A minister is facing accusations that she misled t

first_imgA minister is facing accusations that she misled the House of Lords over the government’s “devastating” decision to allow a security firm with “an appalling history of abuse and mismanagement” to run the national equality advice helpline.The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) was set up in October 2012 to replace the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) own helpline, and the government has now handed the contract to G4S.But a report by the House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and disability committee in March concluded that EASS – currently run by the outsourcing giant Sitel – should be returned to the EHRC, “either in-house or as the contract managers for a tendered-out service”, a conclusion that was strongly supported by the EHRC.Despite that support, the government’s response to the report claimed the EHRC “did not express an interest” in taking the service in-house.In last week’s Lords debate on the report, the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell said that government claims that the EHRC did not want to bring the service back in-house were “not true”.She said: “The EHRC flatly refutes this, saying it strongly supports our recommendation, and made clear to the government its concerns about EASS, and its desire to take back responsibility or at least greater control.”But when the Conservative Home Office minister Baroness Williams responded to the debate (pictured), she claimed that the EHRC “did not bid to operate the helpline itself, nor did it propose operating it in discussions with the [Government Equalities Office]”.Asked this week why Baroness Williams appeared to have misled peers, and whether she would be apologising to the House of Lords, a government spokesman refused to answer the question.Instead, he issued a statement claiming there had been “an open and competitive tender process, amongst providers who had expertise in running a helpline”, and that G4S had “offered the most cost efficient tender”.An EHRC spokesman confirmed that the commission had asked the government to bring EASS back in-house.He said: “We wanted responsibility for running the service and we have been clear to government on that.“We have been very clear that we wanted responsibility for running the service, whether in-house or managing the service.”Baroness Campbell told peers last week that when the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), for which she was a commissioner, ran its own helpline, it was “one of the DRC’s prime assets, enabling it to monitor the kind of problems disabled people were experiencing”, while some of its key legal cases “started with a call to the helpline”.She said: “The new contract has now been awarded to G4S, which is devastating news.“It beggars belief that a company with such an appalling history of abuse and mismanagement could have been appointed to provide such an important and sensitive service.”A petition calling on the government to reverse its decision to hand the service to G4S and allow EHRC to run it instead has so far attracted more than 60,000 signatures.And more than 40 disability, equality and human rights organisations – including Inclusion London, Equal Lives, Liberty and Sisters of Frida – have written to the parliamentary chairs of the joint committee on human rights and the Commons women and equalities committee to express their “profound concern” at the award of the contract to G4S, which they said had “earned a reputation for serious, systemic mismanagement and discrimination”.Their letter calls for “a parliamentary investigation into both the tendering process and the suitability of G4S to deliver this vital service”.Last July, the Government Equalities Office published a memo which showed that, of all the enquiries made to EASS, 62 per cent related to disability.Of roughly 2,200 enquiries a month made to EASS since 2012 – the memo revealed – 24 per cent were about a failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person.last_img read more

Greater Manchester Police GMP has admitted that

first_imgGreater Manchester Police (GMP) has admitted that it has a written agreement to share information about disabled people and other activists who take part in protests with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).Disabled activists have expressed alarm at the confirmation, which came despite previous denials by the force and DWP that any such agreement existed.They said the existence of the agreement was a clear blow to the right to protest of disabled people who claim benefits.Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) said it was “extremely concerned” that its local police force was “spying on disabled protesters and passing on their details onto the DWP”.GMCDP said the agreement was “yet another example of the punitive and unwarranted targeting of disabled people”. Concerns about links between DWP and police forces such as GMP – and the impact on disabled people’s right to protest – first emerged last December after Disability News Service (DNS) reported that forces had been targeting disabled protesters taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests across England.Lancashire police then admitted in December that it had shared both information and video footage of disabled anti-fracking protesters with DWP, in an apparent attempt to have their disability benefits removed.Greater Manchester Police then told DNS that it had passed DWP information about protesters taking part in anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss, Salford, which took place in 2013 and 2014, and also confirmed that it had shared information with DWP from protests not connected with fracking.This raised concerns that it might have passed information to DWP about disabled people who protested in Manchester about the government’s austerity-related social security reforms, particularly during high-profile actions around the Conservative party conferences in 2015 and 2017.GMP later claimed that it had not shared any information with DWP about disabled activists who had taken part in the 2015 and 2017 protests.The Conservative party is returning to Manchester for its annual conference in October.GMP has previously denied – in response to a freedom of information request – having a written agreement to share data with DWP, while DWP has said repeatedly that it has no such “formal arrangement” with GMP or any other force.GMP’s press office had initially suggested that it did have an agreement with DWP, before later denying there was one.Labour’s deputy mayor for policing for Greater Manchester, Baroness [Bev] Hughes, told DNS in February that she had “consulted with senior officers within GMP who have assured me that there is no formal ‘sharing agreement’ in place, and that the police act on a case by case basis, sharing information in accordance with the Data Protection Act”.But after DNS submitted a second freedom of information request to the force, a member of its information management team confirmed that there was such an agreement.After DNS asked if GMP had an agreement to share information from various protests with DWP, he said he had “located a multi-agency agreement to which DWP are one of many partners”, but he said this had “not yet been assessed for disclosure to you”.He said that most of the agreement “relates to controls/rules partners must adhere to when handling information”.He later told DNS, on 17 April, that he had “identified the area of the force that is responsible for the sharing agreement” and had “posed your question to them, and am awaiting a reply”.The force failed to respond to further emails – which appears to have been a breach of the Freedom of Information Act – until this week.But yesterday (Wednesday), a member of GMP’s information management team said he would “risk assess the agreement next week for disclosure” to DNS.The force’s press office refused to comment this week, or to explain why it had previously claimed there was no such agreement.Brian Hilton, GMCDP’s digital campaigns officer, said the coalition was “extremely concerned that our local police force is spying on disabled protesters and passing on their details onto the DWP”.He said: “This is worrying on so many levels. Disabled people in Greater Manchester have always protested against injustice, whether this be campaigning for our own rights or in support of others.“This news sends a clear message that disabled people should think carefully before they take to the streets and exercise their legitimate right to protest.”He added: “Are we now saying if you can protest you should not be in receipt of benefits?“Should disabled people stay locked inside their homes in case they are sanctioned?“What’s next? Are the police going to run undercover operations at festivals to see if disabled people are brazen enough to sway in time to the music or, god forbid, dance?”Hilton said repeated studies had shown there was “no epidemic of fraudulent [benefit] claims”, and that the force’s agreement with DWP was “yet another example of the punitive and unwarranted targeting of disabled people”. Dennis Queen, from the Manchester branch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “We would like to see this ‘multi-agency agreement’ to which DWP are one of many partners, because the agreement means conditions are effectively being imposed that disabled people have no idea about, they cannot bear them in mind, make informed consent, and so on.“This sounds like a breach of our rights to engage in political protest to me.”Queen said concerns about the agreement would have “a directly chilling effect on people’s ability to stick up for their rights and join in campaigns, both relating to disability and not.“Given my own arrest for an offence I did not commit during [a Tory] conference this is a personal concern too.”In 2017, disabled activists from the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) and DPAC criticised “heavy-handed” police tactics at a direct action protest that blocked tram lines outside the conference.Queen was arrested for public disorder but was later found not guilty.She said: “Have I been reported to the DWP? Do the police now have a right to find out if I am a client of theirs?“What other private information are they privy to? Did the police update them that I wasn’t guilty of the charges?”Picture: Dennis Queen taking part in the 2015 protest outside the Tory party conference in Manchester 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…last_img read more

THIS game was over as a contest after quarter of a

first_imgTHIS game was over as a contest after quarter of an hour as the Saints had already run in four tries against their overwhelmed opponents, writes Graham Henthorne.The Giants were so desperate to stop the marauding Saints that they had conceded five penalties by this time but still only had the ball for one set.Last year the Levynator and Matty Lees showed glimpses of what we could expect this term but generally off the bench. This year they are the starting props and if this display is anything to go by then we are in for a treat.The Giants couldn’t handle either of them as they busted holes directly down the middle of the hapless defensive line with Matty Lees literally trampling the hooker into the ground.Behind this you had the guile of Aaron Smith, Rob Fairclough and the outstanding Danny Richardson directing traffic. As spectators you had no idea where they were going to go next and the Giants defence were no better as they tried in vain to stop the juggernaut.Regan Grace opened the 19s account for 2016 as he scooted in for his first and then stretched out for his second, both courtesy of quick hands from Ben Morris and Jake Spedding inside him.Spedding then scored one of his own as again hands, this time from Richardson & Fairclough put him clear.This season’s Captain, Liam Cooper, got in on the act with a well taken try after a repeat set from a Richardson grubber. And when Aaron Smith dove over from dummy half on 17 minutes the Saints were out of sight at 26 – 0.As it always does the game evened out a little in the second quarter with the Giants seeing some possession and the Saints having substituted their dominant front row. So much so that the visitors got off the mark on the half hour taking advantage of a Saints knock on.However, don’t think that I’m insinuating that the second choice front row can’t cut it. Far from it. But it does take time to get to grips with the speed of the game as debutants Jordan Olmez and Jorge Lewtas found out but get to grips they did, both contributing in spades in attack and defence.And in Jonah Cunningham we have one of the best hookers coming off the bench to punish weary defenders. On the stroke of the break he did just that driving over at the sticks.The second half was an exercise in keeping going and not taking the foot off the gas.Three minutes in and Morgan Knowles showed everyone that the saints were not going to ease up. Fresh from his sojourn in the First Team he showed he’s lost none of his appetite for Rugby at this level with a typically rumbustious display and a try crashing over the line.Mike Weldon showed he’d well and truly put his injury woes behind him as he introduced himself to the game and the visitors with a big hit producing a knock on from the Giants on their own 40. From the scrum Grace simply rounded his opposite number for his hat-trick.Lees was sin-binned on the hour for taking out the man without the ball and whilst he was off the Giants impressive second row scored out wide to make their total respectable.But as Lees came back onto the field the Saints finished in style with three more tries.Firstly Smith dummied his way over from close range then Lees scored a deserved try from the second row as he terrorised his opposite number into falling out of his way as he powered over.Finally, Spedding capped a good personal performance winning the 80 metre race to touch down Richardson’s long kick down field.What a difference to the opening display last year! The forwards were sharp in both attack and especially defence not giving any space for the Giants to play and behind them the halves dictated the show producing a dazzling display of handling from all the outside backs.The trick now, of course, is to keep it going but putting 11 tries past a big, powerful Huddersfield team is a fabulous way to start.Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Regan Grace (1, 5 & 58), Jake Spedding (8 & 79), Liam Cooper (14), Aaron Smith (17 & 73), Jonah Cunningham (40), Morgan Knowles (43), Matty Lees (76).Goals: Danny Richardson 7.Huddersfield:Tries: Billy Hayes (30), Liam Johnson (68).Goals: Izaac Farrell.Half Time: 32-6Full Time: 58-10Teams:Saints:1. Ricky Bailey; 2. David Eccleston, 4. Lewis Furlong, 3. Jake Spedding, 5. Regan Grace; 7. Rob Fairclough, 6. Danny Richardson; 8. Levy Nzoungou, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Matty Lees, 11. Liam Cooper (C), 12. Ben Morris, 13. Morgan Knowles. Subs: 14. Jonah Cunningham, 16. Jorge Lewtas, 17. Mike Weldon, 18. Jordan Olmez.Huddersfield:1. Kieron Reilly; 2. Jake Etchells, 4. Jake Wardle, 3. Darnell McIntosh, 5. Harry Woollard; 6. Will Ingleby, 7. Izaac Farrell; 8. Matty English, 9. Fletcher Davies, 10. Connor Redgwick, 11. Ronan Costello, 12. Liam Johnson, 13. Billy Hayes. Subs: 14. Jamie Greenwood, 15. Ben Harley, 16. Sam Hewitt, 17. Jon Loke Kirby.last_img read more