The long-delayed release of government figures on the deaths of benefit claimants has added fuel to years of concerns about the impact of aggressive welfare reform on sick and disabled people.The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released two sets of data today (Thursday), one showing mortality statistics for out-of-work disability benefit claimants, and another showing death rates for all out-of-work benefit claimants.Activists had been calling on DWP to publish updated statistics since November 2012, in an effort to prove that the work capability assessment (WCA), the eligibility test for employment and support allowance (ESA), was so damaging that it was causing deaths.The information commissioner finally ordered DWP to release the figures after an appeal by Mike Sivier, a freelance journalist and carer who runs the Vox Political blog.But many activists and commentators warned that the figures released by DWP today “do not tell the whole story”, and would require detailed analysis before any conclusions could be reached.The figures reveal that, of the two million people who had gone through a work capability assessment and had received an ESA decision between 1 May 2010 and 28 Feb 2013, nearly 41,000 had died within a year of that decision.The reports also show that, between December 2011 and February 2014, 81,140 people died while claiming ESA or incapacity benefit (IB).And 2,650 ESA and IB claimants died soon after being found “fit for work” as a result of an assessment.Another 7,200 died after being placed in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG), for claimants the government had decided were well enough to move back towards work.Other figures show age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs), which allow for comparisons between the proportion of those dying while in different ESA groups and the general population.These figures show that, in 2012, those placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of ESA were more than twice as likely to die (481.1 of every 100,000 people) as the general population (238.5 of every 100,000 people).The following year, in 2013, the figures were 532.4 per 100,000 people for the WRAG and 240.4 for the general population.DWP insisted that it was not possible to assume any “causal effect between benefits and mortality” from the “isolated figures” it had published, which “provide limited scope for analysis”.It insisted that “nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the WCA”.Despite this, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith had announced – just three days before the figures were published – that he wanted to scrap the WCA, and said there was a “fundamental flaw” at the heart of the ESA system.Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said the figures showed the WCA was “not fit for purpose”, although it would take time to analyse them properly.DPAC’s statement said the figures “do not tell the whole story”, as they ignore those disabled people found fit for work but unable to claim jobseeker’s allowance because of its strict conditionality.DPAC said the figures also ignore the thousands of disabled people sanctioned every month; those disabled people “portrayed as scroungers by the media”; and the “suffering and the humiliation of disabled people who have to prove their impairment/long-term health issues over and over again to DWP staff who don’t believe them”.The disabled social affairs journalist Frances Ryan wrote in the Guardian that death had become part of Britain’s benefits system.She said: “That is not hyperbole but the reality that the stress caused by austerity has led us to.“Shredding the safety net – a mix of sanctions, defective ‘fit for work’ tests, and outright cuts to multiple services – has meant that benefit claimants are dying; through suicide, starvation and even being crushed by a refuse lorry when a 17-week benefit sanction forced a man to scavenge in a bin for food.”Philip Connolly, policy and development manager of Disability Rights UK, said: “It is not just the charities but the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing who have deplored this medical test for fitness for work.“Now the evidence of the cruelty and stress involved in this test can be seen by everyone else too and not simply by the families of the dead. We need a completely new approach.“This time it must be one that starts by supporting those who want to work to exercise their right to work – with encouragement and evidence-based support, not threats of poverty and inadequate programmes.“And it must be one that disabled people, our representative organisations and health, social care and vocational rehabilitation professionals view as acceptable.“It must be evidence-based. It must link assessment of needs to support. It must be fair.” Frank Field, the Labour MP and the new chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee, said the figures were “distressing”, but added: “The key factor is whether the number of deaths are above what would normally be expected from claimants not deemed fit for work.”He said he had written to Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, to ask if he would answer this and other questions, and “take this analysis further”.The grassroots campaign group New Approach, which is dedicated to replacing the “toxic” WCA with a fairer system, said it was too early to conclude what the figures really showed, and added: “We will go through today’s figures in detail over the coming weeks and respond to them by issuing a further statement when our findings are complete.”Among others warning not to read too much into the figures was Ben Goldacre, a doctor, academic, campaigner and writer, whose work focuses on uses and misuses of science and statistics.He said: “Fit for work assessments may well harm people. These DWP figures do not give us the answer.“Journalists and politicians claiming they can see any information one way or another in these figures are displaying their ignorance and wishful thinking.”He said that the figures which could answer this question would be ASMRs for people on IB or severe disablement allowance who had been reassessed through a WCA and found fit for work.Kate Green, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said ministers had been trying to suppress the figures for more than three years.She said: “The delay and the lack of transparency in publishing this information is a disgrace and has caused huge distress to the families and friends of those affected. “These figures should be a wake-up call for the government. Ministers need to focus on sorting out the assessment process so that everyone can have confidence in it, and providing support for disabled people who can work in order to help them do so.”Picture: A Westminster protest into deaths caused by the WCA
The sister of a disabled woman who she believes was driven to kill herself by the anxiety caused by re-applying for the government’s new disability benefit has called for reform of the “barbaric” system.Diane Hullah, from east Kent, took her own life on 21 April, and her sister is convinced that she was overwhelmed by the pressure of being forced to reapply for personal independence payment (PIP).Helen Young believes the PIP system is a “national scandal” and told Disability News Service (DNS) that it was the anxiety caused by the PIP process and the 50-page application form she was confronted with – three years after applying for it successfully for the first time – that sent her sister “downhill”.She said the pressure led her sister to start self-harming again, and twice try unsuccessfully to kill herself before she eventually took her own life. And she said it had left her confined to her bed for days at a time, and too ill to look after herself. She said Diane (pictured) had told her that the Department for Work and Pensions was “going to try and catch me out”, and was convinced her claim would be rejected and she would be left without the support she needed.Helen said: “Somebody like my sister was incapable of doing it, given her mental health.“I feel very angry about it, I think it is completely barbaric, a national scandal.“If Charles Dickens was alive, he would be writing about the social injustice of it.”It is the second suicide of a Kent woman to be linked to PIP, following the death of Susan Roberts, from Tunbridge Wells, who killed herself last year, hours after being told she would not be entitled to PIP, despite previously claiming disability living allowance.Diane had applied for PIP for the first time in 2014, and had also successfully applied for employment and support allowance (ESA), the out-of-work disability benefit.But her sister said: “ESA was awful but PIP just seemed to take it to a new level.“It all chips away, so the scar is opened up with ESA and PIP just comes along and pours a bit of salt on it to rub it in.”She said Diane had expected her new PIP claim to be turned down.Helen, who previously worked as a manager in the education sector, where she frequently had to submit funding bids, said it took her “three full days” to help her sister fill out her PIP form.She said: “I don’t understand why she had to do it at all, given that her illness was so well-documented by the medical authorities.“I just don’t understand why that has to be gone through.“One can only have quite a cynical view that they just hope that people can’t be bothered to do it, or don’t do it well enough and then have to go through another hoop of appealing.“It just feels like ‘they are trying to catch me out, they don’t believe I’m ill’. She had to keep proving her needs all the time.“It is exhausting and it did make her much worse. It’s just this sort of Sword of Damocles hanging over you all the time.”She added: “Diane had me, and some people don’t have that, and how they manage I can’t even begin to imagine.”The irony, she said, was that her sister had in fact been found eligible for the enhanced rates of both the mobility and daily living components of PIP, but the decision letter only arrived after she died.Young now plans to ask all of the candidates standing in the general election in the South Thanet constituency what they will do about this “scandal” and how they will fight for better mental health services.Young first spoke out about her sister’s death in an interview filmed by the independent local media organisation Thanet Watch.She described in the interview how her sister was driven to repeatedly self-harm by the thought of having to reapply for PIP and knowing that “if she didn’t get it right, she said the wrong thing or didn’t phrase it properly or did something else wrong, that it would automatically get turned down”.Although she doesn’t blame local NHS staff, Young said she believed her sister had been let down by the overstretched mental health system, which was not equipped to cope with the level of local need.“There just simply aren’t enough resources for this area. This is such a Cinderella service. I don’t blame the workers. They are all over-run.“But Diane hadn’t seen a worker since September. She was due to see a psychiatrist on the Monday after she died.”Diane’s psychotherapist, who she saw privately at a reduced rate, and paid for with her PIP, has told DNS that she believes the suicide attempts were a “direct result” of “the stress caused by PIP”.She said Diane had been anxious “for a while” about the PIP application, although she had written a letter of support for her claim, and her sister had helped her fill in the form.And she said that although Diane had a long history of self-harm and suicide attempts, her mental health had improved in the year she had been seeing her, until she learned of the PIP reassessment.She said the suicide attempts were “direct results in my opinion of the stress caused by PIP”.She said Diane found the “unpredictability” of PIP “worrying”, and added: “Members of my team are good at obtaining the benefit for our clients but for someone without this support it is a long and complicated form.“It also infuriates me that letters from professionals who have taken years to obtain their qualifications and expertise are often ignored.”She also said that Diane had received “little support or input” from the local community mental health team, because of the levels of demand and possibly her age.Peter Dunger, service manager for East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service, also knew Diane well, following treatment she had received previously for an alcohol addiction.Although she was no longer in treatment, she would occasionally call him when she was struggling with her mental health, he said.He added: “I spoke to her on the phone once or twice and she was under enormous pressure. She was very, very worried, she was frightened.“She found these processes very difficult and she also found [PIP] quite threatening.“I think it was the final straw.”
Public bodies in Bristol are facing allegations of institutional disablism and racism, after the second case in four years in which a man has been convicted of the brutal murder of a disabled refugee.Friends say that Kamil Ahmad had repeatedly told police officers that he was being threatened and racially abused by Jeffrey Barry, who lived in the same supported accommodation for people with mental health conditions in the Knowle area of Bristol.Ahmad (pictured) was stabbed to death in the early hours of 7 July last year, just hours after Barry had been released from a hospital where he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.Barry, 56, was convicted of murder this week, following a trial at Bristol Crown Court. He had denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He will be sentenced on 10 November.But Disability News Service (DNS) has been told that the Kurdish asylum-seeker made repeated calls to police officers in the months and years leading up to his death, telling them that Barry was threatening him and that he did not feel safe.Friends of Kamil Ahmad have also told DNS that Bristol social services – which he had also told about his fears for his safety – was about to evict him and leave him homeless and destitute on the streets, and only announced that this decision had been reversed after he had been killed.The revelations come four years after the death of Bijan Ebrahimi, a disabled refugee who was also brutally killed by a neighbour in Bristol – little more than a mile away, in the neighbouring Brislington area of the city – and who had also made repeated pleas for the police and other agencies to protect him.A review of alleged failures by Bristol City Council and other local agencies in that case has not yet been published, more than four years after Ebrahimi’s death.Kamil Ahmad had made repeated calls to Avon and Somerset police, which included reporting two assaults by Barry in October and December 2013, and another incident in April 2016.Police said this week that the two assaults in 2013 were not taken any further because of a lack of corroborating evidence, and that Barry had claimed that he himself had been the victim, although he was detained under the Mental Health Act after the second incident.Avon and Somerset police claims that Kamil Ahmad reported just four incidents to them between 2013 and 2016, but DNS has been told that he made many more reports that Barry had threatened and racially abused him, and that he repeatedly told the authorities that he did not feel safe.Three months before he was killed, on 5 April 2016, Ahmad told police that Jeffrey Barry had again threatened him.Despite insisting that he wanted the police to press charges, no further action was taken.A police officer who had arranged to visit Ahmad and his interpreter Adil Jaifar in May 2016 to discuss the case never turned up for the appointment.Avon and Somerset police admitted this week that officers had faced disciplinary action over the way they dealt with this incident.A police spokesman told DNS: “There was one allegation of assault made by Mr Ahmad in April 2016 [following] which we did identify performance issues and these were dealt with locally in the form of words of advice given to the officers involved.”He said Ahmad had reported that Barry had “blocked his path and searched him”, although “no injuries were sustained in the incident”.He said the “performance issues” related to “a misunderstanding Mr Ahmad did not want to take the complaint further after speaking to officers on a number of occasions”, and he added: “After the words of advice were given we again made contact with Mr Ahmad who at that stage confirmed he did not want to pursue a criminal complaint.”He said police records showed only four complaints made by Ahmad about Barry, and added: “It doesn’t appear that we recorded any allegations of threats other than those four.”But Adil Jaifar has told DNS that his friend had made it very clear that he wanted Barry taken to court, and that Ahmad had made repeated complaints about Barry to the police.He said he could not imagine him dropping the case, as he remembers Ahmad telling him: “I want to bring the matter to a court. It’s useless to speak or warn Jeff anymore.”The following month, Barry – who has paranoid schizophrenia, and previously spent time in the high-security psychiatric hospitals Rampton and Broadmoor, and has a long criminal record – was finally arrested, and then sectioned, on 13 June, after displaying sexualised behaviour and making threats to kill people, and telling staff that “Kamil would be top of my list”.But the Mental Health Tribunal later decided that he should be released, and soon afterwards, on 6 July, he returned to the house in Wells Road where they both lived.The court heard that Barry had stopped taking the medication that was controlling his aggression, which the tribunal had been unaware of.Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust failed to inform police that Barry had been released and would be returning to Wells Road, the court had heard.The court also heard that the trust had failed to put in place a plan to support and monitor Barry after his release.Ahmad, who had spent the evening of 6 July with his cousin, had no idea that his neighbour had been released from hospital.In the early hours of the next morning, Barry attacked Ahmad in his room, after he had opened the door to him.An hour before, Barry had phoned a mental health helpline to say that he was not in control of his actions and wanted to punch someone.The police were told about the call, but only a few minutes before Barry phoned 999 to confess to murdering Ahmad.Kamil’s brother, Kamaran Ahmad Ali, said he wanted to know why Kamil had not been protected, and why he had been failed by the mental health services and the police.He told DNS: “That should not happen. They should have protected him. They should have looked after him.“When they sectioned him, he threatened to kill [Kamil] and they didn’t do anything about it.“I want to get to the bottom of it and find out why it happened and how it happened.”Friends of Kamil Ahmad also believe he would still be alive if the police had listened to his concerns.They say their friend was a quietly-spoken, funny, peaceful and generous man, who only wanted a safe place to live.They say that the way he was let down by the police, social services, and other authorities, including the mental health trust, and the Home Office – which had rejected his asylum claim – shows how Britain treats most asylum-seekers like criminals.Avon and Somerset police insists that there are no similarities to the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, and added: “We certainly don’t believe this case suggests an issue with institutional racism or disablism”.But Rebecca Yeo, a friend of Kamil Ahmad, who worked with him on a UK Disabled People’s Council project to create a mural in Bristol that examined the experiences of disabled asylum-seekers, said: “Kamil was failed in getting the support he needed, both from the police and social services.“He was threatened with street homelessness. He had years of being abused and he didn’t get the help he needed.”Adil Jaifar added: “In Bijan’s case, he raised the alarm several times and he wasn’t listened to until this terrible thing happened, and the same with Kamil. It’s the same.”Asylum-seekers are treated with “total disrespect”, he said. “You are vulnerable and you don’t have any power.“The majority of asylum-seekers, they are viewed as criminals.“If the system treats you as a criminal, what can you expect from the rest of society, and that is what is happening.”Bristol City Council said that the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board had commissioned a safeguarding adults review, and that it would “respond to any issues raised by the review”.A spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately we cannot completely remove risk to the most vulnerable members of our society, but we are committed to protecting them whilst helping maintain their independence and we are continually improving practices wherever necessary to help prevent tragic incidents like this from happening.“We do not wait for recommendations from reviews to make changes to help us do all we can to keep people safe.”The council has refused to answer questions about the case, although it did say that it recognised “cosmetic similarities” with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi.But a spokeswoman said that it was “vital in terms of challenging and improving our processes that all of the issues are carefully, methodically and independently examined”, and so the council would not be able to comment in depth until the reviews into the two deaths were completed.Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it had “reviewed and strengthened our ways of working with other service providers, including the police, to improve our sharing of clinical and additional relevant information”, but refused to answer any questions.Milestones Trust, the charity which runs the supported living accommodation where Kamil Ahmad and Barry lived, said it was carrying out an internal review, but also refused to answer any questions.
HATTONS Solicitors have invited all Saints fans to a free event at Langtree Park on September 4.Not only will you enjoy an evening of entertainment with three first team players but also a free pie and pint!The evening is being provided by Hattons Solicitors’ online Gold Membership – a scheme that provides free discounts and special offers to encourage loyalty to their company.Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook, Paul Wellens and Josh Perry will be at the event hosted by Jon Wilkin and you’ll also get the chance to pose the difficult questions.To register and get a ticket for this event you need to sign up to Hattons Gold Membership online, which is completely free to join. Make sure you state that you are a St Helens RFC fan on the registration form by clicking here.You will then be sent a private email giving you the link to register online with.There is no charge for this event but you must be over 18 to register. Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis as SPACES ARE LIMITED.Deadline for Hattons Gold registration is Monday August 20 at 5pm and you will be sent an email to register for a Saints event ticket on Tuesday August 21 at 9am.It’s first come first served so book this date in your diary to make sure you get a ticket. Deadline for ticket registration is Monday August 27 at 5pm.If you have any questions about this event or would like to find out more about Hattons Gold Membership simply email [email protected] or ring 08000 111 563.
ANTHONY Walker gave up a final stitch in his nose to celebrate with his teammates after they beat Leeds Rhinos.The young forward was forced off the field with a nose wound late in the second half but asked the club doctor to finish the job early so he could revel in the post-match lap of honour.“I should have an extra stitch in my nose, that is why it is still bleeding,” he said after the game. “I heard the roar when the tries went in so I told the doc to finish up I wanted to get out and celebrate with the boys.“It was an unreal win. Before the game people were saying we should give it our best and see how we go. But in the camp we had confidence and knew if we played to the best of our ability and matched their enthusiasm we could get the victory. We believed in ourselves.”Walker, a Welsh International, scored a vital try in the first half after Saints had gone behind to Danny McGuire’s try.“I couldn’t believe it to be honest,” Anthony continued. “I got the ball and I was supposed to pass. But I saw a gap and fell over the line really. It was luck but I’m glad I got it!”Saints are next in action this Sunday when they face Huddersfield Giants in the Fourth Round of the Challenge Cup.All ticket details are here and you can buy yours from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or by logging on here.
SAINTS and the RFL have announced a new commercial agreement with TROJAN Workwear.As well as becoming an official partner of the RFL, TROJAN Workwear will launch the ‘Trojan Hit of the Month’ at Magic Weekend and give fans the opportunity to vote on the toughest tackle of the month.The new partnership will also see TROJAN Workwear, exclusively available through Arco Ltd., become club partners with First Utility Super League Champions St Helens and Leeds Rhinos until the end of the 2016 season.RFL Commercial Director Chris Rawlings said: “We are delighted to welcome TROJAN Workwear into the RFL’s Commercial family and extend the welcome on behalf of St Helens and Leeds Rhinos, our two current domestic trophy holders. The similarities between our game and the brand go hand-in-hand with their tough attributes.”Lee Morton, Brand and Sponsorship Manager for TROJAN Workwear added: “We are delighted to join forces with the RFL and in particular St Helens and Leeds Rhinos. Rugby League gives us the perfect platform to showcase our hard-wearing, durable workwear to the tradesmen and SME marketplace. Just like the players, we know what it takes to work hard and tackle the toughest jobs.”The partnership was announced in the build up to Magic Weekend, with both captains from St Helens and Leeds Rhinos Jon Wilkin and Kevin Sinfield.
TITLE sponsor First Utility has revealed the nominations for the Official First Utility Super League Player of the Month competition for August, with our very own Alex Walmsley making the shortlist.The big prop has had another fantastic season and is a contender for the Man of Steel award.And, his performances in August were first class as Saints continued their good form.If you feel that Alex deserves to be the First Utility Super League Player of the Month for August vote here. Mobile users can click here.Each fan who votes will go into a prize draw with one lucky supporter getting the chance to present the First Utility Super League Player of the Month trophy to the winning player.The two players with the most votes will then be considered by a judging panel consisting of representatives from First Utility & League Weekly, where an overall winner will be revealed.Voting is now open, and the August First Utility Super League Player of the Month shortlist is as follows:Jack Buchanan (Widnes Vikings)Danny Houghton (Hull FC)Denny Solomona (Castleford Tigers)Alex Walmsley (St Helens)George Williams (Wigan Warriors)Fans have until midday on Friday September 2 to register their votes for August’s First Utility Super League Player of the Month award.
The Flying Springbok has passed away at the age of 82.St Helens Chairman Eamonn McManus stated:“Everyone at the Club and in the town of St Helens would like to express our sincere condolences to Tom’s wife Leone and to his family.“Tom was one of St Helens’ and rugby league’s greatest ever players: a true great amongst greats. He lit up the game during its great era in the 1950s and 60s. There may be possible debate over who was St Helens’ best ever player but there is no doubt over who is our most loved and revered player: it is Tom van Vollenhoven.“His passing is of great sadness but his life and his rugby career is one only of inspiration and of heart-warming memories. The name of St Helens will always be much the richer because of the decade during which Tom Van Vollenhoven wore our shirt with unparalleled success, pride and distinction.”Former teammate and Club Life President Kel Coslett added:“I was privileged to have played with such a truly wonderful player as Tom van Vollenhoven. But I will remember him in equal measure as a true gentleman and as a good friend. St Helens took Tom to its heart and Tom took St Helens to his. A real all-time great.”You can read Alex Service’s superb tribute to the one and only Voll here.