Disabled activists are calling for Iain Duncan Smi

first_imgDisabled activists are calling for Iain Duncan Smith to face a criminal investigation over his refusal to address a coroner’s concerns about the safety of the “fitness for work” test, which led to “countless deaths” over the last six years.They want to hold Duncan Smith – and his former employment minister Chris Grayling – to account for their failure to improve the safety of the work capability assessment (WCA) even though they were warned that it risked causing further deaths.Tomorrow (25 March), one leading disabled activist will meet with two officers from Police Scotland so he can hand over a dossier of evidence calling for Duncan Smith (pictured) and Grayling to face charges of misconduct in public office.John McArdle, co-founder of Scottish-based Black Triangle, said he believed that Duncan Smith and Grayling had shown “reckless disregard for the lives of disabled people”.He said: “For so long, the government has acted with sheer contempt for the rule of law.“It is time they woke up and realised that the law doesn’t only apply to us, but to them equally.”McArdle said he believed there was sufficient evidence for a file to be submitted by Police Scotland to the Procurator Fiscal, the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service.He said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that Duncan Smith and Grayling had both “knowingly” neglected their public duty, and added: “The facts speak for themselves.”The call for a police investigation came as activists from Disabled People Against Cuts, the Mental Health Resistance Network and other grassroots organisations staged a protest on Wednesday (23 March) in the central lobby of the House of Commons during prime minister’s questions, calling for an end to deaths caused by benefit cuts.Black Triangle and other campaigning organisations and individuals spoke out after Duncan Smith resigned as work and pensions secretary in protest – he claimed – at being forced to make fresh cuts to disability benefits in last week’s budget.Disabled activists were astonished at Duncan Smith’s attempt to dodge responsibility for six years of cuts to disability benefits, and to position himself as a defender of disabled people.They pointed to his refusal – and that of Grayling – to act on concerns raised by a coroner following the suicide of Stephen Carré in January 2010.They said that this refusal amounted to misconduct in public office, a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.On its website, the Crown Prosecution Service says that such an offence is committed “when the office holder acts (or fails to act) in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office”.Campaigners point to a legal precedent in which a police officer was convicted of misconduct in public office when he refused to intervene during a disturbance in which a man was kicked to death.They say that that conviction has strong parallels with the failure of Duncan Smith and Grayling to act after they were warned of the WCA’s flaws following the death of Stephen Carré.So far, the call for a criminal investigation has been backed by many of the country’s leading disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations, including Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, WOWcampaign, Professor Peter Beresford, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pat’s Petition, and the Cross Border Alliance.Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “The political process has failed disabled people, so this now needs to be tested in the courts as the only way of getting justice.”Disabled researcher and campaigner Catherine Hale said the Stephen Carré scandal provided “incriminating evidence of how IDS and Grayling failed to act on a coroner’s concerns over the safety of the WCA, and put thousands of other lives at risk.“We have a duty to bring these cases to light and try to bring justice for the families involved.”When they were appointed in May 2010, Duncan Smith and Grayling assumed responsibility for responding to a letter written by coroner Tom Osborne, who carried out the inquest into Stephen Carré’s death, and had serious concerns about the safety of the WCA.Osborne asked the 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 and Grayling dismissed the letter – according to a draft Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) response that was only sent to Osborne last month, more than five years after it was written – and failed to show it to Professor Malcolm Harrington, the independent expert they had appointed to review the WCA, while also deciding to roll out the test to hundreds of thousands of long-term claimants of incapacity benefit, many of whom had mental health conditions.Many campaigners believe that the decision of Duncan Smith and Grayling to ignore Osborne’s letter led to countless other deaths.In December 2011, a long-term incapacity benefit (IB) claimant – Ms D E – killed herself after being told she was not eligible for ESA; her case was linked by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland to the failure to obtain further medical evidence.In 2014, another coroner wrote an almost identical letter to Osborne’s, again warning of concerns about the safety of the WCA, after the death of a north London man, who also took his own life after being found fit for work.And last November, government-funded research concluded that the programme to reassess people claiming IB using the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.Duncan Smith and his ministerial colleagues have also been trying for three years to defeat legal efforts to make the WCA safer for people with mental health conditions.A long-running judicial review case, brought by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), resulted 12 months ago in Duncan Smith agreeing to develop a pilot programme to test new ways of collecting further medical evidence. But that pilot project has still not begun.Denise McKenna, co-founder of MHRN, said: “During our judicial review into the WCA, the DWP went to exceptional lengths to argue against taking responsibility for obtaining further medical evidence for claimants with mental health problems, even going so far as to appeal the initial judgement that the WCA substantially disadvantages us.“We were shocked to learn that both before and during the case the DWP had received letters from coroners who had found the cause of individual suicides to be due to failure to obtain or take account of further medical evidence, with the coroners warning that further suicides were likely.“We cannot believe that the DWP’s solicitors were not aware of these cases while they were arguing against us in court.“If they were, they have surely withheld important information from the court, and if they were not, we would want to know why not.”She added: “We are in little doubt that many additional suicides could be linked to the DWP’s refusal to allow mental health claimants a fair opportunity to claim vital financial support.“As the DWP continues to drag its heels over making the WCA fairer for mental health claimants, we expect to hear of more people ending their lives.“It is not beyond reason to perceive the DWP as being to blame for these deaths. It is intolerable for this situation to continue, yet we are at a loss as to how to stop it.“Although we continue to fight to try to lessen the harm caused by the WCA, at the same time we recognise it as a mock assessment and want it scrapped.”Rakesh Singh, a solicitor with The Public Law Project, which represented the two claimants who took the judicial review case, said he was unable to comment on the possibility of a criminal prosecution as he was a civil lawyer.But he said that the upper tribunal had found in May 2013 in the MHRN case that the WCA unfairly discriminated against people with mental health conditions, and that recommendations made by Harrington in November 2012 could make the process fairer. He said DWP had refused to take positive steps to tackle the problem, and had since “come up with excuse after excuse for not implementing change”.  He said: “The DWP has still not started a trial of the changes that it said it would undertake and which a year ago the court said ought to happen as soon as possible. “It seems clear that the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith completely lacked any real commitment or the political will to put to an end the substantial disadvantage that persons with a mental health condition face when they are subjected to the WCA.”A DWP spokesman said: “The role of DWP press office is to deal with current departmental business.  We wouldn’t comment on former secretaries of state or ministers.”last_img read more


Disabled people across the country have marched st

first_imgDisabled people across the country have marched stopped traffic and blocked the office entrances of government contractors as part of a national day of action that drew attention to a disability benefit they say is “rotten to the core”.Campaigners believe the personal independence payment (PIP) system was only introduced as a replacement for working-age disability living allowance (DLA) as a way of removing disabled people’s entitlement to support, as part of the government’s austerity programme.They also point to the growing evidence of the “shoddy nature” of the PIP assessments, carried out by the government’s contractors, Capita and Atos, which they say are “making a killing” from the contracts.The national day of action featured protests at nearly 20 locations across the country, mostly at Atos and Capita assessment centres, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield, Norwich, and Brighton (where protesters included retired Paralympian Kristina Veasey).There was also support from the cast of Graeae’s musical Reasons to be Cheerful, who tweeted: “@r2bcheerful cast team are in solidarity with #PIPFightback demos around UK today. ‘No’ to PIP delays, cuts & errors.”The day of action was organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and two other user-led, grassroots organisations, WinVisible and the Mental Health Resistance Network.The largest action took place in central London, with scores of protesters blocking traffic and Capita’s main entrance.They then marched to the headquarters of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Westminster, before they “faced down the world’s media” on College Green, opposite parliament, as journalists gathered to cover the last day in office of prime minister David Cameron and the first day of his successor, Theresa May.Disabled activists shouted out the names of disabled people who they believe died as a direct result of the government’s social security cuts and reforms.Paula Peters, from DPAC, said she wanted Atos and Capita to lose their assessment contracts, with the process brought back in-house, and for PIP to be scrapped and replaced with the old disability living allowance (DLA).She said: “The assessments are abusive and humiliating, so we want them to stop.”Peters made it clear that disabled people’s anti-cuts protests would continue under the new prime minister.She said: “She is just as guilty as David Cameron of the horrendous human rights abuses disabled people have suffered these past six years.“We won’t stop resisting this government, no matter who the prime minister is.”In central Birmingham, protesters – including two former chairs of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) – were outside the PIP assessment centre used by Capita.Sandra Daniels (pictured, centre), from DPAC West Midlands, who organised the protest, said she believed the government wanted to cut the number of people receiving DLA by 25 per cent, and that mental health survivors and people with learning difficulties were among those being subjected to “sham assessments and reassessments”, a process she said was “ongoing” and “relentless”.She said: “I want disabled people to have the benefits and support to be able to be members of the community.“They should be given the resources they need to uphold their human rights and inclusion in society.“They are pushing us back to the margins of society once again. Disabled people are losing their independence and will no longer have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”Anne Pridmore, a former BCODP chair, said she believed the cuts to working-age DLA were “just the start” of a “trickle, trickle” process of cuts to DLA spending, and that the government would eventually begin cutting the higher rate mobility element of DLA from disabled people over the age of 65.She said the programme of PIP cuts “does not make sense. The government wants to get people in work, but if they take their [Motability] cars off them they are not going to be able to go to work.”Bob Williams-Findlay, another former BCODP chair, said: “PIP has had a devastating effect on people’s lives and not only those who have lost it, but people here today who are living in fear of being reassessed.“They know the criteria is so tough that unless you are immobile you are not going to get PIP.”He said PIP had proved to be not only a deliberate cut to spending on disability benefits but also an attempt to “redefine who is and who is not a disabled person”, and he called for it to be replaced with an improved version of DLA.He said: “To me, PIP is the epitome of body fascism because it focuses on the body and it doesn’t focus on the social environment and barriers.”He said he believed PIP contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focuses on removing these barriers.Williams-Findlay said: “Looking at the costs of living as a disabled person, what is it that increases our costs? It’s the barriers.”He said he had not yet been reassessed for PIP himself, but added: “I live in fear that I will get rejected, because it takes no account of reality. Can you walk 20 metres? Can you pick up a bag of sugar?”Andrew Comer, a former committee member of Birmingham People First, before it was forced to close this year after losing its funding, said he was waiting to hear the results of his own PIP assessment.He said: “I am concerned about everything from the [closure of the] Independent Living Fund to PIP.“People with all kinds of disabilities are not being listened to by the government.”Another disabled activist, known as “Angry Fish”, who has yet to be reassessed for PIP, said the austerity programme was “doing most damage, and sometimes fatal damage, to disabled people”, including the unnecessary “stress, anxiety and fear” caused by the reassessment process.He said: “People are having their lives totally ruined by the PIP process and austerity.”He pointed to the hundreds of people every week who were losing their Motability vehicles after being reassessed for PIP, which could cause many of them to lose their jobs, which could then cause their personal assistants to lose their jobs.And he called for a new programme to replace PIP, which would provide a “holistic perspective of people’s capacity to engage in society”.Mark Lynes, another Birmingham protester, said he believed PIP was introduced to “take away support from society” and was an attack on the social security system.He said: “A lot of people have lost their total independence. They are struggling and have lost their Motability cars.”Meanwhile, the former senior DWP civil servant Paul Gray has issued a call for evidence as part of his second review of PIP on behalf of the government. The first review took place in 2014.In announcing the call for evidence, work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb also announced that his department had launched its own evaluation of PIP, with initial findings to be published by early next year.Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said the audit would ensure that the advice provided by Capita and Atos was “of suitable quality, is fully explained and is justified”.Gray, who chairs the social security advisory committee, said the audit followed his recommendation in 2014 that DWP should commission a “rigorous quantitative and qualitative evaluation strategy” to examine the experience of PIP claimants.He said the audit would run alongside his own review and “may help to inform my final conclusions”.Gray said that a “major objective” of his second review would be to assess how “further evidence” was used to reach PIP entitlement decisions which “properly reflect claimant needs and the day-to-day functional impacts of their condition”.This appears to mirror serious, long-standing concerns over DWP’s failure to ensure that the necessary further medical evidence is collected for claimants of employment and support allowance, the out-of-work disability benefit, particularly for those with mental health conditions.last_img read more


Ziplineaerial adventure park to open in Columbus County

first_img The park will offer a mix of varying obstacles, cargo nets, ladders, and zip lines, constantly challenging guests to push their limits.The adult courses increase in difficulty and height as you progress, and can take anywhere from two and a half to four hours to complete. The kids course will range from 6-15 feet in the air, and will not exceed two hours.Cape Fearless Extreme is taking reservations beginning on April 14.Related Article: Deputies search for suspect after fiery crash in Columbus CountyLearn more about the park: www.capefearless.com The park is set on 25 acres of forest and includes fourAdult Courses and one Kids Course. (Photo: Cape Fearless Extreme) RIEGELWOOD, NC (WWAY) — A new aerial adventure park is set to open in Columbus County this spring.Cape Fearless Extreme is a family-friendly adventure is set on 25 acres of forest and includes four Adult Courses and one Kids Course.- Advertisement – last_img read more


Lightning hits at least two Leland homes

first_img Grimes said lightning caused a fire at a home on Lapham Drive in the Wedgewood subdivision off Lanvale Road. A firefighter said the fire was in the home’s attic.The Leland Fire Department works on a home hit by lightning on Pullen Drive in Brunswick Forest on July 3, 2019. (Photo: Kate Cornell/WWAY)Crews from Sunny Point were called in to help Leland Fire Rescue.There’s no word yet on the extent of any damage and no reports of injuries. LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Wednesday’s severe weather led to at least two homes in Leland being hit by lighting.Leland Fire Chief John Grimes said lightning caused some structure damage but no fire at a home on Pullen Drive in Brunswick Forest.- Advertisement – last_img read more


100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina raising funds to send teens

first_img00:00 00:00 spaceplay / pause qunload | stop ffullscreenshift + ←→slower / faster ↑↓volume mmute ←→seek  . seek to previous 12… 6 seek to 10%, 20% … 60% XColor SettingsAaAaAaAaTextBackgroundOpacity SettingsTextOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundSemi-TransparentOpaqueTransparentFont SettingsSize||TypeSerif MonospaceSerifSans Serif MonospaceSans SerifCasualCursiveSmallCapsResetSave Settings LELAND, NC (WWAY) — The 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina Chapter will be holding its 2nd Annual Awards Recognition and Fundraiser this Saturday at Wrightsville Beach.The concept of “The 100” began in 1963 in New York City when a group of concerned African American men began to meet to explore ways to improve conditions within their community.- Advertisement – “The organization was founded with the principals of mentorship, economic empowerment and health/wellness,” said Yusef Abdur-Razzaaq, a member of the 100 Black men of Coastal North Carolina Chapter.The local chapter was established in 2008.“A group of professional men wanted to do more to help out youth in the community so they started the 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina,” Abdur-Razzaaq said. “We have a mentorship program, Saturday Success Academy, so we do our part to help out the youth in the local area.”In addition to mentoring programs for youth, the chapter also raises funds to send students to college.“Our Saturday Success Academy has students in junior high and high school,” he said. “After they complete that program, we help them to apply for college scholarships and we reward them with scholarships when they complete the program.”While Abdur-Razzaaq says his parents did a fantastic job raising him and his brothers, other mentors in his childhood were also valuable to his character development as a youth.“I always had a football coach or someone a little older than me like an honorary big brother, if you will, that can help guide you and give you that mentorship that you desperately need especially at those crucial ages at high school, junior high school to make sure that you make the right decisions that you need to make in life,” Abdur-Razzaaq recalled.To assist with the group’s ongoing mission to mentor teens in the Cape Fear, they are hosting their annual fundraising breakfast Saturday from 9 am to 12 pm at Shell Island Resort located at 2700 North Lumina Avenue, Wrightsville Beach. While the breakfast is free to attend, they will be accepting donations to help with programs planned for the upcoming school year.WWAY Meteorologist Monique Robinson will also serve as Mistress of Ceremonies for the breakfast.If you would like to attend, RSVP through eventbrite.com. The name of the event is The 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina Awards Recognition and Benefit Breakfast and the location is Wilmington North Carolina. If you cannot attend but would like to make a donation, click here. You may also email onehundredbmcnc@yahoo.com.last_img read more


Nokia releases an Asha phone with a dedicated WhatsApp button

first_imgAdvertisement HTC and Nokia have previously released handsets with Facebook-devoted buttons, but this marks a first for WhatsApp thanks to  Nokia  releasing a mobile phone with a dedicated WhatsApp physical button.The feature triggers the cross-platform messaging app which offers a free alternative to SMS texts.Analysts suggested the move would make WhatsApp the text app of choice on the handsets, but suggested it would have limited impact on the wider mobile phone market due to it’s limitation to a few mobile phone models.Nokia’s Asha 210 runs on the firm’s proprietary Series 40 operating system and will be targeted at consumers in emerging markets looking for a cheaper alternative to the Finnish firm’s Windows Phone range and other companies’ smartphones. The OS supports third-party web apps and software written in the Java programming language. – Advertisement – To achieve a targeted retail price of £47 ($72) Nokia decided that the device’s 2.4in (6.1cm) screen would not be touch-enabled.Users have to use its built-in Qwerty keyboard and navigation button to launch and operate apps, so having a dedicated key gives WhatsApp an edge over alternatives on the handset.In addition owners of the phone are offered a subscription to the app for the device’s lifespan rather than having to pay the normal annual fee.Nokia  however refused to reveal the financial terms of the arrangement and said it would monitor customer response before deciding whether to include the feature on any of its other devices.According to a study published by tech consultancy Ovum, WhatsApp is the world’s third most popular social messaging service after Facebook Chat and Google Chat.“WhatsApp is doing quite well in emerging markets, but you have local players who are outstripping it simply because they are more culturally specific and can therefore outshine the US firm,” said Neha Dharia, an analyst at Ovum.Since Nokia’s Asha range is predominantly targeted at consumers in Asia, Africa and the Middle East any benefits from the tie-up will come from those territories.WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and those phones can all message each other because WhatsApp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your contactsInformation from BBC News was used in this Article.last_img read more


Google Is Challenging Every Student To Change The World

first_imgAdvertisement Google is back with its annual Science Fair, with the fifth consecutive year of the program opening the door for submission today. The event is run in partnership with Lego Education, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin Galactic. It invites any students between 13 and 18 from anywhere in the world to enter submissions online to compete for prizes in a number of categories, ranging from $100,000 in scholarships and grants to once-in-a-lifetime trips of remote destinations, or a first-hand look at Virgin Galactic’s new spacecraft.The Science Fair has produced some incredibly impressive winners in years past, including a flashlight that requires only the ambient heat from a user’s palm gripping the handle to power its beam, as well as wearable tech that can provide real-time effective healthcare response to serious problems associated with an aging population and the onset of Alzheimer’s. This isn’t the kind of science fair where you see a lot of clay volcanoes or scale models of how waves are formed, in other words. – Advertisement – Instead, Google’s Science Fair has the potential to actually solve more problems than you or I could ever hope to even assist with in our lifetime. This year there are new categories, too, meaning more potential for world-changing award winners. A live event on September 21, 2015, will see the final winners announced, after regional finalists are declared on July 2, and 20 ultimate finalists named on August 20.Credit: Techcrunchlast_img read more


New York designer sculpts African Wildlife storm trooper helmets

first_imgBlank William has reinterpreted the familiar features of star wars stormtroopers as a series of wild animal armor. Image Credit: Blank William Advertisement New york-based designer Blank William has reinterpreted the familiar features of star wars stormtroopers as a series of wild animal armor. Three species — a rhino, hippopotamus and elephant — have each been sculpted with the same aesthetic qualities as the fictional film soldiers, characterized by glossy surfaces and gilded gold details. ‘the new order’ collection has been realized in two versions, white and black, each which see animals’ facial features warp and distort to suit the style of stormtroopers’ distinctive plastoid body armor. for the ‘black’ set, elephant tusks, the rhino horn and hippo ears are wrapped in a glistening golden hue; in the ‘white’ series, these same parts are coated in a cool chrome finish.Image Credit: BlankWilliamImage Credit: BlankWilliamImage Credit: BlankWilliamImage Credit: BlankWilliamImage Credit: BlankWilliam[DesignBoom]last_img read more


Toyota set to invest and partner with Uber

first_imgAdvertisement Toyota has today announced that it’s investing an unspecified amount of money in Uber through Toyota Financial Services and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership.The automaker also pannounced that it was partnering with Uber around ridesharing.Toyota said in a statement that the partnership will explore collaboration, starting with trials, in the world of ridesharing in countries where ridesharing is expanding, taking various factors into account such as regulations, business conditions, and customer needs. – Advertisement – It continues that there will be new ways to lease Toyotas and then earn money to cover their monthly payments by driving for Uber, and Uber will buy new Toyotas and Lexuses.The two companies will be “sharing knowledge and accelerating their respective research efforts.”last_img read more


LG Electronics says to jointly develop connected car platform with Volkswagen

first_imgAn employee works at a store of LG Electronics in Seoul July 25, 2012. LG Electronics, the world’s No.2 TV maker, said on Wednesday quarterly profit more than doubled on a jump in TV sales but its cellphone business swung to a worrying loss, squeezed by growing competition from Apple and Samsung as well as low-cost producers in China. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won (SOUTH KOREA – Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS LOGO) Advertisement South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc said on Wednesday it will work with German car-maker Volkswagen AG to jointly develop a connected car platform to enable vehicles to communicate with external devices.LG, in a statement, said it and Volkswagen will work to jointly develop over “the next few years” technologies allowing drivers to control and monitor devices in their homes such as lights and security systems, as well as in-vehicle entertainment technologies and an alerting system for drivers providing “recommendations” based on real-time situations.Automakers and technology companies have been forming partnerships in recent years, as the race to develop self-driving cars has created need for more sophisticated components and software that will allow vehicles to seamlessly communicate with various external devices and servers via the internet. – Advertisement – LG Electronics, along with affiliates LG Display Co Ltd and LG Innotek Co Ltd, has identified the auto industry as a new growth driver and has been pushing to grow new businesses amid continued struggles for its mobile phones division.LG and its sister companies last year clinched a deal to supply key components ranging from the battery cells and the electric motor for General Motors Co’s 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car, burnishing their credentials. LG companies also supply products such as car audio systems and batteries to Volkswagen.In the statement on Wednesday, Thomas Form, Volkswagen’s head of electronics and vehicle research, called LG a strong partner and said the pair will work to integrate smart home solutions into Volkswagen vehicles.[Reuters]last_img read more