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.
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.
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