Three disabled people are taking legal action against a council that has banned them and other service-users from continuing to use a disabled people’s organisation (DPO) to support them with managing their care packages.It is believed to be the first case in which service-users have sought a judicial review under the government’s new Care Act 2014.All three claimants – Haydn Collins, Jenny Bolland and Slade Holmes – have been using Direct Payment Service Users (DiPSU) to support them in managing the direct payments allocated by Nottinghamshire County Council to fund their care and support, and say the DPO has provided them with a high quality service.But the council claims that a long-running probe by its own trading standards department, including, more recently, allegations of fraud against DiPSU, makes the organisation unfit to be providing services to hundreds of service-users across the county.DiPSU, which has been running since 2003, insists it has done nothing wrong and that the council has never provided a shred of evidence for its allegations.Paul Co-Head, chief executive of DiPSU, said his organisation had to resort to legal action twice during 2014 to prevent the council from excluding it from providing direct payments support in the county.It was only a few weeks after the second failed attempt that the council launched its trading standards investigation, a probe which DiPSU’s lawyers, Irwin Mitchell, have described as “frivolous” and “a fishing expedition”.Last summer, the council announced that it was now investigating DiPSU for alleged fraud.It has now sent letters to every one of DiPSU’s direct payments clients, telling them that they must no longer use DiPSU because it was not an “accredited” service-provider.DiPSU says that only five of more than 500 clients across Nottinghamshire have left the organisation “of their own choice”, but Co-Head said the council was “writing letters which are forcing the rest of our service-users to leave against their will or lose their direct payments for another method of care arranged by the council”.One of the letters, seen by Disability News Service, tells the recipient that the council has been told that they are “unwilling” to transfer their direct payments support from DiPSU to an alternative provider.The letter suggests that if they refuse to leave DiPSU, the council could remove their right to receive direct payments.DiPSU says the council has failed to provide a single piece of evidence of fraudulent behaviour, while independent accountants have examined its accounts and given it a clean bill of health.Co-Head said: “It is causing a lot of people a lot of stress, but it isn’t about us, it is about disabled people having the right to choose the organisations they wish.”He said the three DiPSU service-users were now “fighting to have that right to independence, choice and control”, but he warned: “If the council wins this case, it means they have found a way around the Care Act.”Co-Head believes that it was DiPSU’s efforts to protect service-users from the impact of spending cuts from November 2013 that led to a deterioration in its relationship with the council.If the council wins its battle to exclude DiPSU, Co-Head said his organisation would probably be forced to close within six months.He said: “The vast majority [of council staff], especially frontline workers, have worked hard alongside us to promote the rights of disabled people to have independence, choice and control, but we have been bullied, harassed and intimidated by senior officials, and been treated like common criminals.“The uncertainty of our futures is making us feel physically and mentally ill, but we are doing it for what we think is a very good cause.“As a disabled person myself, I believe it is our human right to have independence, choice and control over who provides support for us.”So far, he said, out of about 2,000 clients – employing more than 5,000 staff – who have received support from DiPSU, not one has suffered financial loss as a result of using direct payments, and none of them have been successfully taken to an employment tribunal.He said: “We think we have a very, very good track record.”There has only ever been one formal complaint against a DiPSU employee, he said, and that was from a social worker complaining that a DiPSU member of staff had stepped outside their duties by cooking a meal for a client when a personal assistant failed to turn up for their shift.A spokesman for the county council said it was limited in what it could say, because of the ongoing investigation.But Caroline Baria, the council’s adult social care and health service director, said: “The county council suspended Direct Payment Service Users Ltd (DiPSU) from its list of accredited direct payment support service-providers in August 2015 due to a major criminal investigation being carried out by trading standards into potential fraud involving this provider.“The suspension of DiPSU does not relate to the implementation of the council’s direct payment policy and will not prevent the council from carrying out its statutory responsibilities.“We have had to act to safeguard service-users against potential fraud so we are moving all Nottinghamshire residents who use this service-provider to alternative providers.“There are currently four accredited direct payment support service-providers within Nottinghamshire [council letters to DiPSU clients suggest there are only three].“We are starting to work with the first group of 100 service-users on this move and this should be completed by the end of March.”Lawyers for Collins, Bolland and Holmes say the council’s actions are unlawful because they breach the Care Act 2014; the council’s public sector equality duty under the Equality Act; and the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.They hope to win permission for a full judicial review of the council’s new rules at a high court hearing in Birmingham next month (11 February).Martin Bridger, solicitor for the three claimants, from legal firm Bhatia Best, said: “It’s quite clear-cut that the Care Act says that local authorities cannot mandate the use of accredited providers.”He added: “We are saying the decision is irrational, unlawful and unreasonable because it has been taken too quickly, without consulting with the individual claimants… and without disclosing in that consultation all the evidence to say, ‘This is why you cannot use DiPSU.’“It’s an important case, touching on a piece of legislation that has not been tested by the courts yet.”A council spokesman said: “A claim for judicial review was issued on behalf of three direct payment recipients in September 2015 seeking to challenge the council’s decision to require direct payment recipients receiving services from DiPSU to move to an alternative support service-provider. “The council took the decision to safeguard vulnerable people from potential fraud and to protect public funds and stands by that decision.“Permission to proceed with the claim was refused by the court in November 2015.“However, the claimants have requested that the court reconsider the issue of permission. This request will be considered by the court in February 2016.“As is always the case, we will work with the individual people affected by the change and consider all options available to ensure there is minimum disruption to the care and support they receive.“We are committed as an authority to facilitating choice and control and as an authority have amongst the highest rates of direct payments in the country.”Picture: Paul Co-Head (left) and wife Julie accept a customer service award at a business awards event in 2011
The government has finally announced the date when it will bring into force regulations that will ban taxi drivers from discriminating against wheelchair-users, more than 20 years after they were first included in legislation.From 6 April, taxi and private hire vehicle drivers will face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to accept wheelchair-users, try to charge them extra, or fail to provide them with appropriate assistance.The announcement has been seen as a success for a committee of peers that called for the move last year.Successive Labour, coalition and Conservative governments have refused to bring the measures into force, since they were included in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and then incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.But the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, which included several disabled peers among its members, and reported last March on the impact of equality laws on disabled people, called in its report for the measures to be implemented.The government had spoken in evidence to the committee about the “burden” on taxi drivers of bringing the regulations into force.But the committee concluded that the government’s excuses for failing to bring sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act into force were “entirely unconvincing” and that ministers “should be considering the burden on disabled people trying to take taxis, not the burden on taxi owners or drivers”. Seven weeks later, in May last year, transport minister Andrew Jones announced that the two sections would finally come into force.He announced this week that that would happen on 6 April.Baroness [Celia] Thomas (pictured), the disabled Liberal Democrat peer whose idea it was to set up the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, said: “At long last the law will change from 6 April, and life will become a little bit easier for many disabled people who have to use taxis.“It is nearly a year since the government promised this in response to the House of Lords’ Equality Act 2010 and disability committee report, and shows how a committee’s recommendation can finally spur the government into long overdue action.”Baroness [Jane] Campbell, the disabled crossbench peer, who also sat on the committee, said: “I have been regularly reminding the government to switch on the taxi regulations to make it illegal to ignore disabled passengers, leaving them sitting at the roadside, since we launched our report last April.“I guess it shows persistence pays. So, for fear of sounding ungrateful – at last!”The government will be consulting on a draft accessibility action plan later this year, which will seek to address the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing all types of public transport.Jones said in a statement: “We want to build a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel.“People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”The new rules will apply in England, Wales and Scotland and will affect vehicles that are designated as wheelchair-accessible, and will apply to both taxis and private hire vehicles.As well as fines of up to £1,000, drivers could also face having their taxi or private hire vehicle licences suspended or revoked.
A user-led network has raised new concerns about the approach being taken by those leading a review of a key piece of mental health legislation on behalf of the government, just weeks before they are due to publish their recommendations.The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) has released a letter it has sent to the chair and vice-chairs of the review of the Mental Health Act 1983, which raises serious concerns about their failure to consider an adequate human rights approach to reform of the act.The NSUN letter highlights the continuing disquiet of the network and a wide range of other user-led organisations, service-users and allies about the review’s approach, following an earlier letter and a meeting with leaders of the review in July.Their concerns include the “lack of concrete evidence” that service-users and carers are having an adequate influence on the review, including the failure to hear from enough people who have experienced detention, and an under-representation of service-users and carers in key working groups.They are also concerned at the “unwillingness” of the chair and vice-chairs to consider recommending the full implementation of the rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).A full implementation of the convention would include bringing an end to “detentions, substitute decision-making [appointing someone to make decisions on behalf of a service-user, rather than providing them with support to make the decision themselves] and compulsory treatment”.The letter from Dr Sarah Carr, NSUN’s acting chair, and Sarah Yiannoullou, its managing director, says they continue to have “serious misgivings” about the review and the recommendations it will make to the government, which are expected next month.More than 120 organisations and individuals – led by NSUN – first wrote to the review in May to raise alarm about its reluctance to recommend full rights that comply with the UNCRPD.A further 17 organisations and individuals have since added their names to the concerns being raised.The first letter included a call on the review to address the concerns raised by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, after it investigated the UK’s implementation of the UN disability convention last year.The UN committee said in the “concluding observations” to its examination of the UK that the government should “repeal legislation and practices that authorise non-consensual involuntary, compulsory treatment” and the detention of disabled people “on the basis of actual or perceived impairment”.But Carr and Yiannoullou believe that the review team, led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, has failed to change its approach since July’s meeting.They are alarmed that the review’s recommendations are due to be published next month, and could form the basis for the last major reform of mental health legislation for many years.Carr and Yiannoullou ask the review in their letter to consider a number of recommendations, including services that would be needed if there was to be compliance with the UN convention, such as an “extensive expansion of community-based and community-led resources” and a sharp increase in services that are user-led and appropriate for marginalised communities.They also want to see widely-available peer advocacy and a “significant rise” in the number of resources that service-users have found particularly therapeutic, such as crisis houses or refuges available to service-users as an alternative to hospital.In response to the NSUN letter, Wessely said: “Engaging with service users and carers has been a consistent priority for the review as we work towards our final report due out in December.“One of my vice-chairs, Steve Gilbert, is a mental health service user and has a critical role in influencing and shaping of all our work.“We have service users and carers within our advisory panel and each of the 18 specialist topic groups we ran over the summer.“We have a standing service user and carer group, which consists of people with a range of lived experience – both past and present; who we have met with regularly and who have robustly challenged our emerging thinking.”He said the review team had also held more than 50 focus groups across England and Wales since the start of the year, to hear from people with direct experience of the act, including those currently detained in a variety of settings.There have been more than 2,000 responses to a survey of people with lived experience, and eight workshops, each involving about 100 attendees.Wessely also pointed to blogs by Sarah Markham, a member of the service user and carer group, posted in July and August, in which she praised the efforts of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the review team to ensure that service-users contribute to the review.DHSC said the review of the Mental Health Act “will consider the reasons for rising rates of detention under the act, how to reduce the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups detained and how to improve processes that are out of step with a modern mental health care system”.Picture: NSUN members discuss the Mental Health Act at last year’s agm 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…
PAUL Wellens has urged his teammates not to get too carried away with the victory over Wigan.Speaking after scoring a brace in the Playoff win over the Warriors he said there was belief and confidence in the camp that they could win the competition – but hard work lay ahead.“It was a tough encounter and was very physical,” he said. “I was very pleased with the guys and I thought we performed very well.“We were pleased with how the game went but I know there are a few things I can do better. Although we had a good performance I know we can improve. We have the belief we can go on and win this competition and the win was a huge boost to the team.“We’ve been upping the ante in training over the last few weeks with a lot of extra fitness work and hopefully that is starting to pay off. We got beat on the buzzer on Good Friday and I think towards the back end of Sunday’s game that might have been in the back of our minds.“We knew Wigan are a quality side and will keep coming back at you – but we remained focussed for 80 minutes. It wasn’t pretty at times and we were kinda all over the shop in defence too. But the guys kept turning up and making crucial tackles. That is what you want at this stage of the season.”He continued: “We now have a week off which is important, but not massively. We know we will have another tough game in a couple of weeks and Wigan, Catalans, Leeds or Huddersfield will be tough to face.“It will be nice to sit in the armchair to watch them battle. Our training this week will be focussed on playing well in a couple of weeks.“It is the first time this season we have beaten a team in the top two which is great for the youngsters in the side. We know we are capable of beating these sides and can go on and win the comp.“But we can’t get carried away and the hard work must continue.”
THE latest edition of the In Touch Podcast is now available to download.It’s packed with the latest from the club and this week includes reaction from our tie up with Typhoo and a preview of the clash with Wigan.We speak to Ben Fogle – the TV personality – as well as the chief executive of Typhoo Keith Packer.Elsewhere, Jon Wilkin and Nathan Brown talk about Monday’s clash with Wigan and Nigel Wood explains the process behind the Super League restructure.To listen click here or search for St Helens RFC on iTunes.Remember if you want a question answering on the Podcast drop us a line @saints1890 on Twitter or email [email protected] podcast is in association with Citytalk 105.9.
LOCAL sides Thatto Heath Crusaders and Pilkington Recs learnt their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup first round fates today.Thatto will host Hunslet Club Parkside whilst Pilkington Recs face a trip to Stanningley.First round ties will played over the weekend of January 30 – 31.2016 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup First Round Draw:London Chargers v Shaw Cross SharksThatto Heath Crusaders v Hunslet Club ParksideAberdeen Warriors v Northumbria UniversityStanningley v Pilkington RecsNormanton Knights v DistingtonThe Army v SiddalWest Bowling v Lock LaneLeigh Miners Rangers v Underbank RangersEast Leeds v Oulton RaidersMillom v University of HullRoyal Navy v Featherstone LionsWidnes West Bank v Rochdale MayfieldWath Brow Hornets v Royal Air ForceHull Dockers v Thornhill TrojansEgremont Rangers v Blue BullsWest Hull v Great Britain PoliceKells v Nottingham OutlawsYork Acorn v Sharlston Rovers