Statement 12: Report, Brian Ashworth and The Orchard Centre, February 2008: Part Three
Contacting organisations who have referred on to Mr Ashworth
It was brought to our attention, last year, that a registered charity for children with long-term health conditions or disabilities had referred individuals seeking representation for adults and children on to Mr Ashworth, in one instance within the last twelve months or so. A second organisation unconnected with ME had referred at least one individual, last year, to a third party and as a result a referral to Mr Ashworth had been made. Both organisations have been advised of the issues surrounding Mr Ashworth.
We also discussed our concerns with the Sheffield ME Group which provides support and welfare advice to sufferers of ME/CFS, who have confirmed to us that they had ceased recommending The Orchard Centre in 2003, but where there are issues relating to unresolved and continuing cases where there is, yet again, evidence of misrepresentation concerning the alleged settlement of a case and alleged financial payouts.
Regional ME/CFS support organisations
Since 2004, over 60 regional ME/CFS support group co-ordinators have been contacted by us in connection with The Orchard Centre and these groups continue to receive copies of our statements as they are published.
Leger M.E. support service for ME/CFS/PVMS/FMS in the Doncaster, Barnsley and Dearne Valley area:
The chair of this unregistered voluntary group, Mr Mike Valentine, has had a longstanding association with Mr Ashworth. In the past, Mr Ashworth has carried out “benefits surgeries” in conjunction with the Leger M.E. group and it is known that in some cases there have been problems in the Doncaster area associated with the standard of Mr Ashworth’s work.
In March 2005, we set certain information and material before Mr Valentine concerning Mr Ashworth and made several attempts to engage directly with Mr Valentine and his committee. To date, Mr Valentine has been unwilling to facilitate access to his committee or even provide us with the name of his committee’s Secretary in order that we might set our concerns before the committee, as a body. In June 2005, we asked Mr Valentine if he would confirm whether the Leger M.E. group was still promoting Mr Ashworth or referring members of Leger M.E. group and clients of Leger M.E.’s services to The Orchard Centre. Mr Valentine was unwilling to provide this information or to discuss our concerns.
Leger M.E. has more recently been promoting Mr Ashworth in “Pathways” – the group’s electronic newsletter which is accessible through the Leger M.E. website. On Page 9 of the Autumn ’06 edition of the group’s newsletter, Mr Ashworth is proffering advice on nutrition and the use of supplements and is now being promoted by Leger M.E. as a “private health practitioner”.
We find it very disturbing that Mr Valentine has been prepared to continue to promote Mr Ashworth in any capacity, though the Leger M.E. group, having been fully apprised by us of the many concerns surrounding Mr Ashworth and his work and that Mr Valentine should actively expose his group’s members and the wider community to an individual known to operate under bogus qualifications and whose modus operandi has had to be brought to the attention of several Trading Standards Offices around the country, CABs, the DWP, the police and other agencies.
National ME/CFS patient organisations
Since April 2004, we have sent copies of the statements we have published on the internet to Action for ME (AfME), The ME Association, The Association for Young People with ME (AYME) and The Young ME Sufferers Trust. All four patient organisations were asked, in 2004, for a statement regarding their organisation’s policy towards referring to/ recommending The Orchard Centre to their members or to other enquirers for inclusion in our “Dossier of Concerns”. Neither The ME Association nor Action for ME was prepared to provide us with a policy statement. Towards the end of last year, we discussed recent developments with Action for ME and certain undertakings were agreed.
Jane Colby, Executive Director of The Young ME Sufferers Trust has, in the past, referred families to The Orchard Centre. In late 2006, it was brought to our attention that a Patron of The Young ME Sufferers Trust had referred several individuals seeking advocacy in very complex legal issues on to Mr Ashworth. The Patron involved, Ms Colby, as well as a second Patron of The Young ME Sufferers Trust and an associate from a separate children’s organisation, who was reported to us as having referred on to Mr Ashworth in the past, were all contacted, last July, and selected information placed before them.
Now that the Bilston Resource Centre has severed all association with Mr Ashworth we are concerned that he may focus his attention on alternative organisations within the Bilston/ Wolverhampton area – in particular, community or resource centres and churches and voluntary organisations where he might anticipate coming into contact with vulnerable individuals who are ill as well as disabled and who may also be from BME communities and others who might be seeking assistance with immigration, benefits, housing or legal issues.
For the past couple of years, Mr Ashworth has been active in various capacities within one of his local churches. Mr Ashworth’s involvement in church activities has recently been subject to review. We understand that Mr Ashworth has been associated with a number of other local community groups, including the Bilston Regeneration Forum. We have evidence that he has been using his involvement in his local community as a recruiting sergeant for The Orchard Centre and the activities he undertakes through it.
We have learned, recently, that Mr Ashworth is said to have been talking of plans for establishing a “life skills” training centre for young people operating out of a premises in Bilston; that it had been mooted that catering and IT skills would be amongst the training offered and that Mr and Mrs Ashworth were proposing that they might deliver some of this training, themselves. We are extremely concerned that Mr Ashworth might be looking to expand his interests locally and that he should apparently be considering seeking to work with young people.
Change of contact details
The email address email@example.com has been in use for The Orchard Centre since 1998. If you are a client of Mr Ashworth’s with an unresolved or abandoned case and have been experiencing difficulties contacting him by telephone or email please note that this email address appears to have been taken out of use and that emails sent to this address are currently being bounced by Virgin Media. Mr Ashworth is known to be making use of the following alternative email address firstname.lastname@example.org
The dedicated residential landline telephone/Fax number 01902 494717, which had been in use for the operation by Mr and Mrs Ashworth since they first launched themselves as The Orchard M.E. Centre, in 1994, was taken out of operation last year. Mr Ashworth is now operating solely via a mobile phone and a PO Box number. For those having difficulty contacting Mr Ashworth in connection with the status of unresolved cases or concerning the return of paperwork and documents being retained by him, which he claims are being stored in commercial archive storage facilities but which may be being stored in his lock up garage, we publish his most recent mobile phone number and an alternative landline number below:
Mobile: 07892 823332 Landline: 01902 408038
It is understood that Mr Ashworth is still collecting his mail from his post office address of PO Box 1621, Bilston, West Midlands, WV14 7YX but that in some cases, he is not responding to paper letters or that letters are being returned by him to the sender. We would advise clients who may have sent paper letters to Mr Ashworth but have received no response to resend, by recorded delivery, to both the PO Box and to Mr Ashworth’s street address which is 103, Oxford Street, Bilston, West Midlands, WV14 7EH. If no response is received we suggest informing Wolverhampton Trading Standards.
Suzy Chapman & Ciaran Farrell
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in our statements or discuss your own experiences or have any information which may assist us please contact us, in confidence:
Email Suzy Chapman
Tel/FAX: 0207 485 3404
28 Headcorn, 25 Malden Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3HZ
Email Ciaran Farrell