A disabled solicitor has accused his governing body of forcing him to abandon disabled clients without legal representation, after it withdrew permission for his new law centre to take on legal aid cases.The Law Society of Scotland (LSS), the professional body for Scottish solicitors, had granted permission to Legal Spark law centre to take on legal aid cases in November.Following that decision, Legal Spark took on cases from disabled people who had been unable to secure legal representation for their discrimination cases.Among them was a disabled student who had to quit their university course because they were not given adequate support, and another disabled client who had previously been unable to secure legal representation because they lived in an isolated part of the Highlands.But LSS has now decided that it made a mistake and has withdrawn permission for Legal Spark to carry out legal aid work.The founder of Legal Spark, disabled solicitor Daniel Donaldson (pictured) – who set up the law centre to help disabled people and other clients excluded from the legal system – said the LSS decision would deprive disabled people of access to justice.He had been hoping to take legal aid cases for disabled people who have experienced discrimination, cuts to their social care provision and other issues.He said: “My clients will just be dropped. The Law Society of Scotland have left me no alternative.“The situation as it has turned out is stopping disabled people availing themselves of their legal rights.”Legal Spark has contacted 134 lawyers, a list provided by LSS, who take on civil legal aid cases and specialise in discrimination law, and none of them have been able to take on Legal Spark’s clients.Donaldson – who qualified as a solicitor six years ago – spent a year discussing Legal Spark with LSS, which originally branded his plans “refreshing” and “innovative”.Now he says the organisation is discriminating against his disabled clients.He said: “It’s deeply disappointing. Instead of working with Legal Spark to find constructive solutions, they have discriminated against and ignored our clients by refusing to listen to them.“They have cancelled meetings, refused to go to mediation and each time a politician contacts them on our behalf, the Law Society avoid the issue.”He said LSS told him it made the decision because Legal Spark didn’t meet its precise interpretation of regulations, “despite us spending over a year in conversation and being actively encouraged by Law Society staff”.He added: “The Law Society gave us their blessing, then took it away.“The timing could not be worse, as our clients were achieving success in pursuing their claims of discrimination.“This is direct disability discrimination – there is nowhere else for our disabled clients to go.”He is encouraging people to sign an online petition and write letters of complaint to LSS.A Law Society Scotland spokeswoman said her organisation had made “a mistake” in originally granting Legal Spark permission to carry out civil legal aid work, before realising that it was “not entitled to provide this type of advice under the society’s civil legal assistance quality assurance scheme”.She said: “The committee made a final decision on 16 June that a waiver could not be granted for public protection reasons and as the compliance certificate for Legal Spark had been issued in error, it could no longer provide advice funded by legal aid. “The committee agreed that given the circumstances, Legal Spark could continue working with its legal aid clients until 30 June, to allow sufficient time to make alternative arrangements for clients.”She said law centres have to be “underpinned by a solicitor practice unit [which she said Legal Spark was not] in order to be able to be on the civil legal aid quality assurance scheme register and provide legal aid funded advice”.She added: “While it is rare for something to go wrong, clients have to be able to seek redress and as it currently stands, Legal Spark is not in a position to meet those requirements.”By noon today (28 July), the Law Society Scotland had failed to explain why it has refused to enter into mediation, although it claims that it was “still in communication with Legal Spark”.Donaldson continues to dispute LSS’s position and claims that under the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980, Legal Spark should be allowed to take on civil legal aid cases.He said: “The LSS have a legal requirement to promote access to justice. They have ignored this entirely. Where’s the justice for our disabled clients?”
An influential committee of MPs is to examine claims of widespread dishonesty by healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of disability benefit claimants.Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) published the results of a two-month investigation that suggested a serious, institutional problem that spreads across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the two private sector contractors – Atos and Capita – that assess eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP) on its behalf.DNS included evidence from more than 20 disabled people who had contacted DNS over the last year or had commented on previous DNS news stories to claim that their assessors – usually qualified nurses – lied repeatedly in reports they produced for DWP.Since publication, DNS has collected more than 20 further reports – some through comments on last week’s stories, and others with detailed evidence shared with DNS – from disabled people who say their assessment reports were dishonest and deeply misleading.As a result of that evidence, the chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee, the Labour MP Frank Field (pictured), said today (Thursday): “The committee has been presented with some concerning reports about the operation of the PIP assessment process.“I’m looking at those reports, and the issues they raise, very carefully. It will then be for the committee to decide how it wants to respond.”The team reviewing PIP on behalf of DWP has also confirmed that it will accept evidence collected during the DNS investigation. Paul Gray’s second review of PIP is due to be published in April.DWP has continued to show no interest in the results of the investigation and to insist that there is no dishonesty at all among its benefits assessors.Meanwhile, a former Atos assessor has told DNS why she believes there are so many examples of dishonest assessment reports.The former nurse worked for Atos for about six months in 2014 and 2015 before she left because she was not meeting her target of eight paper-based assessments a day.Although she left before the period covered by the latest reports – which focus on the last 12 months – she said she believes the pressure on her former colleagues to reach their targets for completing reports left them little time to research the conditions they are assessing.She said: “I know staff would make assumptions rather than facts… to get the reports done quickly and hope it didn’t get audited.“Some were like me very conscientious and others banged them out for the financial incentive, with little compassion or research on conditions.”She added: “The lack of knowledge on conditions, drugs and side-effects is shocking, but in reality assessors cannot know about every possible condition but have no time… to look them up and research the condition and effects.”She particularly highlighted the lack of knowledge about mental health conditions, which she said meant assessors were often “totally subjective rather than objective with no time to look up the condition or read up the effects of the prescribed medication and side effects”. She also blamed “target-driven management” and assessors “making assumptions rather than using facts”, while the risk of losing their jobs if they failed to achieve targets for the number of assessments they carried out meant assessors were “not always reading all of the evidence”.And, she said, many assessors often wanted to finish their reports quickly “so they could be paid overtime”.Atos has again refused to comment this week, while a DWP spokeswoman said of the former assessor’s claims: “We can’t respond on Atos’s behalf. I suggest you refer that question to them.”In another development, one PIP claimant has provided evidence which may explain why so few complaints about assessors are upheld by DWP’s “independent” complaints body, the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), which is staffed by DWP civil servants.He has shown DNS an email from a member of the DWP customer services team which makes it clear that he is not allowed to lodge complaints about his PIP assessor with ICE because his concerns were “regarding the decision making process so are not considered as a complaint and as such would not be signposted to ICE as a result”.A DWP press officer responded to a question about the email just before this week’s DNS deadline to say that she could not comment because “we have not been given any details about the email or claimant you’re referring to”.By the time she replied, it was too late to secure permission from the PIP claimant to share his email with the DWP press office.Last week, DWP said: “Assessment providers have their own complaints processes in place, and if claimants are not satisfied with providers’ response they will be signposted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE). “Over 1.9 million PIP claims have been decided since April 2013 to September 2016 and in this time only a tiny fraction of complaints regarding providers’ service standards have been upheld by ICE.”
A disabled student has told Labour’s annual party conference that she has been forced to resort to crowdfunding to obtain a wheelchair that is suitable for her needs, because of “chronic” government under-funding.Rebecca Boot (pictured) told the party’s annual conference in Brighton that because she had a cheap powerchair that was not suitable for her impairment, it caused her pain and regular dislocations of her joints.She said her powerchair cost about £2,500 and was one of the cheapest available, but because it has “no suspension and poor shock absorbancy” she spends much of her time in bed “recovering from the pain” it causes.The chair she needs costs four times as much, but she does not believe she will be able to secure it through the “under-funded and over-stretched” NHS wheelchair service.She told the conference: “Not having the right chair costs me sleep, it costs me study time, and it costs me time with my family and my friends, while I lie in bed recovering from the pain that my wheelchair has caused.“The Tories’ chronic under-funding of NHS wheelchair services is costing me my freedom and it’s costing the local authority in personal care funding.”She added: “Having the wrong wheelchair means I am living a life of social exclusion and isolation and unfulfilled potential.”Boot said she had been forced to make the decision to crowdfund the money for a new powerchair, which she believed was “not acceptable”.And she said this was “just one example” of how the Conservative government had failed disabled people, as reported last month by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.She told Disability News Service afterwards that she was “getting desperate for a wheelchair that doesn’t cause me too much pain”.She said she was unable to spend more than a few hours at a time in her wheelchair because she starts to develop muscle cramps.Boot, who is just beginning her second year at Aston University, said: “It doesn’t cause problems in terms of going to lectures because they are a maximum of two hours but it means I have to go back to my room and lie down afterwards.“It means I am missing out on the social stuff surrounding university life.”She told the conference: “Wheelchairs are vehicles of freedom. My wheelchair enables me to be here with you today, to go to university and to socialise with my friends.“My wheelchair means I can choose what I do with my life and when. But I, like many others, have the wrong wheelchair.”She added: “A safe wheelchair that works properly should be a right, not a privilege.”
The mother of a woman who killed herself after being wrongly found “fit for work” has pledged to continue her campaign for justice, and for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to admit it was to blame for her daughter’s death.The case of mother-of-nine Jodey Whiting, from Stockton, was highlighted this week after a disabled activist mentioned her name as he heckled work and pensions Esther McVey while she gave evidence (listen from 52 minutes) to the Scottish parliament’s social security committee (see separate story).The activist, David*, told McVey: “What about Jodey Whiting, mother of nine, who committed suicide after her ESA was stopped?“It was stopped because she missed an appointment.”It is the latest in a string of distressing and tragic deaths that have been linked over the last eight years to the government’s social security reforms, and particularly to employment and support allowance, the out-of-work disability benefit, and its eligibility test, the work capability assessment (WCA).Jodey Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, who herself receives ESA as a result of a number of health conditions, has been campaigning for justice for her daughter – including through a petition on the 38 Degrees website – and for an admission of blame from DWP.Her daughter (pictured with her children) took her own life last year after being told she had been found fit for work.She had missed a WCA appointment on 16 January 2017 because she was in hospital being treated for a brain cyst. It later emerged that the letter telling her about the appointment had been waiting for her at home, unopened.DWP refused to back down, even after she wrote back explaining that she had been in hospital and had had pneumonia and had been receiving treatment for the cyst. She also had a number of other health conditions.But despite the evidence she provided, DWP refused to give her another appointment to attend a WCA and confirmed that she had been found fit for work and would lose her ESA.She was told she would receive her last fortnight’s ESA payment on 17 February.She visited Citizens Advice, and an advisor wrote to DWP on 15 February 2017 to ask for another WCA appointment, but she took her own life six days later, just four days after her final ESA payment.Her mother is also angry with DWP because the department sent a letter to her daughter about her claim after it had been told she had taken her own life, and continued to call Jodey’s phone and leave voicemail messages for her for more than two months.Her complaints will be investigated by the Independent Case Examiner.Her mother told Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday) that she was determined to secure justice for her daughter.She said she remembered her crying as she told her she had lost her ESA, and asking her: “What am I going to do, mum?”“I said, ‘Don’t worry, we will sort it out,’ but she never replied. I think it just wore her down.”She said she was delighted that David had raised her daughter’s case so publicly during McVey’s evidence session on Monday.He had told her in advance of his plan to confront McVey, and when she later heard the recording of him mentioning her daughter’s name in the committee hearing, she said: “I just felt great.”It is moments like that that motivated her to continue with her campaign, she said.“I am so grateful to him. I am really pleased he did it.”She told DNS she would continue with her campaign for justice.She said: “I have kept strong for my daughter, but I am heartbroken, I always will be.”If she had had the chance to confront McVey, she said, “I would have broken down and said, ‘Look, you had no right [to treat my daughter like this].’“It’s all wrong. It has got to stop. They can’t keep doing this to people.”A DWP spokeswoman said: “We have apologised to the family for attempting to contact Ms Whiting after her death.“The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) is an independent office holder.“As such, the DWP cannot comment on the work or decisions taken by the ICE.“We will carefully consider the findings of the ICE.“Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to anyone’s benefit claim.”*He has asked for his full name not to be used
JOSH Jones is set to make his 100th appearance for the club when Saints take on Huddersfield tonight.He made his Saints debut in a 28-16 win at Warrington on March 30 2012.Last 10 Meetings:St Helens 35, Huddersfield 34 (SLR21, 10/7/15)Huddersfield 8, St Helens 11 (SLR10, 12/4/15)Huddersfield 17, St Helens 16 (SLR27, 12/9/14)St Helens 41, Huddersfield 22 (SLR14, 23/5/14)Huddersfield 16, St Helens 17 (CCR4, 6/4/14)Huddersfield 25, St Helens 16 (SLR17, 3/6/13)St Helens 4, Huddersfield 40 (SLR1, 2/2/13)St Helens 46, Huddersfield 12 (SLR22, 29/7/12)Huddersfield 17, St Helens 16 (SLR5, 4/3/12)St Helens 19, Huddersfield 6 (SLR24, 12/8/11)Super League Summary:St Helens won 31 (includes wins in 2009 and 2010 play-offs)Huddersfield won 8Highs and Lows:St Helens highest score: 68-18 (H, 1998) (Widest margin: 68-18, H, 1998; 54-4, H, 2007)Huddersfield highest score: 40-18 (H, 2011); 40-4 (A, 2013) (Widest margin: 40-4, A, 2013)Career Milestones:Jordan Turner needs one try to reach a career century of touchdowns.His total of 99 has been scored as follows: 24 for Salford (2006-2009), 34 for Hull FC (2010-2012), 39 for St Helens (2013-2015) and 2 for England Knights (2012).Consecutive Appearances:Mose Masoe has the longest run of consecutive appearances amongst Super League players, with 58.He made his Saints debut as a substitute in a 38-18 win against Hull KR at Langtree Park on March 7 2014. He is an ever-present in the St Helens side since then.1 Mose Masoe (St Helens) 582 Elliott Whitehead (Catalans Dragons) 453 Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves) 424 Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) 415 Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield Giants) 39First Utility Super League Leading Scorers:Tries: 1 = Tom Lineham (Hull FC), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors) 213 Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) 184 Justin Carney (Castleford Tigers) 175 = Denny Solomona (Castleford Tigers), Albert Kelly (Hull Kingston Rovers), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Jordan Turner (St Helens), Dominic Manfredi (Wigan Warriors) 1510 = Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers), Kieran Dixon (Hull Kingston Rovers), Josh Mantellato (Hull Kingston Rovers), Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers), Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings) 14Goals:1 Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) 882 = Scott Dureau (Catalans Dragons), Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers) 824 Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors) 765 Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) 756 Josh Mantellato (Hull Kingston Rovers) 707 Marc Sneyd (Hull FC) 588 Josh Griffin (Salford Red Devils) 469 Jack Owens (Widnes Vikings) 4110 Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves) 37Goals Percentage:1 Jamie Ellis (Huddersfield Giants) 92.85 (13/14)2 Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) 85.43 (88/103)3 Danny Tickle (Widnes Vikings) 84.61 (11/13)4 Luke Walsh (St Helens) 83.33 (25/30)5 Scott Dureau (Catalans Dragons) 82.82 (82/99)6 Tom Makinson (St Helens) 82.60 (19/23)7 Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers) 78.09 (82/105)8 = Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) (75/100), Stefan Marsh (Widnes Vikings) 75.00 (9/12)10 Josh Griffin (Salford Red Devils) 74.19 (46/62)Points:1 Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers) 1972 Josh Mantellato (Hull Kingston Rovers) 1963 Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) 1914 Scott Dureau (Catalans Dragons) 1745 Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) 1726 Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors) 1677 Marc Sneyd (Hull FC) 1348 Josh Griffin (Salford Red Devils) 1169 Jack Owens (Widnes Vikings) 11410 Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves) 102
Hospitality packages for our three Super 8s home games against Hull FC, Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants are now on sale and selling quickly.We are receiving lots of requests from existing Members who want to upgrade from their normal seat within the Totally Wicked Stadium, so why not join them?Join us in our 1873 Lounge to enjoy the following:Three-course mealHalf-time refreshments plus complimentary tea and coffeeComplimentary Match ProgrammePadded seat in the South StandHear from two first-team squad members to preview the gameFormer player will also be on stage pre-match to discuss their career at SaintsVisit from Man of the Match post-match to be interviewed by our MC, Pete EmmettEntertainment through the evening from our table magician, John HoltTake part in our fun quiz sponsored by Robinsons Brewery, with a prize of a free round of drinks for the winning tableCar parking for every four places bookedPrices: 2017 Member UpgradeNon MembersAdultsJuniors (12 and under)AdultsJuniors (12 and under)Hull FC£55 + VAT£33 + VAT£68 + VAT£42 + VATWigan£55 + VAT£33 + VAT£68 + VAT£42 + VATHuddersfield£45 + VAT£25 + VAT£50 + VAT£30 + VATTo book, call us on 01744 455053 or for more information, please send us an email to [email protected] hope you can join us and help push the team all the way to Old Trafford!