The sister of a disabled man who died just three months after being found fit for work and then having his benefits sanctioned says the government’s discredited work capability assessment (WCA) system was partly responsible for her brother’s death.Luke Alexander Loy, who had schizophrenia and lived in Birmingham was just 42 when he died in May this year.He had been claiming incapacity benefit (IB) for more than 20 years, but was found fit for work following a WCA, despite his doctor explaining that he was not currently well enough to work.He was apparently sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for failing to attend meetings at Jobcentre Plus and not actively looking for work, and fell further and further into debt.After his father discovered what had happened, he helped his son to appeal and eventually – just before he died – DWP reinstated his benefits.But his family believe that by then the damage to his health and wellbeing had been done.On 29 May, after his family had become concerned about his welfare when he failed to respond to their calls, police officers broke into his house and found him dead on his bedroom floor. A subsequent inquest reached an open verdict.The case has emerged less than a month after Disability News Service revealed how a coroner had written to DWP to demand changes to the WCA system, after concluding that the decision to find a London man, Michael O’Sullivan, fit for work was the trigger for his suicide.But they are only the latest in a series of shocking cases which have exposed the harm caused by the WCA, the eligibility test for the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance.Loy’s sister, Natalie Jeffers (pictured), joined disabled activists from Disabled People Against Cuts in a protest outside the Conservative party conference this week in an effort to “raise awareness of the human costs of these policies” and to hold work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith “accountable” for his actions.She told fellow protesters: “He died as a result of Tory cuts. Shame on the Tory party for what they are doing to innocent people who need the support of the state.”She told DNS later that her brother had become withdrawn and scared as a result of being found fit for work and then being sanctioned.Until he lost his IB, she said, he had been in a “very good rhythm”, taking five walks a day, working on art projects at home as therapy, and shopping for his elderly neighbour.Jeffers said: “My brother was loved by the community. He was fine and doing really well.“He had his own rhythm, but it was completely disrupted by being found fit for work and then sanctioned, because it made him feel worthless and insecure.”She said: “My family have paid taxes for generations and my brother’s situation could have happened to any family.“To make the public think that all people seeking benefits are ‘scroungers’ is a misrepresentation of the hard-working-class families that, through no fault of their own, may need additional financial support from the state from time to time.“It is a beautiful core value of British society that these systems were set up to assist those needing help when times get tough.”Loy had been a carer for his mother until three years ago, when she died from cancer, and he was subsequently hit with the bedroom tax because he had been living alone in a two-bedroom council house after her death.Jeffers said: “All these things started to change his personality and energy. He died in debt. He owed the government money, he owed the council money.”She believes that the government’s decision to plunge her brother suddenly into the jobs market, without offering support as he transitioned from one system to another, was “a really destructive way of dealing with someone who was mentally ill”.She said: “We can’t prove the cause of my brother’s death, but we know that the only seismic shift in his life that shocked his stability and impacted a decline in his mental health was this WCA decision. We believe this was a contributing factor.”Jeffers believes that the impact of being found fit for work was worsened by the lack of government support to cope with the bureaucracy around its welfare-to-work regime and the fallout people face from losing vital benefits and being sanctioned.She said: “There needs to be a government strategy to create a supportive culture for people like my brother, which is shared by local authorities and primary care providers.”She said her brother’s health was further worsened by the “vitriol” targeted at disabled people by politicians and the media, frequently accusing them of being partly responsible for the country’s economic problems.And Jeffers said she was appalled by the “vicious” and “despicable” conference speech given this week by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which she said appeared to be aimed at tarring disabled people as “scroungers”.She pointed to his call for disabled people to “work your way out of poverty”, something her brother was not able to do, as a “deeply irresponsible simplification of such a complex issue”.Despite the daily briefings ministers must receive on the impact of their reforms, she said, they still appear to fail to understand the “nuance” of how disabled people in poverty live on a day-to-day basis.She said: “Rather than admitting that the government have got these policy changes to the benefits system wrong, the Conservative rhetoric is getting even more vicious and divisive.“Instead of creating compassion, they are creating a culture of fear and pointing the finger of blame at the most vulnerable people in our society. Shame on them”.A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our sympathies are with [the family], but it is wrong to suggest a link between a benefit decision and someone’s death.“The work capability assessment is designed to look at what someone can do with the right support – rather than just writing people off on sickness benefits as happened in the past.“It is important that people supply sufficient evidence – including medical evidence – when making a claim, as it could affect their benefit entitlement.”
ASLEF launched its new report, On Track With Diversity, today. According to Britain’s trade union for train drivers, only 6.5% of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales are women, just 8% are from an ethnic minority and as little as 15% are under 35.In the introduction to the report, which recommends a series of measures to tackle the lack of diversity, general secretary Mick Whelan said he wanted “fewer people who look like me” – i.e. “middle-aged, male, and white” – in the industry. He celebrated statistics compiled by the Government Equalities Office, which show that train driving has the smallest gender wage gap of any occupation in the UK – at 0.7%, compared to the overall gender pay gap of 18.4%.As highlighted by Labour MP Jo Stevens – chair of the ASLEF parliamentary group – at the report launch in parliament this afternoon, the low pay gap is explained partly by the high level of unionisation among train drivers. In the report foreword, Whelan explained: “Although nobody has to belong to a trade union, 96% of the train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales choose to be members of ASLEF.”However, he also argued that the industry must improve its recruitment policies, and that the report’s recommendations are needed. Its suggestions for train operating companies include gathering and monitoring data, appointing champions for under-represented groups and introducing staff networks.“ASLEF has been at the forefront of promoting diversity in our industry,” Whelan wrote, “and we will continue to work with the train and freight operating companies to ensure that train drivers are more representative of the communities they serve in 2020 than they have been in the past”.Labour frontbenchers Dawn Butler, Rachael Maskell and Jo Stevens spoke at the launch, which was attended by a number of other Labour MPs including Andy McDonald, Sarah Jones, Louise Haigh, Tonia Antoniazzi and Lisa Forbes.“We have got to change the culture of the railway industry,” Maskell, who is part of Labour’s transport team, told the parliamentary reception. While commending ASLEF for commissioning the report, she said: “I am fed up going to events and being perhaps the only woman in the room.”The MP for York Central pointed out that “there’s no shortage” of women and BAME workers in the rail industry. “But they’re segregated in low-pay jobs, cleaning our trains. Why can’t they drive our trains? Until they are driving our trains, our work isn’t done.”Labour’s equalities spokesperson Butler spoke next. She praised Whelan’s leadership on diversity, arguing: “We need white men to use their privilege well.”Referring to the ongoing Tory leadership contest, the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary said: “It doesn’t matter which one of those mopheads wins and goes into Number Ten. They’re not going to help progress quality.”ASLEF backed Leave in the 2016 referendum. But Whelan, a member of Labour’s national executive committee, expressed concern last year that the type of Brexit being endorsed by the Tory government would “leave us in a worse position” with fewer workers’ rights and lower labour standards.Tags:Transport /ASLEF /Mick Whelan /Rachael Maskell /Dawn Butler /Train drivers /
SAINTS have announced their squad for Monday’s Stobart Super League Round 23 game with Warrington Wolves.Tony Puletua returns from suspension replacing Lee Gaskell in the 19-man selection.The squad is:1. Paul Wellens, 3. Michael Shenton, 4. Sia Soliola, 5. Francis Meli, 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax, 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 15. Mark Flanagan 16. Paul Clough, 18. Shaun Magennis, 19. Andy Dixon, 21. Tommy Makinson, 26. Josh Jones.Tony Smith’s Warrington team will be chosen from:1. Brett Hodgson, 2. Chris Riley, 4. Ryan Atkins, 5. Joel Monaghan, 6. Lee Briers, 7. Richie Myler, 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Michael Monaghan, 10. Garreth Carvell, 11. Trent Waterhouse, 12. Ben Westwood, 14. Micky Higham, 15. Simon Grix, 16. Paul Wood, 17. Mike Cooper, 19. Stefan Ratchford, 20. Chris Hill, 21. Tyrone McCarthy, 26. David Solomona.The game kicks off at 8pm and the referee is Richard Silverwood.Tickets are on sale for the game now and you can buy here.Stat Pack:Last Ten Meetings:Warrington 16, St Helens 28 (SLR9, 30/3/12)Warrington 35, St Helens 28 (SLR19, 24/6/11)St Helens 18, Warrington 25 (SLR3, 25/2/11)St Helens 28, Warrington 12 (SLQPO, 10/9/10)Warrington 24, St Helens 26 (SLR24, 31/7/10)St Helens 28, Warrington 18 (SLR7, 19/3/10)Warrington 26, St Helens 40 (SLR20, 11/7/09)St Helens 26, Warrington 14 (SLR1, 13/2/09)St Helens 17, Warrington 16 (SLR24, 9/8/08)St Helens 40, Warrington 34 (CCR5, 10/5/08)Super League Summary:St Helens won 36 (includes win in 2010 play-offs)Warrington won 32 drawsUps and Downs:St Helens highest score: 72-2 (H, 2002) (also widest margin)Warrington highest score: 56-22 (H, 2001) (also widest margin)
WE’RE inviting our 2016 Members to an exclusive Strength in Numbers event on Thursday July 28.Our loyal fans will be able to meet the players and watch Ian Talbot’s Reserves take on Warrington.All free of charge!From 4:30pm until around 6pm, 2016 Members can meet the players in the Typhoo Hall of Fame suite.Fans do not need to arrive for 4:30pm as the players will be up in the suite for the duration.Afterwards, there will be family friendly things to keep you entertained in the South East concourse, and the players will pop down to say hello too until around 7pm.The Reserves game will kick off at 7:30pm with turnstiles for non-members opening at 7:15pm.To access this event, simply pick up a ticket from The Ticket Office at Langtree Park.It is open to 2016 Members only and you will not be able to gain entry to the Strength in Numbers event without one.Entry to the Reserves game is free for Members whilst, for non-members it will be £3 for adults and £1 for kids.Come and meet the first team squad and enjoy some great rugby league action at the Saints!