The government has told the equality watchdog that it plans to slash its budget again, even though the financial year has already started.The planned cuts only emerged after the Government Equalities Office (GEO) told Disability News Service (DNS) that it was still “in the process of agreeing budgets” with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, several weeks into the new financial year.The comment came after DNS asked GEO about the commission’s plans to make up to 30 of about 200 members of staff redundant (pictured).GEO said that it was “not currently aware of any issues in this area”, but added: “We are in the process of agreeing budgets with the EHRC and no decisions have been made.”When asked why GEO was still discussing budgets with the EHRC in late April, when the commission had already announced that its core budget for 2016-17 would be £17.1 million, a GEO spokeswoman said: “We have nothing further to add.”She also refused to comment on why the GEO was not aware that the commission had issued a consultation paper on the redundancies last week.EHRC said it does not yet know how large the cut to its budget will be, or whether any of the projects laid out in its business plan are now at risk.There will be concerns that sizeable government cuts could put at risk some of the watchdog’s plans for 2016-17, including commissioning research into the human rights impact of the government’s welfare reforms, an inquiry into disabled people’s housing, as well as projects on disability hate crime, discrimination in health and social care, and in education, and on pay gaps.In response to a question from DNS at a seminar on the report of the Lords committee that examined the impact of the Equality Act on disabled people, Melanie Field, EHRC’s executive director for strategy and policy, said they had been “pressing [GEO] quite hard” to decide on the final budget settlement.She said: “We do know that the spending review settlement meant a spending reduction across government and the Department for Education [DfE, which is where GEO is based] has been subject to a cut, so we are expecting that our budget will be reduced this year.”Disabled campaigners at the seminar – which was organised by the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, the legal firm Unity Law, and the Cloisters set of barristers – said they were deeply concerned that yet more cuts were being inflicted on the commission.Sarah Rennie, a member of the disabled women’s organisation Sisters of Frida, said: “Cutting the budget is a damning reflection of the value placed on achieving real equality and combatting indignity and oppression.“Aside from the Lords’ recent recommendations, the commission has crucial work to do on many intersectional issues, including safety for disabled women on public transport and the availability of accessible refuges.“The EHRC needs the fair resources to get on with this.”Disabled campaigner Doug Paulley, who spoke at the conference, said: “The EHRC is supposed to take the burden of enforcing the Equality Act off disabled people.“The Disability Rights Commission used to do that… the EHRC don’t do that.“If they get less and less money, they are going to do that less and less.”Fellow disabled activist Simone Aspis, of Changing Perspectives, also criticised the cut, which she said had to be seen “in the context of the government’s continuing attack on disabled people’s rights to justice… and any rights that disabled people have to challenge government decisions”.A commission spokesman had said earlier in a statement: “Following the spending review (where DfE are being required to make overall savings of 20 per cent) and through regular discussions with GEO, it is clear the government intends to reduce our budget along with those of other public bodies. “We have planned for this year on the basis of the indicative settlement [£17.1 million] set out in our business plan, published at the end of March.“While we still await details of our formal settlement, we know already that we will need to make significant savings. “It is therefore important we involve staff as early as possible and start planning for the future and that was the process we started last week.“Responsible leadership is about facing up to future challenges, not ducking them. Our operating model sets out changes that can help us deliver more impact as well as help us in managing difficult change.”By noon today (28 April), EHRC had been unable to say if it had been told to expect a 20 per cent cut to its £17.1 million budget; whether the cuts would mean that parts of its business plan were now at risk; or why GEO appeared to have been unaware of the commission’s consultation on possible redundancies.The watchdog’s core budget for 2016-17 had been frozen at £17.1 million, still a real terms cut, which followed years of cuts to its funding since the formation of the coalition government in 2010.In 2010, the commission’s annual budget was as high as £62 million.A budget of £17.1 million is already several million pounds lower than the annual budget of the Disability Rights Commission when it was merged into the new “cross-strand” equality body in 2007. At one time, EHRC employed as many as 525 people.
A leading campaigner has called for a strategy to tackle “insidious” online posts that allow individuals to make “discriminatory and hostile statements” about disabled people without being punished by the criminal justice system.Stephen Brookes a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, spoke out after police decided to take no action against the owner of a car boot sale business who posted an offensive, disablist post about his disabled customers on his Facebook page.In the post, which has since been taken down, Geoff Camden-Wiles, of Car Boots Cornwall, made a series of offensive comments, suggesting that his disabled customers were benefit cheats (“Cornwall’s malingers”), “bloody idle” and responsible for causing their own impairments through self-neglect.His comments caused outrage locally and among hate crime campaigners, and were branded “offensive” and “ignorant” after being shared on social media.The post led to a string of calls and emails to police, who have recorded it as a disability hate incident.In his blog (pictured), Camden-Wiles wrote about visitors to his sites who were “either disabled or acting disabled”, and suggested that “the reason the majority of you are disabled or acting disabled is because you have at some stage neglected yourselves in some way and/or you are bone bloody idle and don’t get enough sexercise nor exercise”.He then went on to claim that he did not recognise disabled people’s blue parking badges, because his sales were held on private land.Camden-Wiles said that his staff would try to allow people with a “genuine disability” who are “wheelchair bound or similar” to park near the event “but don’t arrive late when the sale starts expecting front row parking cos that ain’t going to happen”.He then suggested that wheelchair-users could get “a cheap thrill” from wheeling over the bumpy ground, before making a “joke” about holding a “Zimmer frame dance and race” with a “fake BLUE DISABLED pass” as the prize, which they could use “like hundreds of other people do”.Camden-Wiles’s company runs car boot sales in six locations across Cornwall, including Truro, Falmouth and Newquay.He later tried to justify his comments on his website, emailing the same statement to at least one of the disabled people who had complained, saying that his company had “contributed thousands of pounds for many local and registered charities however I have nothing personally against disabled persons nor their disabilities”.He added: “My blog was mainly a complaint about the abuse and threats towards myself and members of our teams where over the past weeks drivers have driven their cars at staff who are only doing their jobs by directing drivers to a designated parking area.”A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: “Devon and Cornwall Police is aware of the post made on a car boot website in which comments were made about people with disabilities, having received a number of calls and emails via its 101 service.“The post was removed and an apology has been issued on the website.“Police have since spoken to the person responsible for the post who has apologised and has been given advice in relation to his future conduct. No further policing action will be taken on this matter.”But Brookes said the case was “typical of one which continues to both tax and annoy” the coordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network.He said: “It seems that someone can (as with far too many things) get away with making contentious, discriminatory and hostile statements online which are then viewed as hate crime, but which can be ‘deleted’ as though they never existed with a ‘simple’ apology, even though the victim(s) never receive any sense of justice and the content is still in people’s minds.”He called for “strong penalties” and for individuals found responsible by police to have their websites taken down or be forced to post a permanent “full and detailed regret” for their actions, although he accepted that this would involve “a very tricky balancing act” between freedom of speech and censorship.He said: “We do need to have some kind of real strategy on this insidious type of hate so perhaps we need to start a real campaign on this kind of abuse of disabled people.”Cornwall County Council said it could not take any action over the Camden-Wiles post because the sales are held on private land and so do not need a street trading licence.One disabled woman from Cornwall said she was “truly disgusted” by the police decision to take no action against Camden-Wiles, and said she would be talking to the police, other disabled people in the area and her local MP to call for further action.The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “Surely you cannot go online and just say these awful things about [disabled people] and get away with it, especially a local businessman who takes, literally, millions of pounds from the disabled visitors to his boot sales. I am so angry I could burst.”The disabled people’s organisation Disability Cornwall declined to comment on the incident to Disability News Service, but told a local newspaper that they were “concerned to read the offensive and disparaging post”.Camden-Wiles has so far not responded to requests to comment on his post.
The government has given no indication of when – or even if – it intends to appoint a replacement for the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, who resigned last week over Brexit.Nearly aweek after Newton’s resignation, no replacement has been announced.Aspokesperson for Number 10 said yesterday (Wednesday): “As soon as there isone, we would announce it in the usual way.“I haven’tgot any guidance on when that appointment will be.”As theappointment of a new minister will be a political decision, he suggested thatDisability News Service (DNS) contact the prime minister’s press secretary, PaulHarrison, but he had not responded by noon today (Thursday).Newton (pictured) was the seventh Conservative minister for disabled people since the 2010 general election, following Maria Miller, Esther McVey, Mike Penning, Mark Harper, Justin Tomlinson and Penny Mordaunt.Only last month, she was forced to apologise to MPsafter DNS caught her misleading MPsabout support for disabled people for the fourth time in less than a year. In December, Newtonwas unable to explain why she had failed to make any public statement tosupport disabled people’s battle for rights on the UN’s International Day ofPersons with Disabilities.It was the second year in a row – following her appointment in November2017 – that she had demonstrated a lack of interest in domestic andinternational efforts to further disabled people’s rights on the UN day.And in October, she appeared to breach the ministerial code of conduct after refusing to answer questions from DNS at her party’s annual conference and then suggesting that civil servants could answer them for her instead, even though it was a political event.A 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…
Relatives of six disabled people who died due to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failings have backed a new petition to MPs that calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the department’s actions.The petition– backed by four leading grassroots groups of disabled activists, andDisability News Service (DNS) – says such an inquiry should also investigate potentialmisconduct by ministers and civil servants.And it saysthat any evidence of misconduct contributing to serious harm or deaths ofbenefit claimants should be passed to the police for a possible criminalinvestigation.The petition*– Justicefor Jodey Whiting. Independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP– brands DWP “institutionallydisablist and not fit for purpose”.And it callson DWP to “urgently change its policies and administration of social securitybenefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.The petitionhas been set up on parliament’s petitions website.If itreaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate by MPs in theHouse of Commons.The petition was launched following the death of Jodey Whiting (pictured) and is set up in her name, with the backing of Black Triangle, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), WOWcampaign and DNS.DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeksleading up to Jodey Whiting’s suicide in February 2017, an independentinvestigation found last month.She had hadher out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capabilityassessment (WCA) and took her own life just 15 days later.TheIndependent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and“significant” failings in handling her case. Her case wasmentionedin this week’s prime minister’s questions, after a question from hermother’s MP, Dr Paul Williams.Her mother,Joy Dove, is supporting the petition.She said shehoped the ICE findings would “open the floodgates for everyone to stand up andget this issue sorted through parliament”.Relatives ofother families who have lost loved ones as a result of DWP failings are alsobacking the petition.Peter Carré, whose son Stephen tookhis own life in January 2010 after being found fit for work following a WCA– with DWP failing to ask his GP or psychiatrist for further medical evidence thatwould have proved his eligibility – has backed the petition and the need for acriminal investigation and an independent inquiry.His son’s death led to a coroner writing to DWP, just before the 2010general election, warning that the “trigger” for Stephen’s decision to take hisown life had been the decision to find him fit for work, and telling DWP to takeaction to prevent any further such deaths.The coroner called for a review by DWP of “the decision not to seekmedical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist” if they have amental health condition.Tory ministers failed to act on the coroner’s letter – or to produce aproper reply, despite their legal duty to do so – and instead pushed ahead withplans to reassess hundreds of thousands of people on old-style incapacitybenefit through the WCA.Research would later show that this use of the WCA to reassess claimantsof incapacity benefit was “associated with” hundreds of suicides.Carré said he believed the law had “consistently been ignored”, and headded: “Failure to take note of and act on the coroner’s recommendations hasundoubtedly resulted in many deaths since that time.”EleanorDonnachie, who herself has experienced suicidal thoughts and tried to take herown life as a result of the WCA process, losther brother Paul to suicide after his employment and support allowance wasremoved because he failed to turn up for a WCA.It isbelieved that DWP failed to contact Paul’s GP to ask for detailed informationabout his mental health, and – as in Jodey Whiting’s case – ignored its own safeguardingguidance by failing to talk to him face-to-face about his support needs.She said shewanted to see a criminal investigation and an inquiry.She said:“It’s as if they can do what they like and nothing applies to them.“If I goanywhere to do with DWP that brings it all back and I can feel myself gettingangry, really angry, and I want to shout at them, ‘Look, you have killed mybrother and now you’re trying to kill me.’”Jill Gant, whoseson Mark Wood starved to death after he was found “fit for work” and losthis out-of-work disability benefits, said she felt she had to support thepetition.Her key concern is DWP’s refusal to ensure that its decision-makers haveaccess to the necessary medical evidence when someone applying for ESA (oruniversal credit) has not provided evidence of their own.She told DNS: “I’m glad you’re doing it on behalf of people like Mark.“It’s very important that something is done. I support the cause and Icertainly put my name to it.” Anotherrelative, David Barr, said he wanted to see former work and pensions ministersIain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling held accountable for the death of his son,also called David, who had a long-standing mental health condition.Hetook his own life in August 2013 after a physiotherapist took just 35 minutes to carry out a face-to-faceassessment that led to him being found fit for work.It is believed that neither the assessor, nor the DWP decision-maker whorubber-stamped that decision, made any attempt to secure further medicalevidence from his GP, his psychiatric nurse or his psychiatrist.His father said: “It’s got to come to an end. They have got to startlooking after people. In this day and age we should be doing more.”A sixth relative supporting the petition is Gill Thompson.Her brother, David Clapson, died in July 2013 as a result of an acutelack of insulin, three weeks after having his jobseeker’s allowance sanctioned.Because he had no money, he couldn’t afford to pay for electricity thatwould have kept the fridge where he kept his insulin working, in the height ofsummer, and he had also run out of food.She said: “They have to stop this. I would like to see a legal casewhether David’s name was mentioned or not. “They have to be held accountable. I can’t change what has happened tome, but this should not be happening.“These are avoidable deaths. I still feel that now as strongly as ever.”John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said he and fellowcampaigners “did our utmost” to persuade the criminal justice system inScotland to open an investigation into work and pensions ministers but had beengiven no reason for its refusal to do so.He said: “It’s clear that the dereliction of duty on the part ofministers is still leading to the deaths of claimants, as we said at the time.“Until this matter is addressed, people will continue to suffer catastrophicavoidable harm.“We call upon the police service to take our allegations seriously and tomake a thorough investigation into the facts of the case.”Bob Ellard, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “DPAC fullysupports this petition. We believe that these are vital issues that must bedebated in parliament.“The reign of terror brought about by this government’s hostileenvironment towards claimants is causing distress and severe hardship tomillions of innocent people, and has resulted in the deaths of too manyclaimants.”He added: “The DWP itself is a failing organisation which is chaotic anderror-prone in its operation. It is currently not fit for purpose and needs acomplete overhaul.”Denise McKenna, co-founder of MHRN, said: “Survivors of the DWP areacutely aware that some lives do not matter and some institutions are deemed tobe above accountability. “Ministers and civil servants responsible for the DWP have known foryears that their practices are implicated in numerous deaths yet they continuewith the same practices, seemingly safe in the knowledge that they can get awaywith any level of cruelty and incompetence. “The deaths will only stop if there is rigorous implementation of safeguardingpractices which the DWP has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted toput in place or to observe. “MHRN supports this petition; it is surely right that safeguardingis enshrined in DWP practices and that ministers and civil servants arebrought to book for the lives they have destroyed, just as anyone elseimplicated in numerous deaths would be held to account.” A WOWcampaign spokesperson said: “WOWcampaignhas been fighting for seven years to get this government to show a duty of careto disabled children and adults in the UK by assessing the impact of alldisability cuts, as called for by the Equality and Human Rights Commission andthe UN.“We are keen to support this petitiondemanding justice for Jodey Whiting as her treatment and the many voices givingtestimony to the despair, poverty and humiliation caused by government welfarereforms, published on WOWvoices.uk,reinforce the devastating impact of these policies, and the urgent need forsomething to change. “We would like to see anindependent enquiry into the effect of government welfare policy and a police enquiryinto alleged misconduct in public office. “There has to be Justice for Jodey and thecountless others whose lives have been devastated by government policy.”Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day,365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected]*If yousign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature byclicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the committee
THE devastating news of Steve Prescott’s passing has deeply saddened thousands of people worldwide who have been inspired by his terrific fighting spirit in adversity, writes Alex Service.A local lad, Steve graduated to the First Team at Knowsley Road and established himself as a fantastic attacking full-back, with great pace and elusiveness.He was a member of the team that won the Super League title in 1996 and a Wembley ‘double’ in 1996 and 1997, before his transfer to Hull.He made his debut in 1993 and went on to make 117 appearances for the Saints over the next four years, scoring 52 tries and kicking 66 goals.Steve was selected for the Great Britain tour in 1996 and is also a county representative and played for England and Ireland, the latter in the 2000 World Cup.News of his illness in 2006 understandably shocked the rugby league community, yet Steve continued to show the characteristics that he had shown as a player. He was always competitive; resilient, courageous and, above all, inspirational.His marvellous achievements – including the reward of the MBE in 2010 – have left a legacy that must be a tremendous source of pride to his devoted family, including his wife, Linzi and sons Taylor and Koby.An engaging character, who made countless friends, Steve would not want anyone to be depressed at this sad time.However, his deepest wish would be for those who have helped him to continue to help others who are similarly afflicted in any way – wherever they may be. His astonishing legacy can be even more enduring as a result.Rest in peace Steve…you will never be forgotten.To leave a message of condolence click here.
THERE’S just a few days to go to renew your Season Ticket for 2015 and watch the Champions defend their crown.Already, a significant number of fans have taken advantage of the superb renewal offers ahead of what is sure to be an exciting season.The deadline to renew is October 31 and there are several reasons why Season Tickets are better value than ever before.2015 sees the start of a New Era which means every game will count.Your Saints Season Ticket will include all home games in the 23 regular rounds plus all home games in the Super 8s phase of the league.As a Saints Season Ticket Holder you are entitled to 10% off all Saints merchandise, 50% off Magic Weekend tickets, Priority Vouchers for major games, Discounted Away Travel, VIP Hospitality Upgrade in the Hatton’s Travel Sponsors Lounge for a discounted price and cashback on the price of your own ticket if you introduce a new adult purchaser.And Junior Season Ticket Holders receive free tickets to all 2015 Saints away Super League games.Saints will defend their crown with some of the best youngsters in the sport as well as new signings Travis Burns and Atelea Vea.AND, 2015 will see Jonny Lomax, Luke Walsh and Jon Wilkin all return from injury.Why Should You Buy?In the Hattons Solicitors West Stand & Hattons Solicitors/Typhoo Family Stands ‘renewals’ can get up to five games free vs. matchday prices, with a minimum of four free games.Adult Renewals are the equivalent to just £14.66 per game, with a top-four finish.Junior Renewals are the equivalent to just £3.33 per home game and of course you get all away league games free, subject to availability.In the Totally Wicked North Stand & Solarking South Stand all Renewals can get a minimum of four free games and with a top four finish – and they are cheaper per game than 2014. A Family Season Ticket of three saves more than £200 vs. matchday prices and renewal discounts are at their highest ever rate vs. matchday prices in the new era.Renew before the end of September 2014 and you could win two VIP tickets to the 2014 Grand Final.You can renew and buy your Saints Season Ticket via 10-month or 6-month Direct Debit direct debit too. For full details call into the Ticket Office at Langtree Park or log on to www.mysaintsseasonticket.com and click on the How to Buy section.
Here he reflects on the game and what fans can look forward to this time around.