Blackpool man performed as Elvis Presley while claiming disability benefits

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A man who claimed disability benefits while working as an Elvis impersonator has been sentenced.


Joseph Thompson on stage as Elvis

Joseph Thompson on stage as Elvis

A man who claimed disability benefits while working as an Elvis impersonator has been sentenced.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Joseph Thompson, 62, from Park Road, Blackpool, fraudulently claimed £10,084.17 in benefits from 2016 to 2018.

He claimed that health problems, in particular musculoskeletal disease/spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)) meant that he had limited mobility.

Yet, at the same time, he was working as an Elvis impersonator and involved in a band called the Prime Mover and was performing under the stage name of Joe Marcel.

The suspect claimed Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from the Department for Work and Pensions and, as a result of his information about his health on the relevant forms, he was granted the benefits to help with his daily living.

But the DWP received information about his work as a performer and a criminal investigation was launched.

He was arrested on March 15, 2018 and interviewed at Blackpool police station.

He initially denied dishonestly obtaining benefits to which he was not entitled.

But at Preston Crown Court this week he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.

He was given a 20 week jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. He’s subject to an electronic curfew from 8pm to 6am Sunday to Thursday. He is exempt from the curfew on Friday and Saturday nights so that he can continue to do some performances for charity.

Senior Crown Prosecutor George Ward, of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s Fraud Unit, said: “Joseph Thompson exaggerated the extent to which his medical conditions affected his physical mobility and daily living so that he could supplement his income.

“He does have a degenerative muscle-wasting disease. But while he was claiming that he had poor physical mobility, he was working on stage as an Elvis impersonator. It would clearly be difficult to impersonate an artist like Elvis without being able to move around a lot on stage.

“The CPS said that he had cheated the Exchequer out of thousands of pounds and he has now accepted that and pleaded guilty.

RNLI rescue person in sea off Blackpool pier

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Boat launched to locate person in the water off pier at 1.10am on Saturday


Blackpool RNLI launch boat following incident in early hours of Saturday
Blackpool RNLI launch boat following incident in early hours of Saturday (Image: Blackpool RNLI)

A lifeboat was launched this morning (September 4) following reports that a person had “jumped off” a Blackpool pier and had suffered injuries.

However the person had just got into trouble in the water and was suffering from the effects of cold.

RNLI Blackpool launched a D-Class boat near North Pier and located the casualty where they were checked out by medics.

Police and an ambulance crew were also in attendance.

Blackpool world record attempt looms with 1.5 tonne van to be pulled 21 miles

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Two Lancashire men will attempt to pull a van weighing a minimum of 1.5 tonnes at least 21.1 miles raise money for ROC (Redeeming Our Communities)


James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles
James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles (Image: ROC)

Blackpool may see a new Guinness World Record next year with two Lancashire men set to attempt to travel the farthest distance pulling a vehicle in 24 hours.

ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) Garden Development Manager, James Baker, 35, from Blackpool will attempt to pull a vehicle weighing a minimum of 1.5 tonnes further than 21.1 miles at part of ‘Next Big Thing’ events.

James told LancsLive: “We first started training around two years ago and when we first looked at breaking this record it was only 2.1 miles which we thought was quite doable.

“It’s been broken at nearly ten times the length since, however, which is quite a difference so we’ve had to adapt our training.

James Baker, 35, (left) and John Darwen (right), 30 outside Private Label Nutrition is often a starting point for the pair on their training sessions around Amy Johnson Way in Blackpool
James Baker, 35, (left) and John Darwen (right), 30 outside Private Label Nutrition is often a starting point for the pair on their training sessions around Amy Johnson Way in Blackpool (Image: ROC)

“John and I are going to compete with each other on the day which will spur us on and will also mean that one of us can take over if the other one gets injured.

“There can only be one winner however and that’s whoever gets the longest length so it will be quite competitive!”

He’s using the results to inform the science of what’s required in order to manage their energy and muscular endurance across the whole challenge.

James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles
James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles (Image: ROC)

The guidance is much needed as James will be taking on the Blackpool marathon first on September 12 running the 26 miles along Blackpool Promenade dressed as Captain America.

There will then be three ‘practice vehicle pull sessions’ with a nine mile pull on September 18; a 12 miles pull on September 25; and a 15 mile pull on October 9.

Towards the end of this month there will be a ‘Full Dress Rehearsal’ which will be an attempt to officially break the record, but without the pressure.

The event will be captured in full with the pair hoping to learn lots by practising as well as getting some great footage and building some momentum for the main event.

James was joined by his wife and two children last week on a practise truck pull
James was joined by his wife and two children last week on a practise truck pull (Image: ROC Garden)

The April dates and venue for the main event are yet to be confirmed however James and John will be given vans free of charge from Blackpool’s Vantage Motor Group.

“All the events are part of what we’re calling ‘The Next BigThing’ inspired by the fact that people are always asking us ‘what’s the next big thing’ with ROC garden,” James said.

“We’ve had several mini truck pulls fortnightly for six miles without food so Neil can monitor our energy levels.

“To begin with it really did feel like your soul was being sucked out of your body but it’s been worth it because energy management is going to be so important.”

James and John practising pulling ROC Garden vans
James and John practising pulling ROC Garden vans (Image: ROC Garden)

ROC is a national community engagement charity that is based in Manchester and has sites all across the UK, including Northern Ireland. It works to form action-based partnerships with people of goodwill to create safer and kinder communities.

There are currently lots of different types of ROC projects including, ROC Conversations, ROC Mentoring, ROC Restore, ROC Champions, and ROC Cafe.

The purpose of the vehicle pull is to highlight and raise money for a project which James has personally pioneered called ROC garden.

It started off through a local church in Preston just over 11 years ago as a small team of volunteers who stuffed gardening equipment from their parent’s sheds into the boot of their cars and went out into the community.

The aim was to help transform gardens for residents that needed help bringing them to a manageable level.

John giving a 'thumbs up' during a truck pull
John giving a ‘thumbs up’ during a truck pull (Image: ROC Garden)

Over the years the project moved from Preston to Blackpool to grow under the guidance of Blackpool Coastal Housing, and then later moved to become part of ROC in order to help it grow.

Currently ROC Garden is now serving more than 400 regular households with garden maintenance and transforms around 50 overgrown gardens a year for free for residents struggling in social housing.

It also provides practice grounds opportunities for volunteers by revitalising grot spots around the town and has created a volunteer training programme that has lead the vast majority of people it trains into paid employment.

The project is now receiving more and more requests to expand into new areas, and in Blackpool the demand for work is growing week-by-week.

The funds raised will help the charity take on new staff, train new volunteers, purchase a new van to help reach more people, allow it to purchase new uniforms and PPE.

John Darwen at a practise session
John Darwen at a practise session (Image: ROC Garden)

James added: “This is a very personal thing for us both because my dream is to help people get back in employment and help transform people’s gardens.

“In certain areas you can have the “broken window” effect where if there’s litter or mess in a place it’s more likely to influence others to be like that.

“If you clear areas up however it has a positive effect which is great for somewhere like Blackpool.

“At school I always liked sports, however I was overweight and it’s been a real personal journey for me to learn about fitness and nutrition.

“John is also a leukaemia survivor and has years of chemotherapy so he looks so different to what he does now and has come a long way.

“We’re really looking forward to it and hope that people can support what we’re doing.”

As well as helping with donations and sponsorships, supporters can also help by volunteering to help steer their vans and walk alongside James and John.

To find out more and to sponsor the vehicle pull, please visit the JustGiving page here.


Blackpool care home hit by Covid deaths told medication safety not up to scratch

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Concerns have been raised about staffing levels, safety and leadership at New Victoria Care Home in Blackpool following a Quality Commission visit


New Victoria Nursing Home in Hornby Road, Blackpool
New Victoria Nursing Home in Hornby Road, Blackpool (Image: Google)

Bosses at a care home have been told to make improvements after inspectors raised concerns about the safety of medication management.

Inspectors from healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission visited New Victoria Care Home, Blackpool, after concerns were raised about staffing levels, safety and leadership.

The home, in Hornby Road, provides care for up to 30 people and was inspected in June of this year, just three months after the previous inspection.

Last November two residents at New Victoria died after a major Covid outbreak which led to 22 people testing positive for the virus.

During their visit in June this year, inspectors found that staff at the care home were not consistent with record-keeping of medications after finding missing signatures and handwritten entries were not countersigned.

Stock control was not always clearly monitored.

Although concerns had been raised about staffing levels the inspectors were satisfied that these were sufficient.

“They are busy, but I see them taking their time and sitting down to chat with the residents.”

The effectiveness at the care home, which was rated as good at the previous inspection in 2019, has been downgraded to Requires Improvement.

Despite this, the inspectors found that residents were provided with a good choice of nutritious meals and staff provided timely care.

One resident said: “Good portions and if you want more that is not a problem.”

A relative added: “My [family member] always enjoys her meals, she’s never had any problems with that. She looks well because she’s eating well.”

The inspectors found that improvements were also required in the leadership of the care home and said management was inconsistent.

“Leaders and the culture they created did not always support the delivery of high-quality, person-centred care,” the inspectors said in their report published in August.

During the last inspection in March, inspectors concluded the provider had failed to robustly assess the risks relating to the health safety and welfare of people but sufficient improvement has since been made.

In their report, inspectors said: “One area of improvement involved employing a specific activities coordinator to increase people’s stimulation and wellbeing.

“One relative said: ‘They have lots of activities now, that’s one thing they really have improved on’.”

Although the inspectors said improvements were still required to the leadership of the home they found that “staff confirmed the registered manager was a strong, competent leader”.

One employee told inspectors: “You feel supported because the manager’s always around.”

Overall the care home was rated as Requires Improvement and the inspectors have requested an action plan from the registered managers, Marion Gourlay and Janet Moutrey.

The inspectors concluded: “This service has been rated requires improvement for the last two consecutive inspections.We found action had been taken to improve the leadership and safety of the home.

“However, we rated the key areas as requires improvement because the management team and staff need to demonstrate consistent good practice over time.”

A spokesperson New Victoria’s provider, Bacup-based Regency Healthcare told LancsLive: “We cannot deny we had one or two problems with the paperwork in the home and this has all been rectified. We have recently had further contact with CQC and they are happy with our progress.

“Over the past few months the CQC have changed the way they inspect and have weighted things differently. We probably were not au fait with the new changes. Or at least not as knowledgeable as we should have been.

“However, we are moving forward and we are not in breach of any regulations and are in a position where the CQC are satisfied and they are just going to monitor us for a short time to make sure we keep up to scratch. We recognise that when these reports come into the public domain it causes concern but we are continuing to provide a high standard of care to all our residents.

“If the QC did not inspect and publish they would not be doing their job.”