Disabled people’s organisations who travelled to Geneva this week to help highlight the government’s continuing human rights violations have praised a UN committee of disabled experts for publicly exposing the UK’s failings.Civil servants from eight UK government departments, and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were grilled over two days about the UK’s record in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).The two days ended with the chair of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), Theresia Degener, telling the UK government that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe” (see separate story).Another CRPD member, Stig Langvad, said members were “deeply concerned” by the government’s failure to implement the convention, and delivered a withering putdown, telling the UK delegation: “I could provide a long list of examples where the state party doesn’t live up to the convention. Unfortunately, the time is too limited.”Among the DPOs that travelled to Geneva were representatives of Inclusion London, the Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Equal Lives, Black Triangle, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales.Tracey Lazard (pictured, right, at the UN), chief executive of Inclusion London, said “We are all exhausted but delighted with how the week has gone. “We felt that the CRPD committee listened to the evidence presented by the unprecedented number of DDPO [Deaf and disabled people’s organisation] representatives who attended the sessions and while it is a shame that the government continues to deny the existence of serious rights regressions and the brutal impact of their policies, it was inspiring to be part of the collective effort by Deaf and disabled people across the UK to ensure our voices are heard.”Ellen Clifford, from DPAC, added: “The UK government representatives were shameless in their obfuscation and misrepresentations of information in response to questions by the disability committee members but the weakness of their answers also showed how fragile their position is in continuing to try to deny the brutal and devastating impacts of their policies.“What Deaf and disabled people have achieved in Geneva this week shows how formidable we can be when we come together and we now need to take that back to the UK to continue fighting for our rights.”Sally Witcher, from Inclusion Scotland, said: “We wholeheartedly welcome the committee’s comments on the UK.“The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and disabled people throughout the UK.”Rhian Davies, from Disability Wales, said: “This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”Members of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) questioned civil servants from the Office for Disability Issues, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Transport, the Department for Education, the Home Office and the Foreign Office, as well as civil servants from the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.Key issues raised repeatedly by the committee over the two days included the impact of cuts to disabled people’s support to live independently; the discriminatory treatment of people in secure mental health settings; and the failure of the government to engage with disabled people and their organisations.The committee also asked about discrimination in the housing market; the “disproportionate” levels of violence and abuse experienced by disabled women, and the support available to them; the “high levels of poverty” experienced by disabled people; the availability of accessible information; and the shortage of British Sign Language interpreters.Other issues raised included the institutionalisation of children with mental health conditions; the economic impact of Brexit on disabled people; the impact of cuts and reforms to legal aid and the introduction of employment tribunal fees on disabled people’s access to justice; and the levels of bullying experienced by disabled children.Picture by Natasha Hirst
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims it has no record of whether it showed vital documents linking its “fitness for work” test with the deaths of benefit claimants to the expert it hired to review the assessment.Even though DWP possesses the documents, it is claiming it holds no information in its records on whether they were passed to Dr Paul Litchfield.Litchfield (pictured) published the final two independent reviews of the work capability assessment (WCA) in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither of his reviews mentioned the documents linking the WCA and the deaths of claimants.The documents include at least seven internal “peer reviews” – reports written by civil servants following the deaths of benefit claimants – that mention the WCA, and two “prevention of future deaths reports” written by coroners.The existence of the documents was only revealed by Disability News Service (DNS) in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published.If they were not shown to Litchfield, the suspicion will mount that DWP and its ministers took deliberate steps to cover up evidence of the fatal impact of the assessment on sick and disabled people.Last month, DNS submitted a freedom of information request to DWP, asking whether it provided Litchfield with copies of the peer reviews and the two prevention of future deaths reports.In its response, DWP says only: “This information is not held”.The coroners’ letters followed the deaths of two men with mental health conditions in 2010 and 2013 and each warned of further such deaths if changes were not made to the WCA.The call for evidence for Litchfield’s second review was issued on 10 June 2014, five months after coroner Mary Hassell had written to DWP following an inquest into the death of Michael O’Sullivan, who had had significant, long-term mental health problems.Hassell had told DWP that the trigger for O’Sullivan’s suicide had been the conclusion by civil servants that he was fit for work, but she said that neither DWP nor the Atos doctor who had assessed him had asked his GP, psychologist or psychiatrist for information about his mental health.Hassell told DWP that it needed to take action “to prevent further deaths” like Michael O’Sullivan’s.But despite that urgent call, Litchfield’s second review failed to mention Hassell’s letter or a similar letter sent to DWP by another coroner in 2010 following the suicide of Stephen Carré.Litchfield’s two reviews also failed to mention the peer reviews.Peer reviews – now known as internal process reviews – must be carried out by civil servants into every death “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”.One of the aims of the reviews is to “determine whether local and national standards have been followed or need to be revised/improved”, so DWP would find it hard to explain why they would not have been shown to Litchfield, whose job it was to review how the WCA was working.DWP has admitted that at least seven peer reviews written in 2012 mentioned the WCA, and there are almost certainly more that were written by the time Litchfield wrote his final report in late 2014.Professor Malcolm Harrington, the independent expert who carried out the first three reviews of the WCA in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has already told DNS that he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter (the second letter had not yet been written by the time he completed his third review) nor any WCA-related peer reviews.When Litchfield was asked last month whether DWP had shown him the peer reviews and prevention of future deaths reports, he declined to comment.Ellen Clifford, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “This is further evidence of the brutal lack of concern for disabled people’s lives that has come to characterise the DWP since 2010.“It was obviously extremely important and relevant to the independent review of the WCA that information linking it to avoidable deaths of disabled people be considered.“Whether the DWP didn’t bother to record if that information was shown to Litchfield or they are now trying to cover up the truth, it still amounts to a disdain for our lives.”John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said it was “scandalous” that DWP could not say if it showed the documents to Litchfield.And he said it would be reasonable to assume DWP withheld the documents.He said: “In view of the historical mendacity and lack of transparency of DWP, it would be reasonable to assume – especially in the light of Professor Harrington’s comments – that DWP again withheld this vital evidence from the independent reviewer Dr Litchfield.“What is vital now is a change in the law to address the issues that we believe would have been highlighted had this information come to light.”He added: “The government has shown itself to be entirely dishonest and reckless in discharging its duty of care to sick and/or disabled people.“It’s time that parliament stepped into the breach to right the wrongs of this lethal assessment regime.”Black Triangle wants new measures to ensure that further medical evidence is obtained from health professionals who know the claimant well at the start of the assessment regimes for both employment and support allowance and personal independence payment (PIP) in all cases where there is a substantial risk of harm if they are denied eligibility.It also wants a “safety protocol” put in place for GPs to report to the government all incidents of harm that have been linked to the WCA and the PIP assessment.
Dr. Meghan Lewis manages to keep busy. She’s a professional counselor, a doula, a former apprentice midwife and the founder of the LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Center in Oakland. And she’s also the curator of the Third Annual LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Queer Family Portrait Exhibit, now showing at Natural Resources, a nonprofit center at Valencia and 25th that provides prenatal and perinatal care and supplies for birth and non-birth parents. The M.O. of Natural Resources is to guide parents — of all identities — through parenthood and provide resources that address difficulties that can come up pre- and post-pregnancy, like pregnancy loss and lactation counseling. The purpose of the photo exhibit is to provide images of queer families whose paths to parenthood aren’t widely documented or understood, even in our inclusive pocket of San Francisco. In a phone interview, Lewis said, “What’s also very, very critical, particularly with the LGBTQIA community, is feeling the strength in numbers. We don’t see queer families on a daily basis. I do, but a lot of people don’t.” Subscribe to Mission Local’s daily newsletter She went on to say, “This exhibit is a reflection of that desire to highlight and draw attention to the beauty of queer families — the beauty, the strength, the power, the endurance, the integrity, the diversity.” Upon visiting Natural Resources, it became clear why she chose this place as the stage for the portraits. Nestled cozily along a residential area of Valencia Street, inside it’s a safe haven for new parents in need of community, support and a place to get their bearings. “Sometimes wandering around with a baby, it does feel like there’s not a place to land,” says Alice Light, Natural Resources’ executive director. “Especially around here it can feel like you have another limb or something, if you have a kid.”A portrait of Brynn and Megan and their child. Photo courtesy of Sarah Deragon.The center operates as a retail store selling holistic baby items from local mothers and other national suppliers. There’s a casual hangout area, with couches, and an offering of tea and snacks. They also offer inclusive classes and support groups for parents, and doula training. In January, classes were offered for Spanish-speaking doulas.Serving on the board of Natural Resources for two years prior to attaining her current position, Light stresses the importance of having professionally taken portraits of queer families lining the walls of the center. “Some,” she says, “are like family photos. And then some are really more like this artistic exploration of what is it to be parenting and giving birth, when that’s not like the expected gender identity of what that should look like.” And, “I think in our country, and in our culture, we just have such a narrow view of what parenting should be, and this is a place that is welcoming. And for us, to have it actually be shown on the walls, feels really appropriate, and that feels good to me.” Light wants some of the portraits from the exhibit to stay up year-round, and not just for Pride month. “Pride is this month, which is great. But it’s not just one month. Families are, you know, the way they are. So having that those on the walls just to be here, and be a part of what you see on a daily basis, I think is really important,” she said. “I think in our country, and in our culture, we just have such a narrow view of what parenting should be, and this is a place that is welcoming,” says Natural Resources executive director Alice Light. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.One of the four photographers whose portraits are featured at the center, is epli. Her specialization as a photographer is to capture nurturing moments, especially those that give visibility to queer families, and to those who aren’t conventionally expected to be mothers, like herself. As a masculine-of-center-identifying individual, she hopes that through projects like this, the need for more queer familial representation becomes clear. Lewis selected epli’s work, along with the three other artists, including Sarah Deragon, Meg Allen and Jamie Thrower. She noted, “They are my top favorites. I really just wanted to bring more attention to their work and expertise.” For Lewis, who’s also a member of the LGBTQ community and an intentional solo parent, the exhibit and its continued existence is paramount. As a wellness professional that spends a lot of time with queer families, she said, “Queer people have been having kids since the beginning of time — since we became land-dwelling.” The Queer Family Portrait Exhibit is showcased at Natural Resources until June 30, at 1367 Valencia Street. It is free. Email Address
As a trial opened Thursday to evict a woman and her five children from their apartment at Valencia Gardens, a public housing complex in the Mission, residents there said that the complex’s management company harasses and surveils its tenants, fails to communicate with them, and can be aggressive and unfair in its enforcement of the rules. The John Stewart Company has been trying to evict Shantel McClendon, the mother of five children ranging from 18 months to 19 years old, for years. Since November 2017, they have given McClendon seven 14-day notices to quit, a technical term for eviction notices. McClendon said that each time she fixes the problem, management identifies another issue and she is quickly served with another notice.“They keep on, they keep on,” McClendon said on Tuesday before the trial. “I feel like I’m being targeted, I feel like I’m being harassed.”Residents of Valencia Gardens, a 250-unit public housing complex taking up nearly a whole block between Valencia and Guerrero between 14th and 15th Streets, said these tactics are not out of character for a management company that is overly aggressive in enforcing its rules while not doing enough to communicate with tenants. The company became more aggressive, some tenants said, after a new on-site manager, Carlos Uribe, began working for the management company. Email Address She says things changed when Uribe took over. “Ever since he started, I was receiving eviction notices left to right,” she said. She keeps a binder of these notices and her communications with management.Both tenants also noted that new cameras had been added on their street. One five-day notice to quit given to Bridget in 2016 read in part, “We have surveillance recordings showing you have had overnight guests that have not been reported to management.”The overnight guest in question was her partner and the father of her son who lives in the unit, she said. Later, when Bridget’s mother became ill, her partner was able to become a live-in aide to care for her. But once Bridget’s mother passed away, he was again barred from staying overnight in the apartment more than 14 days per year. Bridget tried to add him to the lease, but he was denied after a credit check.Terrance Hall (left) speaks with KPIX reporter Mark Sayer (right) during a March 7 broadcast in his grandmother’s apartment.In March of this year, The John Stewart Company attempted to evict a teenager named Terrance Hall from Valencia Gardens. Management attempted multiple times to add him to an eviction notice issued for his grandmother while Hall was a minor. Hall’s grandmother passed away while fighting the eviction, and Hall was given his notice to vacate three days after her death.Several other tenants not facing eviction still had complaints about treatment from security and felt that the manager was trying to surveil them and their guests. “It’s like a prison,” said Anthony Reyes in a nearby unit on Meadow Court.For McClendon, the company has kept her and her family on the edge after more than a decade of stability in her housing. “I was safe, I felt,” she said. “Now I don’t feel safe.”McClendon’s trial will continue Monday. “I wish there was more understanding between people in the community and the office,” said Patrick Kelley, referring to property management. “Right now they’re two separate things.” Kelley, who lives a few doors down from McClendon in the same building, said he had never seen anything criminal, disruptive, or out of the ordinary from her unit. Instead, he said, the biggest issue was a management company that tries to solve problems with discipline instead of a conversation. Judge Richard Ulmer, who began hearing McClendon’s case on Thursday, said he could decide as early as Monday if McClendon has the right to stay in the $700-a-month apartment where she has lived for 14 years. He could also move the proceedings to a jury trial. The main entrance to Valencia Gardens at 390 Valencia St. Photo by Eric Murphy.During the proceedings on Thursday, the two sides fought over the history of the eviction notices. McClendon’s first notice was given in 2017 for owing $3,400 in back rent, which she was able to pay with the help of Hamilton Families, a nonprofit that works to prevent homelessness. But rent was not the only issue at that time, according to Mercedes Gavin, a lawyer for The John Stewart Company. Eight days after Hamilton Families made the payment, the company issued another eviction notice to McClendon.Gavin said that the property management company failed to advise Hamilton Families of the other ongoing issues it had with McClendon because if the nonprofit had known, they would not have made the rent payment. Judge Ulmer took issue with that tactic. “It sort of sounds like you’re hiding the ball to try to get the money from them,” he said to Gavin. “Why would you try to fool someone like that?”The bigger issue, Gavin argued, was that Rasheed Loveless, the father of three of McClendon’s children, had been staying at the apartment without authorization. The rules at Valencia Gardens prohibit overnight guests from staying more than 14 nights per year. McClendon said Loveless was there to help provide childcare and other help for her and her children while she dealt with the aftermath of a high-risk pregnancy.The John Stewart Company said in its lawsuit that they are trying to evict McClendon in part because they allege Loveless engaged in illegal gambling and other unidentified criminal activity on or near the property in late 2018 and early 2019. Loveless is currently serving a two-year sentence in state prison on a drug charge. It’s unclear when that sentence began. Neighbors said they had seen no signs of criminal activity outside or near McClendon’s unit. “It’s pretty much just kids playing outside there,” said Teakeysha Brittany, who lives across the street.Valencia Gardens, January 2017. Photo by Lydia Chávez.Management did meet with McClendon last July to try to resolve the issue of Loveless’s unauthorized stay. They suggested that Loveless apply to be a live-in aide for McClendon to help her deal with her high-risk pregnancy and recovery. However, public subsidy regulations did not allow a family member to become a live-in aid, which management said they did not know at the time they advised Loveless to apply.Management denied the application in late September and filed an eviction lawsuit the following day.McClendon, 35 years old, said she’s unsure why the John Stewart Company has continued to pursue the eviction. “It’s mind-boggling how you can want something like this for someone’s family,” she said.Earlier in the week, Ryan Murphy of the Eviction Defense Collaborative, McClendon’s lawyer, said that the property manager had been unusually aggressive with his client. Murphy said if his client loses, she will be barred from subsidized housing for years.“This is so disrespectful to the family and the kids,” said Murphy. “It’s over-policing of low-income families. It’s just so heartless.”McClendon said she has never had a problem with management or a threat of eviction until Uribe arrived in 2016. If McClendon is evicted, she said she doesn’t know where she and her family will go. Her $700-a-month rent in Valencia Gardens is thousands of dollars cheaper than market-rate housing in the area and she is currently unable to work. She said she might have to go to a shelter, something she was forced to do 18 years ago with her two youngest children before she got into public housing. “I couldn’t possibly see myself going back,” said McClendon, choking up a little. “With five kids? To a shelter?”McClendon is not the only Valencia Gardens tenant who has experienced the threat of eviction from the new property manager.Bridget, who started living in Valencia Gardens in 2010 and did not want to give her last name, has also faced a series of notices to quit since Uribe took over. The notices came for issues like an unauthorized pet and a sign on her front door. She also said she is being watched and followed by the complex’s security guards, who may be monitoring who comes in and out of her unit.Like McClendon, Bridget said her problems began when Uribe took over and she had no issues with previous managers. “They were cool, they were friendly, I never got any eviction notice from them,” she said of previous management. “It was stress-free.” Subscribe to Mission Local’s daily newsletter
NATHAN Brown has expressed his disappointment following Saints Challenge Cup exit to Leeds on Saturday.“Once again we started our first set with a dropped ball and had to defend our try line for a fair period,” he said. “I thought defensively we handled them pretty well until that little try before half time which was pretty crucial.“At 20-12 it was quite a decent contest, three tries to two and probably where the game was at. We had two or three good ball sets but good ball attack was poor. Their defence is very good and that is why they are where they are in the table.“We let ourselves down with that attack, our flow wasn’t right, and that was disappointing.“The reality is when you play Leeds your defence has to be good for 80 minutes. If you have one play off or someone makes a bad read then the speed of McGuire and those blokes they have around them are hard to scramble against.“We made a few bad reads and they punished us for it.“We also needed to kick better. They had repeat sets and we didn’t. Credit to them though, that’s why that group of players have won all those trophies; their game management is pretty good. Ours was so-so.”Saints lost Kyle Amor to a knee injury in the match and although Brown expressed the prognosis doesn’t look good, he will be assessed earlier in the week.
A SNEAK preview of your 2015 Saints Home Shirt! The Choice of ChampionsClick here if on a mobile device.
After WWAY’s Kirsten Gutierrez put him on the news, his mom recorded a video of him dancing and sent it to a national viral video show.Now Deklin’s risky moves will be featured on network television.Congratulations Deklin and thank you for serving up some style and killer moves! WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — We have an update to an adorable Halloween story we brought you last week.3-year-old Deklin wore a “Risky Business” costume at UNCW’s Halloween Carnival Wednesday.- Advertisement –
Image of the scene where divers search for missing fisherman at Lake Waccamaw on Feb. 15, 2018. (Photo: Viewer) COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Southport man is missing after officials say a boat was found overturned on Lake Waccamaw Thursday.A spokeswoman from the State Parks Service said the call came in a little after 3 p.m. and that divers searched the water for hours Thursday evening.- Advertisement – Family confirms the boat belongs to a 72-year-old Southport man who left to go fishing earlier that morning.Dozen of divers from surrounding fire and rescue agencies are helping in the search.There was also a Coast Guard helicopter requested to search with sonar.
Azalea Bells at tea party (Photo: Jenna Kurzyna/WWAY) WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — All the Azalea Belles gathered Sunday to be honored with a tea party by the Cape Fear Garden Club. Along with tea and the beautiful custom-made dresses on the belles, there were a lot of pictures taken.The Belles enjoyed their time at the New Hanover County Arboretum and many of their mothers joined in on the fun. The chair said her favorite part of the tea party is seeing all the girls dressed up.- Advertisement – “It’s just like all of a sudden they become a princess and it’s just kind of neat to see the girls, how they change from just being a 17-year-old to this gorgeous girl in this beautiful dress,” Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Belle Chair Karen Smith said.This year there are 140 belles and they are all juniors and seniors in highschool.
Victor Watson (Photo: Brunswick Co. Jail) BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Brunswick County man will spend a decade in federal prison for drug and gun crimes.The US Attorney’s Office says a judge today sentenced Victor Demetrious Watson, 27, of Ash, to 10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.- Advertisement – Watson was arrested in December 2017 after the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and ATF started investigating after getting an anonymous tip that Watson had stolen firearms and was in the process of moving them. Investigators used confidential informants to buy heroin from Watson at his home. They then got a search warrant for the house and a vehicle, where they say they found a .40 caliber handgun, a 9 mm handgun, ammunition, drugs and cash. Prosecutors say before being taken into federal custody, Watson admitted the guns and heroin were his. Law enforcement determined the guns had not been reported stolen.In May 2018 Watson was indicted on three counts. In August he pleaded guilty to one count possession with intent to distribute heroin and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.