The Liberal Democrats have published a manifesto which – of the five main parties covering both England and Wales – appears to offer the most extensive series of proposals around disability rights.Among them are pledges to formally recognise British Sign Language (BSL) as an official UK language, and to enact the remaining unimplemented clauses of Labour’s Equality Act 2010, including the provisions on discrimination by taxis and private hire vehicles.Possibly the most eye-catching is that the party will “aim for the goal” of bringing together disability benefits and social care – including personal independence payment, employment and support allowance, a “replacement for the Independent Living Fund” and health and social care funding – into a single pot of funding, offering disabled people “one assessment, one budget” for all their needs.On social care, the party promises to end the practice of care workers being forced to rush from one job to the next; to “provide more choice at the end of life”, such as having the choice to die at home rather than in hospital; and to offer free end-of-life social care, if it is “affordable and cost effective”.Like the Conservatives, Greens, Labour and UKIP, the Liberal Democrats want to integrate the NHS and social care systems, but seem to be alone in suggesting a target date – of 2018 – for full pooling of budgets between health and care services.Full responsibility for social care would shift to the Department of Health, while a Liberal Democrat government would commission a “fundamental review” of NHS and social care funding in 2015.The Liberal Democrat manifesto also has a significant focus on mental health, through its “equal care for mental health” pledge.Among its mental health policies, it would ensure people with mental health problems “get the help they need to stay in or find work”, while it would continue the government’s support for the Time to Change anti-stigma programme.A string of welfare reform policies that would impact on disabled people include a promise to devolve support to local areas through a “reformed and improved” Work Programme, in partnership with local authorities and the Welsh and Scottish governments, and ensure better support for those furthest from the labour market, which would include many disabled people.It also pledges to improve links between jobcentres, Work Programme providers and the local NHS, to “ensure all those in receipt of health-related benefits are getting the care and support to which they are entitled”.It says it must continue to find “savings” in the welfare budget, but that its priority would be to tackle the causes of rising social security bills, such as high rents, low pay, sickness and unemployment.One cut would come from a one per cent cap on annual increases in working-age benefits, which would apply for the first three years of the next parliament.Although the party says it would exclude disability benefits from this cap – including personal independence payment (PIP) – it has confirmed that this protection would not extend to the main component of employment and support allowance (ESA), or the work-related activity top-up component of ESA, but only to the ESA support group top-up.Other social security pledges include a review of the work capability assessment and the PIP eligibility test, to ensure they are “fair, accurate and timely”.The party also holds out the possibility of scrapping the controversial use of private sector companies such as Atos, Capita and Maximus to carry out assessments, and replacing them with a public sector provider.There is also a pledge to review benefit sanctions procedures in jobcentres, ensuring there are no “league tables or targets”, and introducing a “yellow card” warning system so claimants are only sanctioned if they “deliberately and repeatedly break the rules”.And the party promises to clear the backlog of PIP assessments, “simplify and streamline” back-to-work support for disabled people, and “seek” to expand the Access to Work programme.As part of pledges on the coalition’s spare room subsidy removal policy – known by most campaigners and opposition MPs as the bedroom tax – the manifesto promises to ensure that all disabled people receive housing benefit for an extra room if they need one.The party would also ensure that all existing social tenants do not have their housing benefit reduced until they have been offered “reasonable alternative accommodation”, while disabled tenants whose homes have been “substantially adapted” will also not see their housing benefit reduced.The party promises to make parliament “more family-friendly”, including a review that would “pave the way for MP jobsharing arrangements”, which many disabled campaigners believe would make it easier for disabled people to enter parliament as part-time, job-share MPs.The manifesto also says that a Liberal Democrat government would encourage employers to shortlist all suitably qualified disabled candidates for jobs, and provide employers with advice on workplace adaptations, as well as copying across the public sector the Civil Service programme that offers accelerated progress through the ranks for under-represented groups, such as disabled people.On access, the party pledges to make more stations wheelchair-accessible and give wheelchair-users priority over children’s buggies when space is limited – a high-profile issue for many disabled people travelling on buses – and improve access to public transport for people with visual and hearing impairments.It also promises to produce a new standard for benchmarking the accessibility of cities, and to improve legislation on blue parking badges.The Liberal Democrats also say they would ensure “proper monitoring” of disability hate crime by police forces and other public bodies.And they promise to ensure that the government’s push for its “transactional” services to become “digital by default” does not leave some people behind, by “upholding the highest standards of accessibility in digital services and maintaining government programmes on digital inclusion”.The manifesto also says the party would review the impact of the coalition’s cuts and reforms to disabled student’s allowance, to “consider additional protections for the most vulnerable” disabled students, and ensure all disabled students receive “appropriate support”.Kelly-Marie Blundell (pictured), the disabled Liberal Democrat candidate for Guildford and a leading member of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association (LDDA), said she was pleased to see policies that she and other LDDA members had worked on make it into the manifesto.These include the commitment to recognise BSL as an official language, to take further action on disability hate crime, and to work towards reviewing and simplifying disability benefits, “including the assessments which have caused so many problems since Labour introduced them”. She said: “Protecting disability benefits from proposed cuts and limits on year-on-year increases will help a lot of people on low income, but also moving employment support to local councils, an area which I led on nationally, will help people with disabilities be best placed to find the right provisions and help to find work.“Protecting the Human Rights Act is vital to ensuring people with disabilities are protected in society, and strengthening resources to tackle disability hate crime, are also important inclusions.”She said she would have liked to have seen more of a commitment in the manifesto to incentivise companies to adapt workplaces for disabled people and to take them on as employees.She said: “All too often there are huge barriers in employing people with disabilities, and only through incentivising companies to get involved will we redress this inequality.” She added: “I’d also like to see more on disabled access to public transport, an area which is poorly provided for across the country, to level the playing-field for thousands of people with mobility problems.”Another disabled candidate, Loraine Birchall, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Carlisle, said she was pleased to see a commitment to creating jobcentre “complex case teams”, for benefit claimants who face greater challenges in returning to work or who may never be able to work. And she welcomed the Liberal Democrat pledge to publish a disability and health employment green paper, working closely with service-users and third sector organisations.She also praised the manifesto’s focus on mental health, including the promise of equality of access to treatment.
SAINTS are supported by a number of kit partners for the 2016 season.The club has strengthened its links with existing sponsors as well as welcoming a new company on board.Typhoo continue their partnership with the Club as main shirt sponsor.Their livery is proudly displayed on both the home and away shirts as well as on all our Trainingwear.It is the leading tea brand’s fifth year of their partnership with your Saints.Existing sponsors who are continuing their partnership with the club are:Hattons Solicitors have been a mainstay of the club since 2001. As well as sponsoring the West Stand, they continue to feature on the back of both shirts.Hattons offer a full range of legal services including family law, personal injury, medical negligence and wills and probate.Totally Wicked are in their fourth year of partnering with the Saints.With the mantra of “Change Your Habit, Change Your Life” they provide a wide range of e-cigarettes, e-liquids and vaping products.They are featured on the right sleeve and the back of the collar.MyProtein are Official Nutrition Providers to the Saints.They provide the squad with a number of products as part of their training regime as well as offering our fans fantastic discounts to their range.They will be on the left sleeve.St Helens College appear on the ‘collar’ of the home and away shirt for the third year.As well as the shirt branding, the Club partners with the college to create exciting and unique ventures for college students studying on vocational courses such as photography, catering and hospitality, marketing, media and music.They also gain valuable work experience at Langtree Park to enhance their curriculum and future employability.A-Star Recruitment are a recruitment specialist supplying skilled and unskilled workers for short or long-term vacancies across St Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Widnes, Liverpool and Manchester.They will appear on the rear of both shirts.Roofing Consultants Ltd are commercial and industrial roofing contractors. They have many years of roof refurbishment knowledge to become leading experts in the refurbishment of all types of commercial and Industrial roof coverings.Their logo is on the chest of the shirt.On the shorts and socks is AFEX.They are a trusted global payment and risk management solutions specialist with a heritage that dates back to 1979.They offer a comprehensive range of global payment and foreign exchange services, including Foreign Currency Drafts, Wire Transfers, risk management tools and designated Account Executives.AFEX can handle every aspect of a client’s foreign payment needs, from risk consultation to transaction execution.And finally, we welcome ESRG on the back of the shorts, for the first time.The ESRG Group have agreed a three-year sponsorship deal.The ESRG Group are a group of companies delivering independent and integrated cross border financial structuring specialising in manged funds, providing loan and equity Investment for start-up to new and growing businesses. Dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with the support they need to fulfil their ambitions through our investments.Clients Include:EntrepreneursSports personsProperty investors /developersCreative and Technological SectorLarge Pension Fund holdersDavid Evans – ESRG Group CEO said: “ESRG Group are immensely proud to become the official partners of St Helens R.F.C.“Recently ESRG Group launched ESRG Sport & Leisure, an investment company with extensive experience within the sporting and leisure sectors. It also benefits from the association with ESRG Group ambassador Paul Sculthorpe MBE.“This combination makes sponsorship with St Helens RFC a natural fit. We are very much looking forward to our three year partnership with the club and working on some exciting projects together.”ESRG Sport & Leisure focus on transforming individuals, businesses, brands and organisations through the power of Sport.Capabilities within the group include:Talent & Athlete ManagementSports MarketingActivationEventsBrand & Strategic ConsultancyDigital MarketingRights Representation & SalesSponsorship & Partnership Strategy Digital CRM & Sports TechnologyESRG Sports & Leisure’s current investment portfolio includes – Urban Fitness, Emerge Sports Management, Y – Sport, SportsMed Global, First Sport Management and Kicca.
KEIRON Cunningham was pleased with the 40-16 win over Castleford on Thursday night which lifted his side to third in Super League.After the match he said it is difficult to play sides that have nothing to lose.“These are really tough games to play in,” he said. “When the squads were announced early in the week expectations got higher too. You have to credit Castleford for the way they have played in the last few weeks. They have beaten some top teams and played some enterprising rugby.“When you play against those carefree sides it doesn’t matter (for them) if a pass doesn’t stick or a kick doesn’t find its spot. I felt we dropped into that vicious cycle a bit in the first half.“The defence and effort were there but the moral about playing rugby league is it is a simple game. If you keep hold of the ball, kick it and tackle well and get in the right areas of the field there is a good chance you might score a try.“They came to us in the first 20 minutes, but in the second 20 we completed high and posted some points. We should have kept them scoreless but we brought the NFL rulebook out and they scored at the end.”He continued: “Morgan Knowles and Luke Thompson were a good combination off the bench for us. We missed Thommo last week as he was giving us a lot before he got the ban. He is a real force for us and is coming of age. Morgan is an unsung hero. He tidies everything up; his wrestle and contact is brilliant and he controls the middle of field. He has he bright future.“Kyle (Amor) and James Roby are turning up each week too. We probably take for granted what they do for us each week.“We aren’t in a bad spot. If it wasn’t for a poor performance with the ball in hand at Wigan we probably should be 10 from 10. We are still edgy at the start of games and we have to overcome that.“Now we face two games that are similar to tonight – sides that are hellbent on shaking things up in for the top four. Saints v Widnes games are always entertaining too.”