Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary has called for nurses and other healthcare professionals who write misleading benefit assessment reports to be “held to account”.Debbie Abrahams said there had been “too many times” when healthcare professionals had written reports that did not “marry” with the evidence they had been given by disabled benefit claimants and what they had been told by those claimants during face-to-face assessments.More than 250 disabled people have come forward over the last year to tell Disability News Service how their assessors had written dishonest assessment reports.These cases were compiled during a DNS investigation into widespread allegations that healthcare professionals working for private outsourcing companies Capita and Atos have been lying in personal independence payment (PIP) assessment reports, which are written on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.But there have also been years of complaints relating to work capability assessments – which assess eligibility for employment and support allowance – which were previously carried out by Atos but are now the responsibility of the discredited US outsourcing giant Maximus.Abrahams (pictured, second from right), who was speaking at a fringe event organised by the Fabian Society and the disability charity Scope at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, said: “Assessments are conducted by clinical professionals.“We must be holding these clinical professionals to account.”She said she had heard of “dozens and dozens” of cases, both in her national role and as a constituency MP, of assessment reports “not marrying at all with the detail in the assessment, the medical records that were supplied and so on”.She told the meeting: “This cannot be allowed.”There have been repeated concerns raised by disabled people that the bodies that regulate healthcare professionals – such as the Health and Care Professions Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council – have refused to investigate claims of dishonesty in assessments made against healthcare professionals.But Abrahams told this week’s fringe meeting that she had met with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) about the issue, and she said the RCN was “concerned about what this means to some of their members” and was taking “very seriously” the need to prevent such cases happening.Abrahams also told the fringe event of Labour’s plans to scrap both the PIP assessment process and the work capability assessment – which assesses eligibility for ESA – and replace them with a more “personalised, holistic support programme”.RCN had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).
The head of the British Paralympic Association (BPA) has been heavily criticised by MPs for failing to address cheating within the system that classifies disabled athletes, despite being in his post for more than six years.Tim Hollingsworth was giving evidence to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, as part of its inquiry into sports governance.He was giving evidence after the disabled peer and retired Paralympian Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson had told the committee that the classification system was being abused by cheating British athletes in search of money and medals (see separate story).On the day they gave evidence to the inquiry, the committee also published a series of witness statements from retired and current athletes, their relatives, and officials, raising serious concerns about the system (see separate story).The committee has also received evidence from athletes who have given evidence anonymously.The classification system is run by the national governing body of each Paralympic sport, while athletes competing internationally must also submit to testing by international classifiers.The process includes medical evidence, physical examinations and assessment of how the athlete functions in that sport, as well as observation of them in competition.The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) defines classification as grouping athletes into different classes according to how much their impairment “affects fundamental activities” in that sport and discipline.But misleading classifiers can allow athletes to compete against those whose impairments have a greater negative impact on attributes such as speed, coordination and strength.Hollingsworth (pictured) told the MPs that the system was the “absolute foundation stone of Paralympic sport”, and he insisted that it was fit for purpose but “can and must be improved”.Asked if he was surprised at the number of people coming forward with similar concerns to the committee – many of them anonymously – he said again that the system could be improved.And he said there needed to be an independent body to provide more “transparency and solidity to the process” of complaints about classification.But he insisted that the International Paralympic Committee had put into place, in 2015, a “far more rigorous set of standards and practices” on classification.He claimed that “if people were more understanding of that” and the wider system it might help them understand why “one athlete is freely and fairly competing against another”.But he was later forced to admit that, although BPA would refer any classification complaint to the relevant individual sport, there were currently no procedures for his organisation to take any further action if that stage in the process proved unsuccessful.Asked by Labour MP Ian Lucas if there should be a route for BPA to take on such a complaint, Hollingsworth said: “There should be, absolutely.”Lucas then told him: “I find it incredible that in a multi-million pound business, which is what this is nowadays, that that process isn’t there at the minute because the integrity of this is at the heart of the sport.”He added: “We have had a huge amount of evidence from individual athletes who do not have faith in the integrity of the system.“These people have come to us because they haven’t felt that they could come to you. Don’t you find that depressing?”The committee’s chair, Damian Collins, pointed out that Hollingsworth had been leading BPA for six years and told him that the problem had grown “on your watch”.He said Hollingsworth and BPA had known about the problems with the classification system but had just “sat back and let it happen, and the people who have suffered have been the athletes and their families”.Hollingsworth said BPA had now decided that it should be involved in developing a national classification code – which should be published next year – and a “better approach to classification at a national level” and “ultimately the development of a suitable process for complaint procedures to be dealt with independently”.But when he claimed that complaints about the system had not previously “been made clear in the way they are today” to BPA, Collins said: “I don’t believe that and I don’t believe the people in the room believe that and I find it incredible that you say it.”When Collins asked if Hollingsworth owed Paralympic athletes an apology for the failures in the system, he insisted that there had “not been any proven case of intentional misrepresentation” or “any evidence that has been presented that has gone beyond the circumstantial and the anecdotal”.But Collins told him that Baroness Grey-Thompson had said the system was being abused, while athletes and families of athletes had also provided evidence about the failures, and he asked him again if he should apologise.Hollingsworth said: “If there is genuine evidence of an athlete being failed by the system, then yes… [but] to the collective, it would be a no.”Collins said later: “We have received evidence from athletes who feel they have been discriminated against within teams because they have raised concerns.“Baroness Grey-Thompson [has said] that as far as she is concerned the classification system is broken and people are cheating it now, today.“These things may not be all within your direct control, but we would look at BPA and say, you are a leading organisation for para sport in this country, and for you to recognise these failings and be a champion for putting it right, and to acknowledge and apologise to the victims of those failures, I think is something it would be appropriate for you to do.”But Hollingsworth said: “I am genuinely sorry that there are athletes who feel that they have got grievances, but I don’t necessarily feel that those grievances necessarily are ones that are substantiated.“I do feel very sorry indeed that we are in a position where there are athletes who feel they can’t get to a point where they are listened to satisfactorily.”But he said he was “not apologising for failure or a belief that the system is not working as effectively as it is”.Collins told Hollingsworth that it was “tragic” that, as with other sports, there was “no whistleblowing process, no grievance procedures, cases that have not been properly investigated, athletes have suffered as a result of trying to speak out within their sport”, and that athletes had had to use alternative means to “try to get the truth out there” because there was “no system to do so within their own sport”.
Disability rights campaigners, an inventor and a Paralympic athlete are among the disabled people recognised in the latest new year’s honours list.Among the 1,123 people who have received an award, five per cent – about 60 – consider themselves to be disabled people.Among recipients of a CBE – for services to sport and accessibility – was Joyce Cook, chair of the disabled supporters’ charity Level Playing Field for nearly 10 years, and founder and former managing director of Centre for Access to Football in Europe.As chair of Level Playing Field, Cook played a significant role in highlighting the problem of poor access for disabled fans at sports stadiums, particularly among Premier League football clubs.Cook (pictured), now chief member associations officer for football’s world governing body FIFA, said: “It’s a very proud moment for me and my loved ones.“The World Health Organisation considers more than 20 per cent of the global population to be disabled, yet there are very few disabled people in senior positions at this time, especially in the sports sector.“The award recognizes the work I’ve been involved in for more than 15 years, but it also underlines the important work still being pursued by Centre for Access to Football in Europe and Level Playing Field.“As a disabled person working for FIFA, and a member of the senior management board, I have a responsibility as a role model and I’m proud that FIFA is showing its commitment to diversity and inclusion.“I hope that I can continue to play my part in the years ahead by using my personal and professional experiences within FIFA to continue to build more inclusive programmes and to ensure that football is truly welcoming to the many disabled people globally who aspire to be match-going fans, players or to follow careers within the game.”Other honours for disabled people included an MBE for autistic rights campaigner Carly Jones, for services to autistic people.Jones, who is autistic herself and has two autistic daughters, has campaigned in the UK and globally on autism and girls, having been told 10 years ago that it was “impossible” to have two autistic daughters.She said the award showed “firmly and publicly” that “as British autistics we are valued, we are recognised and we are able”.She added: “I hope that as not only a parent of autistic young women but also [as] an autistic woman myself, my MBE sends out a clear message that regardless of our challenges and differences [we] have something to offer our country of tremendous value.”She said she hoped more adult women would “feel less afraid to disclose their autism to friends, colleagues and families so they can find other autistic women and feel less isolation”, while any young girl recently diagnosed would now “feel empowered by their diagnosis, not ashamed”.Jones, from Berkshire, dedicated her MBE to “the autistic community old and young, who, despite having experienced misunderstanding and unkindness remain understanding and kind”.In 2016, she told the UN Human Rights Council’s annual Social Forum in Geneva of the “clinical misogyny” and “misjudgements” that have led to autism being viewed as something that only affects white males, and of the violence and abuse experienced by autistic people.Another MBE recipient – for services to disabled people – was Grant Douglas, from Edinburgh, the inventor of the S’up spoon, and founder and chief executive of S’up Products.He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be recognised for the work I have been doing to enable people with shaky hands to eat independently.”Douglas, who has cerebral palsy, found it difficult to eat soft foods with a spoon and worked with the Glasgow-based company 4c Design to invent the S’up spoon, which has a deep cavity that helps keep food in the spoon until it is tipped into the user’s mouth.Since the spoon was launched in 2015, more than 2,000 have been sold worldwide, and it is currently on display in London’s Design Museum and the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.Douglas said he hoped to use his MBE to help persuade politicians to provide funding so all professionals involved in social care assessments have access to a S’up spoon for their service-users to try.He also hopes to develop “more eating utensils that will help people with shaky hands live a more independent life”, and to convert his company into a social enterprise.Also recognised with an MBE was Paralympian Stef Reid, who won her first world title in the T44 long jump at last summer’s World Para Athletics Championships in London, a year after winning a second successive Paralympic silver medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.Reid was also a board member of the organising committee of the championships in London last summer, and has campaigned to challenge media perceptions of disability and how women feel about their bodies.She said: “It had already been a great year, and this news left me completely stunned.“I didn’t even believe it. My husband opened the letter and told me the news – I told him ‘don’t be silly, that’s ridiculous.’“I am so thankful and honoured to be awarded an MBE. Sport has opened so many doors in my life and introduced me to some incredible people who have encouraged and challenged me. I am especially proud to represent a country that values para sport.”Another Paralympian recognised with an MBE was Craig Carscadden, head of development at the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association, who receives the award for services to disabled athletes and the Paralympics.
THANK you to the fans who answered the Club’s survey on the kiosk catering at Langtree Park.As a result we are trialling some new food and drink and would appreciate your feedback going forward.On Friday:Kiosk 3 (Wide to West) and Kiosk 5 (The Marching Inn) will have a range of flavoured cider including Magners Mixed Berry, Bulmers Pressed Red Grape & Black Cherry to increase the offering at these popular bars.Kiosk 6 (The Kiwi Saint) will this week be selling Pimmies Pies, We are trying to use as many local suppliers as possible and Pimmies Steak & Kidney and Meat & Potato pies will be available in the North Stand.Kiosk 3, 4 (The Aussie Saint) and 6 (The Kiwi Saint) will also be stocking the Totally Wicked range of e-cigarette products this week.Recently, we’ve also began to sell McCoys Crisps, Starburst, Mars Bars and Twix to shake-up the confectionary range.We’ve also launched a new hotdog sausage, which despite it being shorter in size, is actually 10 grams heavier than its predecessor.And finally, we have removed burgers and pizzas from sale across the stadium due to the lack of success in their sales for the first half of the season.
SAINTS are back in First Utility Super League action on Friday when they take on Salford at Langtree Park.As with all our home games this year, we have a host of entertainment both on and off the field to bring you the ultimate matchday experience.Game Schedule:Turnstiles – Open 5.15pm.St Helens Schools Final – The Year 7 Paul Wellens Cup will kick off at 5.30pm.Club Face Painters – These will be operating in the Typhoo and the Hattons Solicitors Family Stands, as well as the Totally Wicked North Stand from 6.30pm … come along and get your face painted in Saints colours for free!Kiosk Food – We have a great range of hotdogs, other great food and pies for you to enjoy. The latter have just been rated the best in Super League by Rugby AM. Pie and a Pint just £5 if you are a Member.Family Art Workshop – In association with Heart of Glass, there will be a workshop near the Steve Prescott MBC mural with all fans welcome.Boots – Your favourite furry mascot Boots will be in attendance in all the concourse areas from 7pm onwards so look out for him and say hello!Players – We will have a member of the first-team squad down in the concourses to meet fans and sign autographs. He will be in the South West concourse area at around 7pm, North Stand (7:15pm) and the South East (7:30pm). Look out for the life-size cutouts in the South West & North Stand to mark the spot where they will be!The Saints Angel Cheerleaders – Will be performing pre-game.Kick Off – 8pm.Half time – Kicking competition in association with ODs Designer Clothing.The match is sponsored by Robinsons Brewery whilst the MatchBall Sponsor is Exact Concrete.Team NewsKeiron Cunningham has named his 19-man squad for the match. You can find out more here whilst a big match preview of the game can be found here.TicketsTickets for the game are available from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park or by calling 01744 455 052. Price details are here.There will be cash turnstiles on the Hattons Solicitors West, Totally Wicked North and McLoughlin and Harvey East Stands.If you require a Solarking South Stand ticket then you need to head to the Ticket Office.Saints SuperstoreThe Saints Superstore is open from 9am up until kick off and then for half an hour afterwards. The twelfth edition of our fantastic match programme ‘Strength in Numbers’ will be on sale.It features an exclusive interview with Lama Tasi and a look back at recent events at Langtree Park. There’s also the latest news and views from around the club, our Academy and community teams. Today’s programme is available on the concourse as well as in the Saints Superstore and is sponsored by Warrington AudiStickers for this match are Andre Savelio and Ricky Bailey.TravelIf you haven’t planned your trip to Langtree Park, then take a look at our Travel Section for the best ways of getting to the stadium.Matchday Car Parking details are here.OD’s Crossbar ChallengeThe half time crossbar game returns with participants having the chance to win £100 in ODs vouchers.If you want to take part email the club at [email protected]