A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of an “appalling” attack on press freedom and disabled people’s rights after blocking a request by Disability News Service (DNS) to interview staff in one of its jobcentres.A leaked memo in May revealed that DWP was inviting journalists from across the country into jobcentres to try to persuade them to paint a more positive picture of its new universal credit (UC) benefit system.The memo revealed the department’s “frustration” at the negative media portrayal of its work, particularly around coverage of UC, as well as its plans to run a series of misleading adverts in the Metro free newspaper that would “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.The memo spoke of “negativity and scaremongering” by journalists and said that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) had written to “a wide range of journalists at regional and national publications, asking them to come and see for themselves the great work we do”.Many of the articles that resulted, particularly those that have appeared in local newspapers owned by Reach, the largest national and regional news publisher in the UK, were criticised by disabled activists for allowing jobcentre staff to praise the local impact of universal credit and to either dismiss or ignore its well-publicised flaws.Following the release of the memo, and the string of positive articles that followed, DNS asked DWP’s press office to arrange a visit to a local jobcentre.This would have allowed DNS to interview frontline civil servants about UC, as well as the much-criticised work capability assessment, links between DWP failings and the deaths of benefit claimants*, and efforts by jobcentre staff to support disabled people into work.But now, more than a month after the request was submitted, DWP has turned down the DNS request.A spokesperson said: “Unfortunately we won’t be able to accommodate your request for a jobcentre visit at this stage.“Visits from journalists are time intensive for our jobcentre staff and we’ve therefore focused on hosting visits for newspapers only at this time.“We hope to open up jobcentre visits to online only outlets** in the future.”Natasha Hirst, the disabled members’ representative on the national executive council of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)***, said DWP’s decision risked “compounding the lack of trust in their ‘mythbuster’ PR campaign if they obstruct access to journalists who have been critical of their policies in the past.“NUJ members abide by a code of conduct to report ethically and accurately and it is vital to a well-functioning democracy that journalists are able to scrutinise the workings of government institutions.”She added: “If the DWP are confident enough that their policies and practices are improving people’s lives, then providing access to DNS would lend an opportunity to showcase good work and reach directly to their target audience.“Otherwise, this looks like an effort to impede press freedom.”A spokesperson for Sheffield Disabled People Against Cuts, the grassroots group which obtained the leaked memo, said: “Once again the DWP are moving the goalposts in order to spin their lies and keep disabled people in the dark about what is happening with universal credit; this time it’s journalists on the receiving end.“Disabled people very often have difficulty getting access to print editions of newspapers so rely on online news sources such as DNS for reports about universal credit that we have a right to access.“We think that the DWP may once again be breaching the rights of disabled people by denying DNS and other similar platforms access to jobcentres.“This is quite simply an extension of the hostile environment towards disabled people.”A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts added: “To say that we were shocked that DNS were denied access would be a lie – it’s exactly what we would expect from an organisation that distorts the truth so routinely that they were never likely to allow a disabled journalist anywhere where they might ask inconvenient questions of jobcentre staff.”One well-known disabled activist, who tweets as @imajsaclaimant, said it was an “appalling” decision from DWP, which clearly only wanted to allow journalists to visit its jobcentres if they were “from publications that will give them an article that paints DWP in a positive light”.He said DWP was “attempting to very tightly control the narrative” and the refusal to allow DNS to question jobcentre staff “reinforces what we’ve always known about DWP, that they are a terrible organisation that treats everyone with contempt.“By denying journalists who are critical they are preventing accountability, which is what this government has avoided again and again.”DWP is already facing an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority into what critics say are the misleading adverts about UC that are appearing in the Metro.Disabled activists have repeatedly warned about the impact on disabled people of UC – which combines six income-related benefits into one – and say it is “toxic” and “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of foodbank use.Earlier this month, DNS revealed that DWP had admitted an “extraordinary” failure over nearly a decade to carry out any detailed calculations on how UC would affect different groups of disabled people.Meanwhile, the DWP spokesperson also appeared to admit this week that its press office had been making a deliberate decision not to send press releases to DNS.When asked why DWP had stopped sending its releases to DNS, she said the press office usually sends them to journalists “on a case-by-case basis”.She said DWP press releases can also be found on the government website, but she added: “I have noted your request to receive our press releases, and I will send on those that we think you will find of interest.”**Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here if you would like to see a debate in the House of Commons on calls for an independent inquiry into links between DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants. If you sign the petition, please note you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee**DNS is a news agency, not an “online only outlet”***John Pring, editor of DNS, is an NUJ member
THE FOUNDER Members heard from new signings Atelea Vea and Travis Burns alongside club legend Eric Chisnall at a special event last night.Hosted by Mike Bennett, more than 120 fans listened to the new duo preview the forthcoming season and tell stories from their former clubs.Eric Chisnall compared the modern day to when he played and also explained to the audience his work with the Academy.The Super League trophy and League Leaders’ Shield were also on diplay for pictures.There were also a few cheeky stories there are definitely unprintable here!We’d like to thank all the Founder Members who came out last night.
ALEX Walmsley has spoken of the ‘drug’ of success and the fact he wants more this season.Fresh from a Championship winning 2014 and an intensive pre-season Saints are now preparing to host Catalan in their first game of the First Utility Super League.And the big prop knows the Dragons and the other 10 teams in the comp will be gunning for them.“We are going into the new season as Champions and that will make it tougher,” he said. “We will have to take the intensity of pre-season forward and raise our game.“You always need to test yourself in pre-season and we have had tough games. Players wanted to impress the coach and I have to say the squad looks as good as it has ever been – certainly since I have been here.“The boys have got bigger and stronger and coupled with a strong pre-season, that will stand is in good stead.”He continues: “A few of the boys missed out on the Grand Final because of injury and you could see on their faces what it meant to them. It showed what this sport means to them.“To finish it off without those players made it more special. Everyone wrote us off and that made it more special. We knew we could compete and that would give us a real chance.“It’s like a drug, an addiction, especially for the boys that went there for the first time. It was an unbelievable feeling.“You saw what it meant to the senior players to play in those games, even though some of them have been in a few. It is the pinnacle of rugby league and something we want to do again.”Tickets for the home opener against Catalan are on sale from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.
What’s On:Red Vee Cafe Bar – Opens at 12pm.Turnstiles – Open at 1.45pm.Club Face Painters – These will once again be operating in the Hattons Solicitors Family Stand and the Totally Wicked North Stand from 2pm … come along and get your face painted in Saints colours for free!Bouncy Castles – We have rugby themed inflatables in the North and South West Stands.Member Offers – We have two great offers for you – any pie & alcoholic beverage is just £6, whilst a pie or hotdog & hot drink is just £4.Soft Drinks – Fruit shoots are now available for just £1.50 each.Carling Bar – Following feedback, fans in the West Stand can now get their hands on 500ml Carling PETs from our new bottle bar in the concourse. Price is £4.Crabbies – Check out our partner’s event bus which will be in front of the Red V Cafe Bar. They will be offering free samples, whilst inside the ground you can claim a free hat with any purchase. Over 18s only.Contactless Payment – Will be available in the Karalius, Popular Side, Marching Inn, Eddington Arms and Voll’s bars to speed up your service.The A Star Saints Angels – Will be performing several brand new performances before the game.Live Band: Saints fans The Gear will be performing pre-match!Bucket Collection: There will be a collection for next year’s Academy Tour of Australia.Half Time – See the new Simply Doughnuts Kicking Challenge! Contestants have three attempts to kick a ball into a large replica Simply Doughnuts pot in front of the West Stand. There’s a whole host of prizes to win and if you kick it in from the 40m line, you return at the final game of the season to kick again for the chance to win a car for the year from Chorley Nissan!Sponsors:The Match is sponsored by 02 Business Centre Rainford with the matchball sponsored by Reilly Concrete. The corporate sponsor is Fleet Dynamic whilst Cara Brickwork are selecting the Man of the Match!Team News:Both sides have named their 19-man squad for the match. You can find out more here.Tickets:This game is SOLD OUT. No tickets or cash turnstiles will be available. The Ticket Office will be open from 11.30am.Saints Superstore:The Saints Superstore will be open up from 11.30am until kick-off and 45 minutes after full time.Spotify Playlist:Many thanks to all those who have suggested songs for our Spotify playlist for this afternoon’s game. We will continue to update it throughout the day. Check it out here: spoti.fi/2BJfn6QProgramme:The programme is sponsored by Warrington Audi and is priced at £3. This issue features and exclusive interview with Mark Percival!