side to within four points – and another this Friday would heap pressure on those above them.“We’ve had two wins on the run but we know we have to do more,” he said. “For the final 50 minutes against Hull KR we produced a really professional performance.“Wakefield away is always a tough game and history tells you there is usually plenty of points whenever we go there. We did enough to keep our noses in front but we also did our best to hurt ourselves at times.“You have admire the resilience of the team to keep nudging in front. We got a 12 point buffer and if we had got another try we would have blown the game up.“Credit to Wakefield though, they played well and had a real dig. It was a big game for them to secure the 8 and we knew it would be big for us as well.”He continued: “We had some really good performances and I was glad that Greg (Richards) picked up a try. It was good to see him finally get one. It has been a long time coming for him.“He tries hard every week and you could tell how much it meant to everyone. When he scored all the players ran in to celebrate with him. He was one of our standout front rowers and gave us a really good opener.“Hopefully, he will get some more now.”Saints face Widnes in a local derby this Friday – and games between the two are usually high scoring, exciting affairs.“Widnes are playing some good footy,” Keiron continued. “They were narrowly beaten by Wigan in a game they should have won and their second half performance in the cup quarter final should have seen them through.“Last weekend they beat Leeds in a closely fought encounter. It was a tough game and both sides played pretty well. They are in a rich vein of form and have impressed me this season.“When we won over there we had to play really well to get the game. Both their hookers are having a lot of influence. We know what we are going to face so we have to focus on what we can do and what we have to do.“We have three really tough games on our hands coming up but we can’t look further than Friday. We have to treat every game like a Grand Final.“I think the top eight is done now and all teams are doing is jostling for positions. We have made up two points on the top four and there are lots of games left. Everything is up for grabs and I don’t think there will be a lot of points in it at the end.”Adam Swift has been ruled out for the match whilst Dominique Peyroux will also be missing.Luke Walsh could return but KC wouldn’t be drawn on whether it was a definite.“We haven’t got a lot of time on the field this week, but we will get him through and see where he is at,” he said.Tickets for Friday’s game with Widnes are on sale from the Ticket Office, by calling 01744 455 052 or by logging on here.
It features a great selection of player action images from the 2017 season and is a great gift idea.It is the ideal way to show your love for Saints in any bedroom, kitchen or office.Each page contains at least one action shot, plus there is space on each day to put in reminders or key dates.You can buy yours at the Saints Superstore for £7.99, or check it out online here.