A campaigning alliance has called for disabled people and their organisations to join its fight to use the UN disability convention to defend attacks on their rights by the UK government.The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) was holding its third national conference in the five years since it was founded by a small group of disabled people’s organisation (DPOs) and grassroots groups.Last week’s conference (pictured) was attended by more than 50 representatives of DPOs and groups.The conference heard that ROFA had campaigned over the last year on issues such as cuts to Access to Work; the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund; cuts to employment and support allowance and personal independence payment; proposals to legalise assisted suicide; and the government’s planned cuts and reforms to disabled students’ allowance.Over the next year, ROFA will continue to campaign on welfare reform, independent living, disability hate crime, employment and education.This will include campaigning on the social care funding crisis; developing a disabled-led vision for independent living; continuing to campaign against Department for Work and Pensions contractors Atos, Maximus and Capita; and developing a vision for community and welfare support that delivers choice and control to disabled people.Tara Flood, chief executive of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, one of ROFA’s founding members, told the conference: “It feels like the movement is coming together in a way we haven’t seen before.”But she said there was still a need to “strengthen and broaden our movement”.And she said: “ROFA isn’t going to be rich anytime soon, but we are rich in terms of experience and history and commitment to disability rights.”Flood called for more to be done to find and work with younger disabled people.She said: “I worry about the cumulative impact on disabled young people of austerity as they move into adult life.“Children’s services are far from perfect, but the reality is things are being decimated.”Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said the conference – which was hosted by Disability Sheffield, with the venue at Sheffield town hall provided free by Sheffield City Council – was “a real achievement”.He said: “When we lost UKDPC [the UK Disabled People’s Council], when that collapsed, DPOs and disabled people didn’t have a national voice in England, and now we do.“Change starts from us, it’s not going to come from anywhere else.“We need to build inclusive, diverse disabled people’s organisations and we cannot do it at a local level, that’s why we need ROFA, a national voice of DPOs in England, to join our voices with those of the representative voices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”He said this would provide a “real voice to fight for the UN [disability] convention” and use it “as a weapon” against a government that “tries to take our rights away”.Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said there was a need to build the alliance, despite there being no funding to do so, and added: “We have a big informal membership but we need to formalise it.”Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, pointed to comments made by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said in May at the launch of Beresford’s book All Our Welfare: “We know the media is hostile to the kind of values we have.”Beresford told the conference: “We must have conversations with each other, we need to think of ourselves as kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have the confidence to go and talk to people and tell them our truths.”Simone Aspis, from Changing Perspectives, said she was concerned about the risk of disabled people’s campaigns working too closely with left-wing political groups and unions, which might not understand or support vital issues such as inclusive education.She said: “It’s really important that when we work with allies we are really clear, nothing is left unsaid, because anything left unsaid is maintaining the status quo unless we challenge it.”Andrew Lee, from People First (Self Advocacy), said: “It’s important that local groups come together.“It’s really important that we have the alliance coming together so that we can build up our strength and give ourselves some confidence.”Roger Lewis, from the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said there was a “huge amount of fear” among disabled people about how they were being targeted, which meant there was a need to be “united and strong” in the face of “any attempt to divide us or any other group that could be scapegoated”.After the conference, Andrew Crooks, development and engagement worker for Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living, which helped organise the event, as it did last year, said: “We feel it’s important for local disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to feel part of the collective voice of disabled people and we truly value the idea behind ROFA, where disabled people can unite and defend our rights together.“They say there is strength in numbers and that is true but for disabled people in Sheffield and all over the UK I think disabled people need to know they are all in this together and can at least seek strength from other like-minded people.”He said that Disability Sheffield feels that it is “fire-fighting” and is “constantly hearing from disabled people who are in fear of their very existence” and “really fear for their basic rights”.He said disabled people were facing the pressures of losing benefits through the government’s personal independence payment reforms, concerns about the work capability assessment, and problems with discrimination at work and access to the built environment.Crooks said: “In Sheffield I think we are now beginning to see the effect of swingeing austerity cuts where Sheffield City Council, with a 50 per cent loss in government support, is now taking its toll on disabled people in relation to social care.”He said there were about 200 people in Sheffield who lost their access to the Independent Living Fund after it was closed and now “see no guarantees of being able to live their lives the way they need to”.He said: “The feeling in our city is that there are moves back to more institutionalised methods of care and people are fearful it’s beginning to affect their ways of living.”Disability Sheffield’s chair, Kate Whittaker, a public law solicitor who has taken high-profile legal cases in areas such as community care, disability discrimination and human rights, said: “It’s more important than ever for us to work collaboratively all over the UK where we can campaign for stronger rights, build the capacity of DPOs to deliver vital services like advocacy and support with direct payments, and tackle the barriers disabled people face to equality and full inclusion in society.”
STOBART Super League action returns to Langtree Park next Friday as Saints take on London Broncos (Aug 31).Kicking off at 8pm Mike Rush’s men will be looking to record back to back wins and continue that form into the playoffs.The action gets underway when the Under 20s take on their counterparts at 5.45pm before the main event.And tickets for the East Stand are just a fiver for juniors.Tickets are on sale now from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or by logging on here.You can also use the Cash Turnstiles on the night in the North (unallocated) and East Stands.
THE success of Rugby League’s commercial portfolio was brought into sharp focus today when Specsavers agreed a multi-year partnership as an Official Partner of Super League.Specsavers, the UK’s most trusted optician, will also be game-wide sponsors of the sport’s match officials.The company’s distinctive logo will appear prominently on match officials’ kit in the First Utility Super League, Kingstone Press Championships, Tetley’s Challenge Cup and the community game.RFL Commercial Director James Mercer said: “We are delighted to welcome such a prestigious and successful brand to the sport.“We enjoyed a very successful relationship with Specsavers throughout Rugby League World Cup 2013 and it is fitting now that they will be moving into Super League and the domestic game.“We are excited about their creativity that they bring to all their ventures and this approach fits nicely with the innovation which is synonymous with Rugby League.Specsavers Marketing Director Richard Holmes added: “This builds on our existing sporting pledge to help the experts to see. Following our great sponsorship of the Rugby League World Cup we are delighted to be able to continue our relationship with the sport.“Technological advancements in recent years have certainly helped match officials but we’re glad to do our bit where we can to help ensure that they get the best possible support to do their job.”The partnership with Specsavers is the latest in a series of commercial successes for the sport, which has seen ALCATEL ONETOUCH and First Utility join as partner and title sponsor, respectively in the last 10 days.
SAINTS are back on the top of the First Utility Super League following a hard fought 32-12 win over Salford Red Devils.Nathan Brown’s men turned in a defensive performance built on passion and stamina as they rose above Leeds at the top.Losing Tommy Makinson, Jon Wilkin and Anthony Walker to injury – and rolling one sub for at least 50 minutes – they kept a good Salford side at bay and scored five tries in the process.Mark Flanagan tackled all in front of him – as did Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Luke Walsh – who was excellent with the ball in hand – and the ranks of youngsters.Saints retained the same side that beat Huddersfield last week whilst Salford had Francis Meli, Tony Puletua and Andy Dixon – all formerly of this parish.But that mattered little at the end as Saints were down to 14 men.The hosts made a good start when Sia Soliola broke through the centre of the field and almost sparked the first try.Salford defended it but Saints came again and Niall Evald had to defend a sharp Walsh kick.But it was the Red Devils who had a real first glimpse of the line.Rangi Chase forced a drop out and then Tim Smith almost unlocked the defence was a cute pass.Saints’ defence did the trick though and on 17 minutes they broke the deadlock.Luke Walsh forced a knock on from Greg Eden after an innocuous looking chip and on the resultant set he sent a wonderful delayed short pass to Paul Wellens for his fourth of the season.Saints lost Tommy Makinson in the first half which forced a reshuffle and then Anthony Walker took a hit in a tackle and had to leave the field.The disruption didn’t alter Saints attack though and on 28 minutes Mark Flanagan’s fleet of foot gave the space for Sia Soliola to barge over.Walsh converting.And it got better as moments later Jon Wilkin’s break was polished off by Lance Hohaia.Wilkin later joined Saints walking wounded with a shoulder injury but they headed into the sheds 16-0 to the good.Saints rolled just one sub in the second half with the impetus on the visitors to unlock the defence.Evalds twice broke down the left hand side in the first five minutes – felled both times by Walsh – but the third time a grubber to the corner brought them right back into it.There was a hint of a knock on in the build-up as a pass from Tim Smith went to ground, but the winger, who started the half so well, deserved the score.Smith converting from the touchline.Saints hit back in the 50th minute when Paul Wellens drew in the defence and sent a great chip down the right-hand side for Gary Wheeler to pick up, hand off, and go in under the posts.Five minutes later Luke Walsh hammered home a penalty and then a sweeping move was polished off by Wellens for his second.Walsh was again involved after a strong Sia Soliola run, combining with Masoe to set the captain away – his 223rd in the Red Vee.Salford got one back through Gareth Hock – one the visitor’s probably deserved – but it couldn’t dampen a great night for the Saints.Walsh capping off the night with a penalty at the death.As it happened: Match CentreMatch Summary: Saints: Tries: Wellens (2), Soliola, Hohaia, WheelerGoals: Walsh (6 from 7)Devils:Tries: Evalds, HockGoals: Smith (2 from 2)Penalties:Saints: 6Devils: 2HT: 16-0FT: 32-12REF: Robert HicksATT: 10391 Teams: Saints:17. Paul Wellens; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 24. Gary Wheeler, 26. Matty Dawson; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Luke Walsh; 8. Mose Masoe, 9. James Roby, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Jon Wilkin, 15. Mark Flanagan, 11. Sia Soliola.Subs: 23. Joe Greenwood, 25. Anthony Walker, 27. Greg Richards, 28. Luke Thompson.Devils: 37. Greg Eden; 2. Danny Williams, 4. Junior Sa’u, 5. Francis Meli, 26. Niall Evalds; 6. Rangi Chase, 7. Tim Smith; 11. Tony Puletua, 35. Logan Tomkins, 10. Lama Tasi, 16. Andrew Dixon, 12. Gareth Hock, 18. Steve Rapira.Subs: 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Tommy Lee, 15. Darrell Griffin, 21. Jordan Walne.
KEIRON Cunningham expects his side to feel no ill effect from their World Club Challenge loss when they face Castleford on Friday.In fact, Saints will be “spurred on” by the disappointment.“It was a bitter pill to swallow but when you watch the game back it is evident we weren’t far off in some departments,” he said. “We let ourselves down though and have things to work on.“I think the occasion got to certain players in the team. I really feel for them, I wanted nothing more than them to do well. I wasn’t really concerned with winning; I wanted them to perform well and do themselves proud for the town. We all felt a little down afterwards.“To do well in these big occasions, the only way to be prepared is to play in them and I’d like to think in the years to come events like Sunday will set the young players in good stead.“Composure comes with age and wisdom but sometimes learning can be ugly.“It was a one off event against the greatest side in the world. Our record before that was good; our form was good so Sunday shouldn’t have any bearing on what happens from now in. If anything it should spur us on.”He continued: “Our confidence is fine; it is our pride that has taken a battering. But we have a good bunch of players who are professional and committed to the cause.“We will want to put in a good performance this week and do each other proud. Some players owe their teammates after Sunday and they will want to repay that.”Saints have omitted Jordan Turner from their 19-man squad for Friday’s game, whilst the fixture is still too early for the return of Luke Walsh.“Jordan has concussion and we have to play by those rules for him,” Keiron added. “Luke will be fit when he is fit. I can’t give anyone a deadline or a guideline. It would be foolish of me to bring him back sooner than he is ready.“His grumbles are nothing to do with the fracture site – everything is good there.”Tickets for Friday’s game with Castleford (8pm) remain on sale form the Ticket Office, by calling 01744 455 052 or logging on here.
A special Good Friday win over Wigan, backed up by a professional show at Widnes, has Justin Holbrook’s men four points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League.With the Steve Prescott Cup up for grabs too, Hull FC arrive in St Helens in good form.They have won their last three games; Marc Sneyd’s 50+ metre drop goal sealing the win over Wakefield on Monday.Tickets for the clash are now on sale from the Ticket Office at the Totally Wicked Stadium, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.