A disabled campaigner who has spent 14 years fighting for justice for survivors of the thalidomide scandal has vowed to continue the battle, after he was recognised with an MBE in the new year’s honours.Nick Dobrik’s years of experience on the thalidomide campaign led to him volunteering to help campaigners seeking justice for survivors of other treatment scandals, including those affected by the pregnancy drug Primodos, the epilepsy drug Epilim and NHS contaminated blood.Dobrik (pictured), a long-standing member of the Thalidomide Trust’s user-led National Advisory Council (NAC), said he was accepting the MBE on behalf of all of those involved in the thalidomide campaign – led by the NAC – and “all the thalidomide community”.He said: “It was a privilege to receive it. It’s very nice to get recognised.”But he said it was “a team effort”.He added: “I could never have done this on my own. If we were not a team, we would not have achieved as much as we did.”Dobrik, who works as a commodity broker, said the thalidomide campaign was not yet over.In the last four years, he has visited the European parliament 80 or 90 times to fight for compensation for thalidomide survivors in the UK, as well as those in Sweden, Italy and Spain.Four years ago, he and other campaigners secured evidence that showed the German government deliberately sabotaged efforts to secure justice for thalidomide survivors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that it knew the drug was associated with birth defects at least 10 days before it was withdrawn from sale in 1961, and almost certainly much earlier.Although the campaign has secured financial support for thalidomide survivors from the British government and Diageo – which bought Distillers, the company which distributed the drug in the UK – there is still an ongoing battle for compensation from the German government and from Grunenthal, the German pharmaceutical company which manufactured thalidomide.Dobrik said the campaign was “very close” to reaching an agreement with the German government on compensation.But he said the “group that was most guilty” was Grunenthal, which had “contributed nothing” to support thalidomide survivors.He said: “They are a nasty bunch. We will hold them to account. They can bury their heads in the sand, they can run as fast as possible, but they are never going to escape us.”Dobrik said it was time that all the historic treatment scandals were resolved, as many of them go back nearly 50 years.He said: “It is time that those issues are resolved. You cannot expect people to wait a whole lifetime before their needs are met.“It is time for the government to act generously towards these groups and accept responsibility.“These legacy issues need to be resolved. People have waited three-quarters of a lifetime for justice.”Dobrik was an expert adviser to a working group that examined the use of Primodos and other hormone pregnancy tests, which reported in October.But he has rejected its conclusion that there was no “causal relation” between the use of Primodos and impairments in babies born in the 1960s and 1970s.Health minister Steve Brine was forced to apologise to Dobrik last month in the House of Commons after both he and the prime minister, Theresa May, attempted to use his presence as an expert advisor to the working group to defend that conclusion, which was attacked by critics as “a whitewash”.Dobrik said: “I was very angry about that because I disagreed with the conclusion. They used my name to whitewash the report.”But the working group also came up with recommendations to tighten regulations “to make sure things like this don’t happen again”, something he has campaigned for himself, particularly on the safety of medicines taken by women during pregnancy.He said: “The inquiry came up with a whole series of recommendations and I will hold the government’s feet to the fire to make sure they are enacted.“I’m happy that I’ve been involved in that inquiry for the last three years, because it gave the opportunity to look at these regulations and make recommendations to decrease the likelihood that another tragedy will happen again.”Picture: Nick Dobrik being interviewed by Sky News about the government’s Primodos comments
Archives: July 2019
A disabled woman has handed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a petition of more than 200,000 names in a bid to stop companies forcing claimants to travel long distances to attend face-to-face benefit assessments.ClaudetteLawrence only launched the petition on the 38 Degreeswebsite in November,but by yesterday (Wednesday) it had been signed by more than 213,000 people.She startedthe campaign after becoming increasingly concerned about the distances disabledfriends were being asked to travel to attend face-to-face assessments withdisability assessment contractors Maximus, Atos and Capita.But she isalso concerned about disabled people being charged up to £40 by their GPs towrite a letter explaining why they need a home assessment, rather than havingto travel to an assessment centre for their eligibility tests for personalindependence payment (PIP) or employment and support allowance (ESA).Lawrencesays in her petition: “People who are on benefits due to ill health, cannotafford to pay for private letters. “There is arisk that people who are entitled to PIP or ESA will lose out, causing hardshipand suffering.”Last week, Lawrence (pictured, right) and Lorna Greenwood, campaigns manager for 38 Degrees, were at DWP’s headquarters in London to discuss the issues and hand the petition to civil servants and a special adviser to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.Lawrencetold Disability News Service (DNS) that a friend of hers from Thamesmead ineast London had been asked to attend a work capability assessment in Wembley,on the other side of the capital in north-west London.Anotherfriend, from Charlton, in south-east London, had been asked to attend anassessment in Southend, on the Essex coast.Lawrencesaid: “It’s just not right. The whole process is unfit for purpose.”She said shehad been expecting a strong response to her petition but had been “absolutely shocked”by how many people had signed it. One of thedisabled people who signed the petition said: “I have a long term mental healthdisorder and I was expected to take a journey with my baby which would involvethree buses and two trains. “When I rangto say I couldn’t cope with even walking out of the door, let alone figure outthe details of a very expensive journey, they treated me with contempt andrudeness. “Theyignored my doctor’s letter. Needless to say they decided in my absence that Iwas fit for work. “Luckily mylocal DEA [disability employment adviser] saw the truth and made up for theirnastiness.”Another said:“They make people travel a great distance then say if you can travel this farthen you are fine.”And a thirdsaid: “I have had to travel for an assessment be completely unable to move fora week afterwards [and was then] turned down.”And one saidsimply: “I was asked to attend an assessment in Milton Keynes and I live inLondon!”A DWPspokesperson declined to say what action the department would take in responseto the petition.But she saidin a statement: “We want everyone to have a good experience at their PIP or workcapability assessment. “Whenever wecan we will make benefit decisions using paper evidence so that people don’tneed to travel to an assessment.“Anyone weneed to see in person who is not able to travel to an assessment centre canrequest a home assessment. “Whereverpossible our assessment providers will use supporting evidence which does notincur a fee to claimants. “No one isrequired to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport to theirassessment.”Five years ago, MPs on the Commons public accountscommittee used evidence collected in a lengthy investigation by DNS and thedisabled journalist Richard Butchins to accuse Atos of lying in the document it used to win a £184 million contract toprovide PIP assessments across London and the south of England.Atos had wonthe contract by boasting of its “extensive” network of 16 NHS trusts, twoprivate hospital chains, and four physiotherapy providers, all of which it saidwould provide sites where the PIP tests would take place.But in themonths after the contract was awarded, all but four of the NHS trusts and bothof the private hospital chains dropped out.Atos hadstated in the tender that it had a network of 740 assessment sites acrossLondon and the south of England.But after the contract was signed, it only managed to secure 96 assessment centres, including not a single one covering a vast sweep of north London, and only one in Suffolk and one in Cambridgeshire, although it has since improved these numbers.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…
Labour’s Jon Trickett has written to the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service today, calling for an independent investigation into an apparent breach of civil service neutrality.A story by The Times on Saturday featured briefings from two senior civil servants, who suggested that Jeremy Corbyn may be “too ill” and “frail” to be Prime Minister or even Labour leader. “There must be senior people in the party who know that he is not functioning on all cylinders,” one was quoted as saying.As shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Trickett has therefore asked Mark Sedwill for a personal meeting to discuss the matter and for an investigation that would be “independent of the Cabinet Office”. In his letter, the Labour frontbencher describes the incident as an “unconstitutional political intervention with disturbing implications for our democratic system”.Responding to The Times splash yesterday, Corbyn said: “The idea that civil servants should be briefing a newspapers against an elected politician, against a prospective government, is something that should be very concerning to all of us.“The Civil Service has to be independent; has to be non-political and has to be non-judgmental of the politicians they have a duty to serve. If we were elected to government, we have a very clear framework of things we want to do in this country on housing, education, health and the environment and so much more. We would explain those to our colleagues in the civil service and expect them to carry out those policies.“That is the way British democracy must work. There must be an investigation into which senior civil servants are spreading fictitious information to the press and in the process compromising the integrity of the Civil Service.”Below is the full text of Jon Trickett’s letter to Mark Sedwill.Dear Mr SedwillI am writing in connection with the articles today in The Times on Saturday, which you will have seen.These pieces offer a credible account of conversations at a senior level in the civil service about the Leader of the Opposition, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP.The premise of these conversations is the allegation that Mr Corbyn’s health is poor. This is manifestly untrue.Discussion of these matters, based on false assumptions, should not be taking place. Worse, it is without precedent in my experience that any high-level discussion about senior politicians, let alone the leader of the Opposition, should be shared with a newspaper.I must now formally say to you that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this has been a totally unwarranted and indeed unconstitutional political intervention with disturbing implications for our democratic system.There clearly needs to be an investigation into what appears to have been a breach of civil service neutrality, independent of the Cabinet Office, in order to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.I am also writing formally to request a meeting with you to discuss this deeply concerning development, when I hope you will be able to give clear assurances that the basic principles of British public life will not be undermined.I look forward to hearing from you.Jon Trickett MPShadow Minister at the Cabinet OfficeTags:Labour /Jon Trickett /Civil Service /Mark Sedwill /
IT was a very special day in May when Lynne Baines of Haydock won £1000 on the Saints Premium Lottery.“I have been a member for many years and previously won £5. As I now pay by standing order, it was a great surprise when I had a call from the Saints Lottery Office to tell me that I had won £1000.”After this exciting news, Lynne began to consider how she would spend her windfall.“My son is getting married in August and this timely prize will be put to good use,” she said. “2011 is certainly a special year for us.”Would you encourage others to join?“For just £1, you could enjoy a special win of your own and it all goes to a great cause, whilst all helping Whiston Hospital Children’s Ward during these difficult times.”Congratulations to Lynne. Who knows, next time the winner could be you.How would you spend yours?
DEREK Traynor is calling on Saints not to drop their intensity after two encouraging performances.A good showing at Wigan when down to 12 men was backed up with an excellent 26-22 win over Castleford at the Totally Wicked Stadium.Now Saints head to Widnes this Friday looking to continue their improvement.“We were delighted with the outcome on Monday, especially after backing up a really tough Wigan game,” he said. “But we honestly believe we can improve on that and get better.“And, the big thing is the lads believe that themselves and we will be looking to do that on Friday.“We have played two top teams. Cas have been running hot and Wigan is always a big game. The last thing we need to do now is drop our intensity because of the position Widnes are in.“We have to get our approach right as they are a dangerous team. We can’t drop our standards and if we maintain that then hopefully we can come away with a win.”Saints do not expect anyone to return this Friday, with Jonny Lomax, James Roby, Ryan Morgan and Jack Ashworth all side-lined.Kyle Amor will be named in the squad too but his availability may change depending on tonight’s RFL Disciplinary hearing.He has been handed a Grade B charge of High Tackle – Careless – initial contact with ball/chest – following his sending off against Wigan on Good Friday.Derek continued: “We are aiming to carry on in the same vein but we can’t fall in love with ourselves because we have tried hard for two games and come up with two decent performances.“Our philosophy is every time you pull a Saints shirt on you give your ultimate effort, so you aren’t going to get praise for putting effort in. It’s skill, intensity, brains and game sense we want to improve on.”Derek is part of the three-man coaching team that is in ‘caretaker charge’ of the Saints until a full time coach is appointed.He is splitting his time with his role as head coach of the under 19s and is enjoying the challenge so far.“The players have been great with me as have Sean Long and Jamahl Lolesi,” continued. “I started here as a volunteer at under 11s in 1995 and I never dreamt of being at this level.“My aim is to make the best of it, do the best I can and learn as much as I can. I will give my best for this club.”Tickets for the game, which kicks off at 8pm at the Select Security Stadium are on sale from the Ticket Office at the Totally Wicked Stadium, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.There are advanced ticket prices for Members – and Saints get 25 per cent of the ticket price if you buy direct from us.
Both shirt designs have proved very popular with fans throughout 2017.You can grab yours online at www.saintssuperstore.com or by visiting the Saints Superstore at the Totally Wicked Stadium.Please note this offer is whilst stocks last and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion.