Campaigners have raised serious concerns about government plans to video-record all face-to-face assessments for personal independence payment (PIP).The move, which will begin with a pilot project, before being rolled out across the country, was announced this week by the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton.Newton also announced that the government was planning to extend the contracts of the two discredited companies that carry out the assessments – Capita and Atos – by another two years (see separate story).Newton (pictured) said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would pilot the video-recording of PIP assessments, with a plan to roll this out across the country as “a standard part of the process”.Claimants can already request an audio recording of their PIP assessment, but they need to provide the expensive equipment themselves, and requests are still sometimes rejected.Newton had already told the Commons work and pensions committee that DWP intended to make “recording the PIP assessment a standard part of the process” but had suggested that video recording was just one potential option.A DWP spokeswoman said yesterday (Wednesday) that the actions it had taken this week “show our absolute commitment to improving the service we offer to claimants across the whole PIP journey, alongside promoting transparency and trust”.But Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) said on its Facebook page that “for DWP to admit that video recording of the assessment is needed is a shocking admission that you can’t believe what the assessors write”.In February, a report by the work and pensions committee found the PIP and employment and support allowance assessment systems were being undermined by a “pervasive culture of mistrust”, fuelled by widespread claims that assessors were deliberately trying to prevent disabled people receiving the support they were entitled to.Evidence submitted to the committee by thousands of claimants had substantiated a major investigation by Disability News Service (DNS) into the dishonesty of PIP assessors employed by Atos and Capita.Further DNS reports this February – based on freedom of information data released by DWP to campaigner John Slater – revealed “shocking” failings by the two companies in how they were fulfilling their contracts.Slater said this week that the announcement on video-recording “appears to be good news and hopefully will solve the problem of inaccurate medical reports and bad decisions”.But he said he had concerns about confidentiality, particularly around how the videos would be stored, who would be allowed to access them and what DWP would be able to use them for.He said that current guidance states that assessors cannot use information in their report that has been told to them in confidence during a PIP assessment.But the current consent form for audio recordings says that “DWP may request a copy of the recording at any time”, without the form saying who at DWP and for what purpose.If that was not “tightened up considerably” there could be serious breaches of confidentiality with video-recording of assessments, he said.Claimants often reveal deeply sensitive information in their assessments, for example that they have been abused.Slater said that “consent needs to be clear about what people are agreeing to” and “asking people to allow the DWP to do whatever it wants with recordings isn’t good enough in my view”.He has previously questioned DWP about what happens to copies of audio recordings and who can request to see them but was told the department “didn’t keep records of why copies were requested and what happened to them afterwards”.Ken Butler, welfare benefits adviser at Disability Rights UK, said the video recording announcement was “unexpected”.He also had questions about how it would work.He said: “It raises more questions than answers – will all parts of an examination be videoed? Will videoing be compulsory, or can a disabled person ask to opt-out? Will home visits be recorded? Will copies of videoed assessments be automatically given to claimants?“Some disabled people may not be happy to be video recorded.”He added: “It’s not clear why the option to audio record PIP assessments has not been introduced instead.“This might be acceptable to more disabled people and be easier to introduce more quickly.“For example, we were told by Capita when it took over the PIP contract that it had the immediate ability to audio record all its assessments, including home visits.”
A note from the editor:For nine years, Disability News Service has survived largely through the support of a small number of disability organisations – most of them user-led – that have subscribed to its weekly supply of news stories. That support has been incredibly valuable but is no longer enough to keep DNS financially viable. For this reason, 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 remember 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… Disabled campaigners have warned that a Supreme Court ruling has removed a vital safeguard that protected the lives of brain-damaged patients who have been left unconscious.The Supreme Court ruled this week that families and doctors will no longer have to seek a court order if they agree to end the life of a patient with a “prolonged disorder of consciousness” (PDOC)* by withdrawing food and fluids.The court had been hearing the case of a man, Y, who never regained consciousness after a heart attack left him severely brain-damaged and in a permanent vegetative state (PVS).Y had to be kept alive with water and liquid nutrition, but his family and doctors agreed that it was in his best interests for this to be withdrawn so he could be left to die.The NHS trust that was treating him sought a declaration from the courts that they could do so without an order from the Court of Protection.This was granted by the high court, but the official solicitor appealed to the Supreme Court, which this week unanimously dismissed the appeal.Disabled campaigners have raised grave concerns about the judgment.Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK) said that it campaigns against changes in the law on assisted suicide and does not comment on issues outside this area but was still “deeply concerned about anything which leads to vulnerable disabled people being put at a greater risk regarding their life chances”.Dennis Queen (pictured, right), an NDY UK member, said: “In my personal opinion the removal of independent oversight of the Court of Protection [in the case of doctors deliberately killing patients] is severely damaging to the individual’s right to live and decide.“It could be said to begin to allow euthanasia by the back door.“The difference between removing mechanical life support from a brain-dead patient and removing basic sustenance from a patient with some brain damage is phenomenal.“It’s the difference between allowing somebody to die and actively killing them. “PVS patients can and do recover. The consequences of their brain damage can vary wildly.“People this has happened to are part of our network. We know some people remember every single thing, too.”Queen added: “Death by dehydration is a torturous way to die. Completely unlike instant suffocation, it typically takes weeks to die during which internal elements of the body literally rip open, including organs, the tongue and so on. It’s not a humane way to die. “I am deeply concerned that this is a way they can evade current law on killing live patients whose lives they’ve decided are not worth living.”Nikki Kenward, campaign director of The Distant Voices, a user-led campaign group which opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, said this week’s ruling meant thousands of people could now be “at risk of dying against their wishes at the behest of doctors and families”.She said she feared it was another step on the “slippery slope” towards the legalisation of euthanasia.Kenward, who herself recovered from being in a “locked in” state for five months, said that putting more power into the hands of doctors and families “alarms me a great deal”.She pointed to two people who had previously taken part in Distant Voices workshops, both of whom have recovered from being in a PVS after being “given up on by the hospital”.One recently gave a speech at her daughter’s wedding and the other is now healthy, a father and in his late 20s, said Kenward.Another campaign group, Care Not Killing, said the ruling could affect up to 24,000 patients in a PVS (those who are awake but not aware) or a minimally conscious state (MCS, those who are awake but only intermittently or partially aware).Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said: “The Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent.“Taking these decisions away from the Court of Protection removes an important layer of legislative scrutiny and accountability and effectively weakens the law.“It will make it more likely that severely brain-damaged patients will be starved or dehydrated to death in their supposed ‘best interests’ and that these decisions will be more influenced by those who have ideological or financial vested interests in this course of action.”He added: “Given that it costs about £100,000 per year to care for a person with PVS or MCS, the potential ‘saving’ for the NHS could be as much as £2.4 billion annually if most seek to go down this route.“Given the huge and growing financial pressure the health service is under is this really an additional pressure, no matter how subtle, we want to put medical staff and administrators under?”Compassion in Dying, the sister organisation of the pro-assisted suicide campaign group Dignity in Dying, welcomed this week’s ruling.It described the ruling as “an important move towards more person-centred care, because it means that what’s best for the individual can be decided by their medical team and loved ones, and acted upon more quickly, rather than spending months or even years waiting for a court decision”.Y died last December but the Supreme Court decided that the appeal should go ahead “because of the general importance of the issues raised by the case”.Lady Black, who delivered the judgement, which was agreed by the four other Supreme Court justices who heard the case, disagreed with the official solicitor, who had argued that common law or the European Convention on Human Rights meant the Court of Protection should be asked to rule on every case.The official solicitor had argued that the patient’s “vulnerable position” was safeguarded by having an “independent and neutral person” who can “investigate, expose potential disputes, and give the patient a voice in the decision-making” through a court hearing.But Lady Black concluded that if the Mental Capacity Act and relevant medical guidance – particularly that of the General Medical Council – was followed, and there was agreement among family and doctors on “the best interests of the patient”, there was no need for a court order.She said that, “although application to court is not necessary in every case, there will undoubtedly be cases in which an application will be required (or desirable) because of the particular circumstances”.*PDOC includes patients left in a permanent vegetative state or in a minimally conscious state.Picture by Paula Peters
IN only their first full season, Saints Girls Rugby League Team have been honoured by the RFL by a sizeable number of players being selected for the U14 and U16 North West Girls Talent Pathway.This exciting initiative forms a key stepping stone in the RFL’s new player pathway and is designed to identify and develop players who may have the potential to play at the elite levels of the game.This phase runs for eight weeks consisting of coaching sessions and playing opportunities. The girls will be coached by some of the RFL’s top coaches from the England set up, including ex-saints star Anthony Sullivan, the newly appointed Women’s England team head coach.The coaches will run a skills and athletic development programme for three weeks, before joining together with other areas on the fourth and eight weeks to play. These games are not the primary focus of the programme with the emphasis placed on continual skill development and decision making under pressure.Not to be outdone by their older teammates, the Saints Girls u12s players currently head the North West League, and if their form continues, they face the real prospect of playing the best team from the Yorkshire and London League’s to compete for the title of Champion of Champions, early in July.Any girls from Y5 and upwards wanting to try their hand at Rugby League can come down to Thatto Heath Crusaders Club at Close Street in Thatto Heath, Wednesdays 6-7, and when festivals are not taking part Saturday mornings 11am to 12.30pm. You can email [email protected] for details.
WE have received the sad news that Joe Seddon has passed away at the age of 83.One of the most important figures in the history of St. Helens Rugby League Club for almost half a century, Joe was a chartered accountant by profession and worked initially for Saints’ Director Jim Robinson [Stanley Marsh and Company] in offices in the Town Hall Square, writes Alex Service.Saints’ Chairman Harry Cook recognised his capabilities in terms of dealing with financial matters and appointed him Company Secretary.Joe was also a valued member of the Board of Directors for many years at Knowsley Road.He became Chairman of the club in September 1976, following the resignation of Charles Martin [Tom Ashcroft became vice-Chairman] and led the team out at Wembley for the 1978 Jubilee Challenge Cup final against Leeds.His three-year tenure ended at the end of the 1978-79 season, when Tom Ashcroft took over, but Joe later became the elected Chairman of the Rugby Football League in 1985-86 – a tremendous honour indeed.Born in Peasley Cross, Joe attended Cowley School and became good friends with [veterinary surgeon] John Tandy, who lived across the road.“Joe was a really popular man and a capable and trusted one too,” remembers former journalist Denis Whittle. “I believe he met [wife] Marjorie at Sutton Cricket Club, where they were both members of the Tennis section.” Indeed, he married Marjorie in 1956 and they have a daughter, Helen and three grandsons. Joe joined the RAF for his National Service, during which time he played quite a bit of rugby union.Apart from his close associations with the Saints, Joe was also a member of Grange Park Golf Club; a Chairman of St. Helens Round Table and an active Rotarian. A prominent local Freemason [St. George’s Lodge], he was also a most valued member of Windle Bowling Club for good measure.Yet it is for his work at the helm at the Saints which he will be always remembered and cannot be under-stated.Close friend Glynis Clegg, wife of former Chairman John, a fellow Board member, recalls his “warmth, kindness and his amazing sense of humour. We were close friends for many years and it does seem as though a very bright light has gone out.” Everyone associated with St. Helens R.F.C. sends out their condolences to Joe’s family at this sad timeJoe’s funeral will be held at Rainford Parish Church on Monday January 5 at 11.30am. It will then transfer to St Helens Crematorium at 12.30pm.
SAINTS have announced their 19-man squad for Friday’s First Utility Super League Round Eight clash at Wigan Warriors.Joe Greenwood is recalled whilst Jack Ashworth is named in the ‘19′ after being drafted in late last week ahead of the trip to Hull KR.Saints 17 will be chosen from:2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 4. Josh Jones, 5. Adam Swift, 8. Mose Masoe, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Alex Walmsley, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Lance Hohaia, 18. Luke Thompson, 19. Greg Richards, 20. Paul Wellens, 21. Joe Greenwood, 22. Matty Dawson, 25. Andre Savelio, 28. Jack Ashworth.Shaun Wane will select his Wigan side from:3. Anthony Gelling, 4. Dan Sarginson, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. George Williams, 7. Matty Smith, 8. Dom Crosby, 9. Michael McIlorum, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. Liam Farrell, 14. John Bateman, 17. Tony Clubb, 20. Ryan Hampshire, 22. Dom Manfredi, 23. Lee Mossop, 24. Taulima Tautai, 25. Larne Patrick, 26. Logan Tomkins, 28. Ryan Sutton, 31. Connor Farrell.The game kicks off at 3pm and the referee will be Phil Bentham.Saints’ ticket allocation for the game has sold out.
We’re proud to represent our town and you all and we can’t wait to get the season underway.The boys are working hard in their pre-season, and we’ve been out in the community too meeting as many fans as we can.We’re looking forward to you joining us as we begin our Super League campaign at home against Castleford Tigers on Friday February 2.Plus, don’t forget we start our pre-season match preparations with two home friendlies against:Sheffield Eagles – Saturday January 20 2018, KO 15:00Leigh Centurions – Friday January 26 2018, KO 2-:00For tickets click here.Until then, have a Saintly festive period!Video Playerhttp://www.saintsrlfc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Xmas-Message.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.