A regulator chaired by a former Tory minister is refusing to investigate charities that have signed contracts that prevent them criticising the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its secretary of state Esther McVey.The Charities Commission – a non-ministerial government department – is chaired by Baroness Stowell, a former Tory communities and local government minister and a former work and pensions spokeswoman in the House of Lords, who resigned the Tory whip when she was appointed to chair the regulator.This week, the commission has refused to express any concern or take any action after it emerged that disability charities had signed up to contracts that include strict clauses preventing them from criticising McVey or DWP.The commission said yesterday (Wednesday) that it was “not aware of any specific regulatory concerns regarding charities and the Work and Health Programme”, despite being shown one of the clauses.Both the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations contacted Disability News Service (DNS) this week so they could examine the clause, after reading last week’s news story.So far, charities including Shaw Trust, Leonard Cheshire Disability and RNIB have confirmed that they have signed contracts – either with DWP or with one of the five main Work and Health Programme contractors – that include clauses that prevent them bringing DWP and McVey into disrepute.Other charities linked to the Work and Health Programme, such as Action on Hearing Loss and the Royal Association for Deaf People, have refused to answer questions about the clauses.The clause in the DWP contract signed by Shaw Trust says that the charity and its “affiliates” must “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and must promise not to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey or her department.And the clause warns that these promises apply whether or not the damaging actions relate to the Work and Health Programme.Other charities, including RNIB, have signed agreements with the main contractors that say they must have “regard to the standing and reputation” of DWP, do nothing to bring McVey and her department into disrepute in delivering those contracts, and must not “attract adverse publicity” to them.A Charities Commission spokeswoman said in a statement: “Decisions on whether to enter into a contract and accept specific terms are a matter for a charity’s trustees.“They must ensure that any action they take is in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries.“They should also consider whether it is necessary to take professional advice before reaching a decision.“The commission is not aware of any specific regulatory concerns regarding charities and the Work and Health Programme.“However, it would consider on a case-by-case basis any evidence that might suggest that a charity’s trustees were not fulfilling their legal duties.”*An earlier version of this story said that Down’s Syndrome Association had refused to answer questions from DNS. This was not correct. The charity did not receive two emails containing questions about the Work and Health Programme, due to a mistake made by DNS. The charity has made it clear that it does not have formal links with the DWP and has not been asked to sign any Work and Health Programme contracts. Apologies for the error.
THREE of St Helens’ local sides were drawn out of the hat in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup yesterday.Scottish champions Aberdeen Warriors will travel to Pilkington Recs whilst Blackbrook will host Egremont Rangers.Shaw Cross will welcome Thatto Heath too.Forty four clubs will begin the journey that concludes with the final at Wembley on Saturday August 23 when they contest a compelling first round over the weekend of February 1-2.The 2014 Tetley’s Challenge Cup first round draw:Underbank Rangers v East LeedsLeeds Metropolitan University v MillomBlackbrook v Egremont RangersShaw Cross v Thatto HeathLeigh Miners v Hunslet WarriorsOulton Raiders v West HullSaddleworth Rangers v Milford MarlinsKells v Wigan St JudesSkirlaugh v Rochdale MayfieldRAF v Dewsbury CelticAskam v British ArmyRoyal Navy v Walney CentralMyton Warriors v East HullLoughborough University v Great Britain PoliceSouth West London Chargers v Torfaen TigersWidnes St Maries v Wigan St PatsPilkington Recs v Aberdeen WarriorsYork Acorn v SiddalWath Brow Hornets v Halton Simms CrossWoolston Rovers v EllandLock Lane v Normanton KnightsHull Dockers v Bristol Sonics
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The 11 English Betfred Super League clubs have approved a proposal for all Super League clubs, and clubs with Category 1 funded Academies outside Super League (Widnes Vikings and Bradford Bulls), to have a mandated reserve team.Five further applications from clubs in Betfred Championship and League One have been received, with decisions to be made by the end of July.The launch of Reserve Grade will be accompanied by a change in the regulations surrounding the Academy, which will now become an Under-18s competition rather than Under-19s, as at present. The dual registration and loan systems will remain unaffected.Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s Interim Chief On-Field Officer, said: “We have listened to the views of stakeholders – clubs, coaches and players – before making this proposal.“The majority view is that the game would benefit from the reintroduction of a Reserve Grade competition, primarily as a next step in the development of players between Academy and senior rugby, but also to provide regular rugby for players on the fringe of selection, returning from injury, and a platform for later developers.“It was important in making what is a significant change that we also took into account the impact on the other professional competitions – Betfred Championship and League One – and also the community game.”Robert Elstone, Super League’s CEO, said: “Super League is about superstars – players that get us on the edge of our seats, players that make our jaws drop, players that inspire us. “Our success will depend on our ability to find, nurture and create the superstars of tomorrow. It’s why development pathways like this are so critical to the future success of the game. “It is essential that we offer appropriate challenges to our young players on their journeys into Super League. A well-managed, resourced and competitive reserve grade will provide that.”The Reserve Grade competition in 2020 will be administered by the RFL. The fixture schedule will be finalised during the winter but is expected to run on a home and away basis, with no play-offs.