Government ministers failed to show secret reports into the deaths of benefit claimants to the independent expert they commissioned to review their much-criticised “fitness for work” assessment, new evidence suggests.A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) response to a Disability News Service (DNS) freedom of information request shows that seven of its secret “peer reviews” should have been shown to Professor Malcolm Harrington as he was preparing his final report into the work capability assessment (WCA).Peer reviews have to be carried out whenever “suicide is associated with DWP activity”, as well as in some other cases involving deaths of disabled or “vulnerable” claimants.DWP only started collating the peer reviews centrally from February 2012 and Professor Harrington published his final report on the WCA in late November of the same year.DWP admits in its freedom of information response that “there were seven peer reviews, from February 2012 until Professor Harrington’s report of that year, in which the terms ‘WCA’ or ‘Work Capability Assessment’ were mentioned”.The DWP response adds: “The Department does not hold any information to confirm or deny whether these Peer Reviews were shared with Professor Harrington.”Redacted versions of 49 peer reviews were finally released in May this year – dating from 2012 to 2014 – following another DNS freedom of information request and a ruling from the information rights tribunal.But these peer reviews were not dated, and so it is impossible to work out which of them are the seven from 2012.When shown the latest DWP freedom of information response, Professor Harrington, who carried out the first three reviews of the WCA – in 2010, 2011 and 2012 – told DNS that he was convinced that he would remember being shown “such damning indictments of the system”.He said: “I have NO recollection of seeing any of the reviews you mention.“Maybe my brain is failing, but such damning indictments of the system – if seen – should have triggered a response from me. It didn’t.”Professor Harrington has already told DNS – last year – that he believes he was not shown a letter by DWP that was written by a coroner to ministers following the suicide of Stephen Carré in January 2010.When they were appointed in May 2010, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling assumed responsibility for responding to the letter, written by coroner Tom Osborne, who carried out the inquest into Carré’s death and raised serious concerns about the safety of the WCA.Osborne had asked the Labour work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper – who never saw the letter, as the general election was called just days after it arrived – to review the policy not to seek medical evidence from a GP or psychiatrist if someone applying for out-of-work disability benefits had a mental health condition.But Duncan Smith, Cooper’s successor, and Grayling, his employment minister, appear to have dismissed the letter, and failed to show it to Professor Harrington, while deciding to roll out the test to hundreds of thousands of long-term claimants of incapacity benefit, many of whom had mental health conditions.Professor Harrington told DNS last year: “I cannot recall the report. Nobody brought it to my attention that I can remember.“If I had known about that coroner’s report, I would have said that this was something else we need to look at.“I am a doctor, I know about coroner’s reports. Coroner’s reports are something that you don’t ignore.”Taken together, the evidence suggests strongly that DWP deliberately withheld vital evidence from Professor Harrington about serious flaws with the WCA that were causing the deaths of people with mental health conditions.This information would almost certainly have persuaded him to take action that would have made it harder for DWP to fulfil its aim of finding more people with mental health conditions “fit for work” and allowing it to cut its spending on out-of-work disability benefits.The new evidence is likely to strengthen calls for Duncan Smith and Grayling to face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office.It came just as Scottish criminal justice agencies were rejecting a request to investigate the failure of the two ministers to improve the safety of the WCA, despite evidence that their neglect caused the deaths of at least three Scottish benefit claimants with mental health conditions*.Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Sadly, little shocks me nowadays about the callous and inhuman behaviour of the previous Condem and current Tory government, but a failure to pass on vital information to the expert they employed to review their failing policy is more than just total incompetence and is nothing short of criminal.”A DWP spokeswoman said the current work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, did not believe there should be an independent inquiry into the apparent failure of Duncan Smith and Grayling, and senior civil servants, to pass on vital information to Professor Harrington about the safety of the WCA.She said he also did not believe that a criminal investigation was now necessary into the actions of Duncan Smith and Grayling.Asked why DWP did not have a record of which documents were shared with Professor Harrington, she said: “As the FoI stated, the department does not hold information on this matter.“We are constantly reviewing our processes and procedures and have made significant improvements to the work capability assessment, such as introducing mental health champions, and ensuring that claimants who are likely to be found fit for work receive a telephone call to explain the decision and check whether all the evidence has been considered.“It is important we make sure that people are receiving the right support, and they are not simply written off to a life on benefits.“The work capability assessment has been improved dramatically since 2008 following a number of reviews, including five independent ones.”*See separate story
LabourList readers believe that Labour should back freedom of movement after Brexit, the latest survey has found.In its 2017 manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn’s party pledged to end the free movement of EU citizens post-Brexit. But over 83% of respondents to our latest readers’ survey say it should continue as part of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.Although ending free movement remains party policy, frontbenchers Keir Starmer and Jonathan Ashworth have recently suggested that Labour could “explore” the option of free movement of workers.The new survey results also show that LabourList readers want the Labour leadership to support Theresa May’s Brexit deal if it meets the five demands issued by Jeremy Corbyn last week.Over 58% of 5,153 respondents said the opposition party should whip MPs to back the Tory deal if it includes European customs union membership, “close alignment” with the single market, keeping pace with EU rights and standards and more.On antisemitism, 52% of readers agreed with John McDonnell’s stated view that claims of antisemitism within the party are not part of a “smear campaign” against the leadership. Just over 48% did not agree, however.Last week, Luciana Berger – an outspoken critic of Labour’s handling of antisemitism – faced a vote of no confidence by her local party. The two motions of censure were later withdrawn after top party figures including Tom Watson said the backbench MP was being “bullied”.Some called on Jeremy Corbyn to intervene and offer a comment on the motions, but he declined to do so. Only 6% of readers thought this was the right decision, as the majority of respondents said “he should reaffirm that members have a right to hold their MPs to account while making it clear that nobody should be criticised for speaking out against antisemitism”.This was similar to the comment offered by a Labour spokesperson, who said: “Members have a right to hold their MPs to account but of course no one should be criticised for speaking out against antisemitism.”Over 20% said Corbyn should condemn the motions, while just over 2% thought he should express approval. The motions by Wavertree Labour members have now been withdrawn and the vote called off.1. If Theresa May changes her Brexit deal to meet the five demands issued in Jeremy Corbyn’s letter this week, should Labour whip MPs to support it?Click to enlarge.Yes – 58.4% (3,008)No – 41.6% (2,145)2. Should Labour back free movement as part of the UK’s future relationship with the EU?Click to enlarge.Yes – 83.1% (4,283)No – 16.9% (870)3. Earlier this week, John McDonnell said Labour antisemitism claims are not part of a “smear campaign”. Is he right?Click to enlarge.Yes – 51.9% (2,675)No – 48.1% (2,478)4. Luciana Berger is facing a vote of no confidence by her local Labour Party. In your view, how should Jeremy Corbyn react? (Update: The no-confidence vote has now been cancelled.)Click to enlarge.He should reaffirm that members have a right to hold their MPs to account while making it clear that nobody should be criticised for speaking out against antisemitism – 54.7% (2,808)He should condemn the no-confidence motions – 20.4% (1,046)He should reaffirm that members have a right to hold their MPs to account – 16.6% (850)He should not react – 6.1% (313)He should approve of the no-confidence motions – 2.2% (112)The survey was open from 8am on Friday 8th February until 8pm on Sunday 10th February. Thank you to all 5,153 readers who took part.Tags:Theresa May /Weekly Survey /Luciana Berger /Jeremy Corbyn /Free Movement /Antisemitism /Brexit /
MARK ‘Flash’ Flanagan has spoken to Saintsrlfc.com about his delight at signing for the club.The 23-year-old put pen to paper on a two-year deal in July whilst playing for Wests Tigers.And now he’s arrived in the country he took time out to give Saints fans his first interview.“Obviously, when I was at Wests Tigers I played under Royce Simmons and we got on well,” he said. “When the opportunity came up for me to come back to the UK I had a couple of offers but Royce’s and the Saints was the one that jumped out. It was really appealing to me.“In my first season at Wests I didn’t expect to play many games but played in all of them, did well and enjoyed it. I had a couple of injuries in my second season and struggled to get back in the side, but did towards the end of the season.“It was a great experience living and training over there and one I am glad I took. I learnt off the likes of Royce and Tim Sheens as well as the great players at the club. I’m sure it benefitted my game a little bit and I’m sure playing in the NRL did wonders for me. I certainly grew up too as I was living on my own in Sydney.”Flanagan was part of the Tigers side that made it to one game from the Grand Final last season – losing out to New Zealand Warriors.“It was good, but we fell off in the back end of that game after being 12 to 14 points up. I am a competitive person; I want to win things and trophies and that is why I have come here. We have a team that can win things and are steeped in tradition.“Saints did really well last season considering the number of injuries they had. I followed them from Australia and you could see a lot of kids in the line-up. The fact they did so well with an inexperienced side is good.”After speaking to Simmons, Mark expects to play in the loose forward and second row roles next season and possibly at hooker – and like us all is excited by the new stadium.“I have driven past it a few times and it is impressive,” he continued. “It is probably the best of either code in the country and I’m sure the Saints people will come and support us and make it unwelcoming for other teams.“I’m also looking forward to playing Wigan! It should be good. I have some good friends there and enjoyed my time. There’s been plenty of banter and I’ve had a few Tweets from Wigan fans calling me a traitor! It’s all in jest though. I have a lot of respect for the Wigan club and those who work and play there.”Flanagan is pictured wearing a polo shirt from Saints new Trainingwear which is due in store soon.
IN a re-match of the opening round of last season’s U16’s fixtures the Saints faced, and beat, the Giants, writes Graham Henthorne.But there the similarities faded as the Saints put on a solid display to comfortably beat the Giants 44-12 this time around.The Saints were hot out of the blocks with the outstanding Josh Simm, drawing on his experience from his games at this level last year, clearly showing the others the way and opening the scoring with the first of his hat-trick.Exciting centre Mathew Elwell extended the lead after eight minutes and when he added his second midway through the half the Saints were in control.Simm added, and converted, his second on the half hour and the Saints were 24 points to the good.As the half petered out the substitutions started to disrupt the Saints fluency allowing the visitors to creep onto the scoresheet with two converted tries. The last right on the whistle the most disappointing.However, in the second half the Saints resumed business as usual this time with Josh Hadland scoring after three minutes.Simm goaled, as he did his hat-trick try from the restart.Jake Arnold sailed over for his brace a quarter of an hour in allowing Coach Ian Lomax to relax into a victory in this opening fixture.As the half wore on the Saints didn’t let changes or fatigue take effect keeping the Giants scoreless in a great defensive effort.Man of the Match Josh Simm was the best of the bunch but was followed closely by the front row of Ethan Yates and Cameron Hetherington with Josh Wingfield helping Jack Welsby and Josh Waterworth guide the team around the park. Kian Horridge made a positive impact off the bench.Match Summary:St Helens:Tries: Josh Simm (2, 23 & 40), Matthew Elwell (8 & 20), Jake Arnold (29 & 49), Josh Hadland (38), Lewis Dodd (64).Goals: Josh Simm 4.Huddersfield:Tries: David Gibbons (32), Dominic Young (35).Goals: David Gibbons 2.Half Time: 16-6 Full Time: 44-12Teams:Saints:1. Jamie Little; 2. Keenan McDaid, 3. Sam Morley, 4. Matthew Elwell, 5. Jake Arnold; 6. Jack Welsby, 7. Josh Waterworth; 8. Ethan Yates, 9. Jake Wingfield, 10. Cameron Hetherington, 11. Josh Simm, 12. Brandon Scully, 13. Kye Siyani. Subs: 14. Brandon O’Neill, 15. Josh Carrick, 16. Jack Roughley, 17. Josh Hadland, 18. Lewis Dodd, 19. Jack Taylor, 20. Kian Horridge.Huddersfield:1. Ben Tomkins; 2. Kieran O’Reilly, 3. Travis Corion, 4. Robbie Newton, 5. Liam Openshaw; 6. David Gibbons, 7. Joe Scott; 8. Wojtech Begg, 9. Finlay Bruce, 10. Kian Leppidge, 11. Dominic Young, 12. Aaron Metcalfe, 13. Ellis Broadbent. Subs: 14. Benet Slater, 15. Lewis Laing, 16. Callum McCormack, 17. Callum Hartse, 18. Joe Burgess, 19. Alfie Schutz.
Mick is remembered as a solid reliable front-rower, who also possessed great mobility in the loose. He was a member of the St.Helens squad that became First Division Champions in the 1974-75 season. Mick’s Heritage number is 886.A fast, mobile forward, Mick made his debut for the Saints in a Lancashire Cup second round tie at Naughton Park, Widnes, won 2-13 by the Chemics. His fellow prop was Graham Rees, with Tony Waller in the hooking role. Mick was a tremendously mobile forward, with a high work rate who enjoyed his best season in 1973-74, when he made no less than 42 appearances in the Red Vee. He played in two John Player trophy semi-finals; a Championship semi-final and received a runner’s up medal when Saints lost 12-13 to Alex Murphy’s Warrington in the 1974 Merit Competition Championship final.Mick’s final game for the Saints – his 98th – was on 2nd February 1975, when Salford were beaten 18-5 at Knowsley Road and Mick got on the score-sheet for one of his four tries for the club.Liverpool born, on 30th September 1941, Mick trained as a PE teacher. He returned to St Helens to stand as an Independent candidate in the 2001 General Election and at one stage took some television acting roles. Yet what was also to become a real rugby odyssey began with Waterloo RUFC and he turned professional with Leigh in 1963, where he made 166 appearances. He was transferred to Barrow in 1969 before leaving them for St Helens. Switching to Bradford Northern for two seasons from 1975, he then moved overseas and spent much of the 1977 Australian season with New South Wales side Wagga Wagga. On his return to Europe, he spent time in France with Tonneins XIII and St Jacques XIII.A Lancashire county representative, he also played with great passion for Wales, [Heritage Number 294] winning five caps from 1975-79. This also included three appearances in the 1975 World Cup, when his former St Helens team-mates Kel Coslett, Eddie Cunningham, John Mantle and Frank Wilson were also stalwarts of the Welsh squad.He maintained his links with rugby league when his playing days were over, turning to club management and was part of a three-man consortium who rescued Huddersfield in 1988 when the club was heading for liquidation. He persuaded Alex Murphy to become coach, which led to a significant revival in the club’s fortunes. Mick was made a Life Member of the Huddersfield Giants and attended last Thursday’s Super League match against his old club St Helens. Saints’ Chairman Eamonn McManus spoke to him before the game and was particularly saddened to hear of his passing.Mick was a tremendously popular character, with a wide circle of friends throughout rugby league and beyond. He lost his wife Rosemary last June and leaves four children, Michael, Anastasia, Léoncia and Francesca, together with four grandchildren.Everyone at St Helens RFC sends their condolences to his family at this sad time.