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Government policies on social care, health and benefits risk sending disabled people sliding back to “the bad old days of dependency, isolation and poverty”, a disabled peer has warned.In a Lords debate on the Queen’s speech, Baroness [Jane] Campbell urged the government to work closely with disabled people – as Tory governments in the 1980s and 1990s had done – and said that cutting social care was “a false economy”.She told fellow peers: “The Independent Living Fund has been closed, independent living care packages are being cut and disabled people really fear where the £12 billion in welfare cuts will fall.”Baroness Campbell said that the proportion of disabled people who feel they have choice and control over their lives dropped from 76 per cent in 2008 to 66 per cent in 2014, while 97,000 fewer disabled people were now receiving support compared with five years ago.The crossbench peer also called for more support for working-age disabled people, rather than the current focus on older people.Of 91 Better Care Fund plans – designed to support councils and NHS organisations to jointly plan and deliver local health and care services – that were approved in October 2014, only 14 included a focus on working-age disabled people, she said.She said: “The government must now look much more closely at how the Better Care Fund can support people of all ages, if they want us to work and participate in society.”And she said the government must also examine how the extra £8 billion a year it has pledged to invest in the NHS in England by 2020 would support social care.Baroness Campbell said: “Social care enables disabled people and informal carers to become more socially and economically active, avoiding expensive residential care and hospital admissions.”Her speech came as the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care issued an “urgent plea” for “sustained and substantial” extra spending, in the face of an expected fall in the adult social care budget of £1.1 billion in 2015-16.In an ADASS survey of social care directors, half said they believed fewer disabled people would get access to support over the next two years, 58 per cent believed personal budgets would be smaller, and 17 per cent thought that quality of care would worsen.And a national survey of NHS leaders for the NHS Confederation – also published this week – found that 99 per cent agreed that cuts to social care funding were putting increased pressure on the NHS, while 92 per cent agreed that cuts to social care funding were increasing pressures on their own organisation and services for patients.Responding to the NHS Confederation survey, a Department of Health spokesman said: “We have given an extra £1.1 billion to councils to help protect social care services this year, and have committed £10 billion extra by 2020, which is going into health and social care systems that are being merged for the first time.“The £5.3 billion Better Care Fund is the first ever national programme to join up health and social care, which will focus resources on helping people to live independently, saving money and improving care closer to home. These figures show the need for that holistic approach.”But Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, called on NHS leaders to do more to highlight the “crisis” in social care funding, and the impact on the NHS of social care cuts.She said: “NHS leaders are continuing to highlight the lack of resources for social care, but I believe they need to go further. “They have the ear of government and the general public so they have a crucial responsibility to spell out exactly what the social care crisis means, including increased mental distress, higher admissions to hospitals, and loss of independent living. “Whilst the high expenditure on agency nursing care is significant and should be highlighted, I believe the social care crisis will end up costing the NHS far more.”In the Lords, Baroness Campbell also called on the government to merge assessments for health and social care eligibility and those for benefits, to avoid “wasting public funds on bureaucracy and appeals”.And she suggested a “triple lock” on the value of personal independence payment (PIP) – which meets some of the extra costs of disability and is replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA) – to match measures taken by the coalition to protect the value of the state pension.The triple lock was introduced in the last parliament, and ensures that the state pension increases every year by the higher of inflation, the increase in average earnings, or 2.5 per cent. Baroness Campbell said that research by Scope estimated that disabled people spend on average £550 a month on disability-related expenditure such as daily living equipment, higher heating bills, taxis and higher insurance premiums. Her own annual bill is about £12,000.Her fellow disabled peer, the Liberal Democrat Baroness [Celia] Thomas, told the welfare reform minister Lord Freud that she and other peers were “understandably fearful of the £12 billion of planned cuts” to the budget of the Department for Work and Pensions.She said she feared the government could be about to introduce the “nightmare policy” of taxing or means-testing disability benefits, and called on Lord Freud to make a commitment not to cut the Access to Work budget.She said: “We do not know nearly enough about where these cuts will come.”Lord Freud said he was “not in a position” to tell Baroness Thomas and other peers where any cuts to welfare would come from.He said: “We are looking at how to make those savings and will set out those savings when the work is complete.”Baroness Campbell told Disability News Service later that she had written a letter to Lord Freud to ask him why he had ignored her questions when responding to the debate, including – for the second time – her request for the government to introduce a PIP “triple lock”.Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Kate Green, has written to the new minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, to ask him whether the government has any plans to cut disability benefits.She said in the letter that “disabled people, their families and carers remain deeply fearful about the government’s plans”.And she pointed out that Labour’s shadow employment minister, Stephen Timms, had asked the prime minister to rule out any further cuts to disability benefits, at prime minister’s questions this week, but he had failed to do so. Instead, she wrote, she was surprised to hear David Cameron tell MPs that PIP was “more generous to those who are most disabled” than DLA, when the highest level of PIP is no higher than the highest DLA rate, while “the government’s policy intention for PIP is to reduce spending on this benefit by 20 per cent compared to spending on DLA”.
Esther McVey has quit as work and pensions secretary without answering questions she was asked by MPs four months ago about whether her department covered up links between its hated fitness for work test and the deaths of benefit claimants.McVey (pictured) resigned last week in protest at the prime minister’s Brexit deal, but her resignation came months after two opposition spokespeople wrote to her about claims of a possible cover-up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).Neither Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, nor Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrats’ work and pensions spokesman, had received a response from McVey to their questions by the time she quit the department.They had written to her after Disability News Service (DNS) reported how DWP was refusing to say if it showed key documents linking the deaths of claimants with the work capability assessment (WCA) to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert the government hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.Litchfield carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown two letters written by coroners and a number of secret DWP “peer reviews”.Litchfield, who was recognised by the prime minister with a CBE in June’s birthday honours, published his two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither of his reports mentioned the documents, which all link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.De Cordova wrote to McVey seeking answers about the documents on 25 July, nearly four months ago, and has yet to receive a reply.Lloyd’s letter to McVey, written a week later, on 2 August, said it would be “astonishing” if Litchfield had not been shown the documents.His letter added: “In light of Dr Litchfield being awarded a CBE, could you please confirm whether or not he was shown the documents linking the government’s WCA program with the deaths of benefit claimants?”Weeks later, having failed to receive a reply, Lloyd wrote a follow-up letter.His office confirmed this week that McVey had failed to reply to either letter.Even though DWP possessed both the coroners’ letters and all the peer reviews, it has claimed in a freedom of information response that it holds no information in its records to show whether they were passed to Litchfield while he was reviewing the WCA.A DWP spokeswoman refused to explain why McVey had not answered the letters from de Cordova and Lloyd.Instead, she repeated a previous comment from the department, stating that Litchfield’s reviews were “independent” and that “DWP provided information alongside other stakeholders – on request”, while “any evidence used was referenced in the review”.Since DNS revealed the existence of the documents in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published, concerns have grown that DWP and some of its ministers deliberately covered-up evidence showing the fatal impact of the assessment on disabled people.The coroner’s letters followed the deaths of two men with mental health conditions in 2010 and 2013, and were sent to DWP in the spring of 2010 and early 2014, each warning of further such deaths if changes were not made to the WCA.Peer reviews – now known as internal process reviews – must be carried out by DWP civil servants into every death “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”, as well as other deaths and serious and complex cases that have been linked to DWP activity.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.One of the aims of a peer review 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.But neither of Litchfield’s reviews mentioned either the peer reviews or the coroners’ letters, although the second coroner’s letter was not written until he had begun work on his second review.Professor Malcolm Harrington, who carried out the first three WCA reviews in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has told DNS he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter (the second letter had not been written by the time he completed his third review) nor any WCA-related peer reviews. 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…
THE First Utility Magic Weekend consists of seven mouth-watering games across two fascinating days of Rugby League, and we need one magic dance squad to entertain tens of thousands of Rugby League fans.The Magic Weekend, held on the weekend of May 17-18, is a festival of the best talent that Rugby League has to offer and is one of the most highly-anticipated events on the sport’s calendar each season.On Saturday April 12, women aged 16-and-over are invited to attend an open audition at Yorkshire Dance in Leeds to perform at the event. Dancers who perform within Rugby League at present are especially encouraged to attend.During the audition, dancers will be taught a short routine that will then be performed in groups.In addition, dancers will also be invited to perform a pre-prepared solo or group piece. This performance should last a minimum of one minute if solo or two minutes if in a group and music for this part of the audition should be supplied via your own iPod or iPhone.Those who apple must be physically fit and have excellent dancing ability and communication skills.We are looking for dancers who can engage with a crowd and have experience of promotional dance work. It is also preferable for applicants to have experience of performing in front of large audiences.Those who attend should wear suitable dance attire (baggy clothing is not acceptable). All clothing must be tight-fitting.To register your interest or for further information, please email here.Details of the open auditions:When: Saturday April 12Audition session 1 – 11:30am (register from 11am)*Audition session 2 – 1pm (register from 12:30am)*Applicants are required to attend just one session.Where: Yorkshire Dance, 3 St Peter’s Building, St Peters Square, Leeds LS9 8AH. (Opposite the BBC building and Leeds College of Music)Yorkshire Dance is two minutes’ walk from Leeds City Bus Station and 15 minutes’ walk from the train station. Please note: Successful applicants will need to be available for evening rehearsals on Thursday May 1, 8 and 15.
He made 22 appearances overall for the club, scoring two tries and kicked 11 goals. He was also full-back in the 1960-61 Lancashire Cup final team that triumphed over Swinton at Central Park, Wigan, which included Tom van Vollenhoven and Jan Prinsloo in the line-up.In the late 1950s the St. Helens club began to look at South African Rugby Union as a source of recruiting future talent. They hit pure gold with Tom van Vollenhoven and signed Jan Prinsloo shortly after. Their third venture was to snare Percy Landsberg to a professional contract at Knowsley Road.It was a very cloak and dagger operation in those days. If a player was found to be dealing with the professional code, they were dealt with very harshly indeed by the union authorities. On September 29 1959, the Saints Secretary Basil Lowe received a letter from the South African ‘go between’ regarding Percy Landsberg.In the opening paragraphs, Basil stated the club’s desire to sign him: “I have taken action straight away and I am able to inform you that we are interested in Percy Landsberg. I have had a word with Tom van Vollenhoven who more or less repeats all that you have said. He feels that Landsberg would be a success in Rugby League and he also thinks that Percy would be happy in this country and with this club.”The die was duly cast and Percy became a Saint shortly after.Born on June 18 1935 and a miner in the Rhodesian copper belt, Percy had played his club rugby for a team called Nchanga and had enjoyed representative selection for Rhodesia and the Transvaal Under 19s. At 5ft 10ins and 11st 5lbs he could play anywhere in the backs, with excellent handling skills and he was tough enough to compete in professional rugby league, for sure.He was also a competent goal-kicker too. Percy made his debut against Liverpool City on November 7 1959 at right centre, with Tom van Vollenhoven outside him, who scored a hat-trick in Saints’ 40-17 win in front of more than 11,000 at Knowsley Road. Jan Prinsloo was the other centre. Percy played on eight occasions in the First Team that season, scoring two tries. Although he could play centre, he was, perhaps, most at home at full-back.Percy took up the full-back position at the start of the 1960-61 campaign and wore the jersey in the Lancashire Cup final against Swinton at Wigan on October 29 1960, in front of more than 31,000 fans. The Saints lifted the famous trophy after a 15-9 success, part of their domination of the competition in the early 1960s. Percy played the following week against Whitehaven at Knowsley Road at full-back and it proved to be the last time he pulled on the First Team strip.During his time at St. Helens he proved to be a popular player with the fans and team-mates alike. His brother, Chris, a winger, came over to play several games for Leigh in 1961.Percy returned from St Helens to work on the Copper Belt in Nchanga. His eldest son, Tony tells us: “He was not allowed to play rugby on his return [due to having played pro rugby], so he went and played soccer, representing Northern Rhodesia. He played baseball as well while in Northern Rhodesia. He then moved to South Africa, Durban and then Pretoria where he started a baseball club for kids. It grew to being the top junior and senior club for 25 years. He retired from the club [Centurion Raiders] due to ill health.”Clearly his sporting interests formed such a huge part in his life.His granddaughter, Keri Stroebel, said that Percy was extremely proud of his rugby achievements and shared his fond memories of St. Helens rugby league right to the end.A point emphasised by Tony: “His St. Helens jersey and other memorabilia was his greatest possession.” A touching sentiment, indeed.At this sad time, we send our condolences to Sylvia, his wife of 60 years, together with sons Tony, Deon and Steve. Percy is survived by his brother, Chris. Another of his brothers, Jannie, pre-deceased him.The funeral is set for this Saturday.Written by Alex Service.