The minister for disabled people has invited ridicule after giving his first major interview since his appointment to a senior civil servant in his own department.Justin Tomlinson was appointed as minister in mid-May, but in three months he does not appear to have submitted himself to a single serious interview with a journalist about disability issues.Disability News Service first submitted a request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) press office in May to interview Tomlinson about issues such as the much-mocked Disability Confident campaign, personal independence payment reforms and cuts, and the troubled Access to Work scheme.Another interview request was submitted on 26 June, through the department’s ministerial correspondence email address, but so far there has been no response from Tomlinson’s office.An internet search suggests that Tomlinson has not yet carried out a single interview about his role as minister for disabled people, other than with his local paper and a representative of the charity United Response.But now his department has posted an interview in which Tomlinson answers questions put to him by Pat Russell, head of the Office for Disability Issues (ODI), which is part of DWP and his own ministerial portfolio.Russell asks a series of questions which include inviting Tomlinson to comment on his ministerial role, his appreciation of the ODI, and his priorities as minister for disabled people.The interview was posted on 6 August on the website of DWP’s own Disability Action Alliance – a network of mainly, but not solely, non-user-led organisations with an interest in disability issues – but does not appear to have been publicised via social media, or by the minister’s public relations team.In the interview, Tomlinson says one of his priorities is to halve the disability employment gap, partly by raising the profile of the Disability Confident campaign, particularly with small businesses.He says: “It’s getting to those smaller businesses, like when I used to have my own business, giving them the confidence to take somebody on.“I know for those employers actually the opportunity it’s for them because there is a shortage of willing and skilled staff out there and actually there are lots and lots of disabled people who have the skills, who want to work, who want to contribute.“All the evidence shows you give them that chance, you overcome what often are very, very small barriers, they will be very loyal, very good members of staff, and it’s a real opportunity for employers.”He said much of his role as minister would be “looking at how I can influence other departments to make a real difference”.And he said he could make the greatest difference to disabled people by “directly engaging with them, and with stakeholder groups, so that they can shape what my priorities are, what the government’s priorities are, and how we can change attitudes in society”.He adds: “I am going to be as accessible as I can be, I am going to engage as often as I can.”Other than brief comments about access and the built environment, the only other major area of concern he is asked about by his civil servant is disability hate crime, which he says is an “incredibly important and incredibly serious issue”, requires cross-government working with Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, and will be “a real key priority”.
Month: July 2019
Four senior Labour peers have written to Jeremy Corbyn with their concerns about the party’s handling of antisemitism today – and have offered to help resolve the “toxic and endemic problem”.Noting that three other members of the upper house recently resigned the whip, Labour Lords leader Angela Smith, deputy Dianne Hayter, peers’ group chair Toby Harris and chief whip Tommy McAvoy have described the party’s response to the BBC Panorama investigation as “heartbreaking”.To “rebuild confidence” in Labour’s processes, their letter recommends that the party takes the five following steps:1. A completely independent complaints process that is not open to any manipulation or interference by the leadership or any grouping or faction within the party.2. In the same way as we automatically exclude those who campaign against Labour, we should have a similar procedure in place for antisemitism.3. Whatever criticisms there are of the Panorama programme, we must demonstrate that we take seriously the allegations contained rather than criticise the individuals who made them.4. The governance arrangements of the party must be overhauled. It is not acceptable that the NEC and the shadow cabinet have not seen the formal response submitted to the EHRC. In addition, it raises potentially very serious issues about corporate governance that these two bodies do not see, as a matter of course, regular reports on the Party’s finances and membership.5. The use of NDAs by the party should be ended. Contracts of employment should be adequate to ensure that legal requirements regarding data protection are observed.The peers have offered to “establish a small panel” to review the claims made in the Panorama programme, advise on how to set up an independent complaints process, and propose improvements to Labour’s “governance arrangements”.It has been pointed out, however, that reports into Labour and antisemitism have been conducted before – by Baroness Chakrabarti and Baroness Royall – and yet the resulting recommendations have not been implemented in full, casting doubt on the merit of further such inquiries.Over the weekend, the Tribune group of 28 Labour MPs released a statement that made three similar demands of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC): an independent investigation into alleged interference, an independent complaints procedure with “representation from Jewish community” and automatic suspension in “prima facie” antisemitism cases.Current and former party staffers have also written a letter to the Labour leader about antisemitism today. “The way the party has denigrated and threatened these whistleblowers is is appalling,” the signatories have told Corbyn, referring to the BBC Panorama contributors.The letter poses five questions: “Did you know your most senior aides were interfering in antisemitism cases and overruling the staff assigned to investigate them? Why has Labour HQ become such a toxic workplace? Why do you think your own words and actions have caused so much offence to Jewish people? Why are so many antisemites drawn to support you? And why has this crisis developed only after you became leader?”The letter has gained over 200 signatories, though the list does not only consist of people who have worked for the party as claimed by The Guardian and the BBC but also ordinary members and former members who have not been staffers.The names include former MEP candidate Amy Fowler, commentator Ayesha Hazarika who advised Ed Miliband as leader, former Progress director Richard Angell, as well as ex-staffers Tom Hamilton and Ali Craft.A Labour spokesperson said the party “did not in any way criticise Jewish members who have suffered anti-semitism”, adding: “A number of claims made in the Panorama programme by former staff members are inaccurate and some of the individuals have a clear record of political opposition or hostility to the Labour leadership. The party was not informed by Panorama of the mental health issues experienced by former staff members.”Labour’s regular parliamentary party meeting will be held tonight, but Corbyn is not planning to attend. Instead, Keir Starmer will be present to discuss Brexit. However, backbench MPs have said they intend to raise antisemitism issues regardless.Tags:Labour /Jeremy Corbyn /Antisemitism /Tribune /BBC Panorama /
Saints Community Development Foundation, the charitable arm of St.Helens RFC, has launched a ‘Community Cashback Game’ against the Dragons on 28th April.Tickets for all community groups and clubs are priced at £10 per ticket, £5 of which will go back to the local group or club themselves.Steve Leonard, Director of Saints Community Development Foundation said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for hundreds of people involved in our community game to come and watch a first team game here at the Totally Wicked Stadium.“We are determined here at the Saints Community Development Foundation to give something back to those in our community and hopefully this initiative will make a positive difference.”For further details please email [email protected]