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Garda checked cemeteries to prove man was claiming pensions of dead parents for 33 years

A man who fraudulently claimed the pensions of his dead parents for thirty three years was caught out when his father became eligible for the centenary bounty cheque for reaching the age of a hundred, a court has heard.

Investigating gardai indicated that Donal (Don) O’Callaghan of Churchfield Green in Cork city conducted the largest and longest running, known case of welfare fraud in state history. The 58-year-old claimed the pensions of his dead parents Donald and Eileen from 1987 to 2020 defrauding the state of in excess of half a million euro,

Garda Michael Nagle, who is based at the Department of Social Protection, told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the garda investigation also led to the revelation that Donald O’Callaghan Senior, the father of the defendant, had claimed a pension for his dead wife from 1979 until his own death in 1987.

Upon the death of Donald O’Callaghan Senior in 1987 father of one Don, started claiming the state pension for both his father and mother.

Garda Nagle said that the offences emerged in July 2020 when a social welfare inspector at Hanover Street, Cork received notification of a pensioner in Cork, Donald O’Callaghan, who was due to reach 100 years of age.

Congratulatory letter

“This would result in the issuing of a congratulatory letter from the president as well as a cheque for €2,540. The social welfare inspector’s role was to verify the pensioners details and to confirm their acceptance of the centenarian bounty, prior to it being issued.

The pensioner, Donald O’Callaghan, was listed as residing at 4 Churchfield Green, Churchfield, Cork with his wife Eileen O’ Callaghan and their son Don O’Callaghan.”

Garda Nagle said the inspector would ordinarily call to the home of the pensioner to complete a questionnaire, but these visits were not taking place due to pandemic restrictions. The information was instead being verified by phone and post.

Both pensioners were in receipt of a state pension being paid to Donald O’Callaghan with Eileen O’Callaghan included on the same pension as opposed to two separate pension claims. The pension was being collected weekly at the GPO, Cork.

There was a contact number listed for the defendant, Don O’Callaghan and the inspector contacted him to discuss the centenarian bounty for his father Donald. The inspector spoke with Don O’Callaghan who confirmed that he resided at the address with his father and mother and that his father was willing to accept the president’s payment.

The social welfare inspector then tried to verify Donald O’Callaghan’s details as was routine. She contacted the public health nurse, who had no record of Donald O’ Callaghan.

Unable to make contact with anybody else who could verify the information, in August 2020, the inspector spoke with Garda Nagle about the matter.

In a bid to verify that Donald O’ Callaghan was alive Garda Nagle contacted the public health nurse, home help services, local GPs and all of the main hospitals in the city. Donald O’ Callaghan or Eileen O’ Callaghan were not known to any of them.

No death certs could be located. Garda Nagle started to carry out surveillance of the O’Callaghan home on the northside of the city.

Cemeteries

“I eventually began to physically check various cemeteries over a number of weeks. In September 2020 I located the grave of Eileen O’ Callaghan at Tory Top Road cemetery and the following week I located the grave of Donald O’ Callaghan in Douglas cemetery.

Donald O’ Callaghan died 34 years ago in November 1987, aged 68 and his wife Eileen O’Callaghan died 43 years ago in March 1979, aged 57.”

Garda Nagle obtained CCTV from three collections of the pension at GPO, Cork in August and September 2020 and they were all collected by a man whom he believed to be Don O’Callaghan.

On October 9th, 2020 he conducted a surveillance at GPO Cork. He arrested Don O’Callaghan who had just collected the the fortnightly pension payment of €961.60 in cash.

Mr O’ Callaghan made full admissions in relation to the collection of his parents’ pensions from 1987 to 2020. Garda located €9,800 in cash suspected to be proceeds from the pension payments from the home of Mr O’Callaghan. They also seized the money he picked up from the pension collection on the day of his arrest.

Garda Nagle obtained the original pension file from 1986.

“The evidence suggests that the pension was originally applied for by Donald O’ Callaghan, and it would appear that it was he who included his wife on the application, resulting in a double payment, although she had died seven years previously at that time.

Following the death of his father in 1987, Don O’ Callaghan was 24 years old and he noticed the pension book in the house. He attempted to collect it the following week and when successful, he continued this practice for over three decades.

The fraud was continued throughout the years with the completion of various documents five of which relate to charges before the court.”

Fuel allowance

In 1990 Don O’ Callaghan submitted a fuel allowance application to the department, listing the occupants of the address as himself and both of his parents.

Garda Nagle said the department conducted postal checks on the pension claims over the years. There were three continued eligibility certificates sent to Donald O’ Callaghan at 4 Churchfield Green. These certs are sent to verify the current information of a person receiving a claim and if no response is received from the individual, it would result in an examination the claim.

“There was one cert sent to 4 Churchfield Green in 1996, one in 2013 and one in 2017. These certificates were all returned completed and signed, appearing to have been submitted by Donald O’ Callaghan but in fact completed and signed by the defendant.

These declarations allowed the pension to remain in payment as they declared that there has been no change in the circumstances of Donald O’ Callaghan.”

Don O’ Callaghan was for many years an unofficial collection agent for the pension. An Post began to have these collection agents made official through the completion of an application form by the claimant, to nominate someone collect their payment.

In 2009 an authority to appoint an agent form was completed by the defendant with his fathers information. In this form, Don O’ Callaghan was nominated as an agent to collect the pension payment on behalf of his father. The reason stated for appointment of an agent was that Donald O’ Callaghan was no longer able to walk to the post office to collect the payment.

In June 2014 an application form for a public services card was sent to Donald O’ Callaghan at his address. The public services card process could for an initial period, be completed by post without the requirement to attend in person, for example in the case of an elderly individual such as Donald O’ Callaghan.

This form was returned completed with Donald O’ Callaghan’s information, as though completed and signed by him. A photograph was returned with the form, as required for inclusion on the card. The department deemed that the quality of the photograph was too poor to use on the public services card and Garda Nagle said they sent a letter to Donald O’ Callaghan’s address, requesting a better-quality photograph of him.

Photograph

Garda Nagle said another photograph was subsequently sent to the Department for inclusion on the card.

“It transpires that this photograph was taken by Don O’ Callaghan of an elderly man whom he knew, who was of a similar age to what his father Donald O’ Callaghan would have been. He had no other suitable photograph of his father and took the photograph of this male in order to ensure that the fraud continued. With nothing to compare it to and no reason to suspect anything untoward, this photograph was accepted by the department and in February 2015, a public services card was issued to Donald O’ Callaghan, by post, bearing the photograph of this unknown elderly male. This Public services card was located during the search of Don O’ Callaghan’s home.”

Financially, the court heard Don O Callaghan was himself in receipt of Jobseekers allowance for the past three decades. Combined with the pension payments of his parents, at the time that this was detected, he would have been receiving close to €700 per week on average.

He appeared to have a good quality of living and had travelled abroad on a number of occasions.

Dt Garda Nagle said that O’Calllaghan also has one son who resides in Thailand with his Thai mother. O’ Callaghan was regularly sending payments by money transfer to his child’s mother, for support of his child.

Fraud

In the 33 years during which this fraud was committed, there were almost 1,700 separate collections of this pension payment made by Don O’ Callaghan and a total of €527,000 was collected.

Mr O’Callaghan pleaded guilty to 73 sample counts of social welfare fraud dating back over three decades. 68 counts relate to theft whilst five refer to false documentation in support of the fraudulent claims.

All of the theft offences occurred at Cork GPO on Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork with the forgery offences taking place at the office of the Department of Social Protection on Hanover Street in Cork.

Defence barrister, Ray Boland,SC, claimed that his client had a chronic gambing addiction for which he was seeking treatment. He pleaded for leniency in the case given the guilty plea, his client’s co operation with gardai and his lack of previous convictions. Judge Helen Boyle adjourned the case until Wednesday morning to consider her position on sentencing.

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Healthcare And Digital Upskilling

HeathTech & MedTech

According to EIT Health’s Elaine Murray and Sneha Saloni, it’s time to embrace digital upskilling within the healthcare industry

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced last year that 2023 would be the ‘European Year of Skills’ with the objective of “a Europe fit for the digital age”. It will promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling, helping people develop the right skills for the most in-demand jobs.

So, what does this mean for the healthcare sector? The European Health Parliament previously stated that, “digital technology is an inevitable part of the future of European healthcare” and called for upskilling healthcare workers.

Digital technologies such as AI, telemedicine and robotics, present huge potential for the way healthcare can be delivered, by maximising the reach and impact of various health services.

Preference is slowly shifting from brick and mortar to virtual healthcare and hence, many in the health sector are starting to reimagine and embrace digital to maximise efficiency and efficacy.

The digital skills gap

Healthcare professions make up approximately 10pc of the workforce in Europe, however estimates forecast that there is a shortage of approximately 1m health workers (600,000 in nursing, 230,000 physicians). Data demonstrates that healthcare companies are not visible among the most attractive employers in the eyes of talent.

Couple that with a 2020 report by the European Commission which stated that “shortages of software skills are now omnipresent” across Europe. The pandemic has not only boosted demand for tech-enabled healthcare services, with 90pc of all jobs in health soon to require an element of digital skills, but it has also widened the skill gap, placing stress on existing healthcare systems.

That means the industry is facing challenges in both recruiting into the sector and equipping the staff it does have with the digital skills they need. Many are either resistant or not well informed about new digital tools and systems. Lack of information and training among clinical and support staff acts as a deterrent to improving efficacy in patient care outcomes.

We therefore find ourselves at a critical juncture. Digital transformation in healthcare means increasing pressure on the existing system to perform, while sustaining and acknowledging the widening skills gap. Adequate investment in the workforce’s digital skills and digital literacy is now crucial.

Empowering healthcare professionals through digital upskilling

EIT Health, Europe’s largest health innovation network, is working to combat the talent shortage in the healthcare industry through its WorkInHealth Foundation. This aims to promote healthcare as a sector in which talent can thrive in Europe, particularly in the areas of digital, commercial, and innovation. EIT Health’s pan-European network links industry and academia which means it can tap into both recruiters and candidates, matching talent across the sector.

For those on the frontline, it can be difficult to stay abreast of so many fast-changing technologies entering the market. Whether it is a hospital administrator seeking to become proficient at using chatbots, cleaning staff adopting autonomous disinfection software, or a physician showing a patient how to use a medical device remotely, technology is integrated at every level of health service delivery.

A holistic approach needs to be adopted for upskilling by creating regular training opportunities for healthcare workers, senior executives and support staff so they can develop the digital expertise they need to carry out their roles efficiently and effectively.

There is also opportunity for institutions to shift from traditional training frameworks to digital alternatives. For example, training programmes to understand the integration of AI, data management, analytics and machine learning into existing infrastructure.

Initiatives such as the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme create regular knowledge-building opportunities for healthcare staff in areas such as AI, design thinking, and innovation.

The Healthcare Transformation Academy, coordinated by EIT Health and organisations from the European University Hospital Alliance, offers high-quality and affordable on-demand courses in digital transformation, innovation management, high-value care and leadership for healthcare professionals to upskill.

The WorkInHealth Foundation also aims to support in upskilling and reskilling, increasing the volume of talent in the areas with greatest demand and boosting competitiveness of the European health industry. The initiative is in full alignment with the ambitions of the European Innovation Agenda as well as the EU Pact for Skills.

The European Year of Skills 2023 will help the healthcare sector navigate its digital transformation journey by address skills shortages in the EU, promoting a mindset of upskilling, which can ultimately improve patient care and increase reach in healthcare accessibility.


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Paramount Studio Prevails in Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Paramount & The Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

The Voice Of EU | Paramount emerges triumphant from the legal showdown triggered by Maverick’s triumphant return to the big screen. A U.S. district judge swiftly shut down a lawsuit brought by the widow of the Israeli scribe who penned the piece inspiring the 1986 blockbuster, Top Gun. The heirs of Ehud Yonay alleged Paramount breached intellectual property rights with the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which soared to unprecedented heights in 2022, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide. However, the judge decreed that numerous aspects of the sequel, including its narrative and dialogue, bore no resemblance to Top Gun. The sole shared element? Both narratives orbit the U.S. Air Force pilot training hub.

Judge Percy Anderson’s verdict laid bare that many of the claims raised by the Yonay clan failed to meet copyright criteria. In a 14-page ruling, he affirmed that the sequel’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and overall presentation diverged significantly from Yonay’s original article, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Marc Toberoff, the legal maestro representing the Yonay lineage since 2022, swiftly vowed to contest the ruling. The estate had dispatched a cautionary missive to Paramount in May of that year, weeks before the sequel’s release, forewarning of potential copyright infractions due to the family reclaiming story rights in January 2020.

The judge’s decree solidifies that Top Gun: Maverick marches to its own beat, with little homage paid to its predecessor or Yonay’s source material, which meandered through life at Miramar Naval Air Station in a non-linear fashion, honing in on pilots Yogi and Possum. Instead, the latest installment, helmed by Joseph Kosinski, unfurls a linear tale set years later, spotlighting a fresh squadron at North Island Naval Air Station, also in San Diego.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the runway is clear for the trilogy’s third chapter, headlined by the indomitable Tom Cruise. Currently in pre-production at Paramount, the script by Ehren Kruger, architect of the sequel’s success, fuels anticipation. Talks are underway to enlist Kosinski’s directorial prowess once more, though industry pundits speculate production could hit turbulence if Paramount falls under SkyDance’s umbrella. The titans of entertainment are in deep discussions about the fate of Tinseltown’s venerable studio.

Regardless, Ehud Yonay’s legacy won’t grace the credits of the third installment, as Judge Anderson quashes any such notion.


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4 Ways AI Is Transforming Social Media Marketing

Rebecca Barnatt-Smith explains how marketers and content creators can use AI-powered predicative analytics, content personalisation and scheduling tools to create successful social media campaigns.

Is artificial intelligence (AI) the next big thing for social media marketers?

With over 4.26bn social media users to serve, AI is set to transform targeting and improve content personalisation for a more focused marketing future.

AI is not a new phenomenon in the marketing world. When surveyed, over 56pc of chief marketing officers (CMOs) said they use automated assistants for content personalisation and tracking consumer insights. AI-driven social strategies are just the next step in a fast-approaching digital future of campaigning.

However, could a push for AI-infused social campaigns pose ethical concerns for future marketers? From breaching consumer privacy to decision system bias, with great technology comes great responsibility.

Here we look at AI’s impact on social media marketing and discuss some of the best AI-infused platforms that are tipped to lead social strategies in 2023.

How can AI improve your social media?

Using AI, you can quickly segment large demographics into targeted groups, track viral trends and schedule personalised content responses in seconds.

If you want to compete against commerce giants and industry leaders, your social content should be consistent, compelling and customised to each and every consumer. Here are some insights into how AI can help.

Content personalisation

In 2023, 73pc of shoppers expect brands to offer them a personalised experience and content that speaks directly to their values. AI can enhance a brand’s personalisation potential in a number of ways.

Automatically harvesting behavioural and historical consumer data, AI-generated platforms can quickly learn about a user’s interests and predict what products or services they’d be most likely to interact with, resulting in a hyper-individualised experience that can boost engagement and increase the chances of conversion.

However, with 69pc of consumers now concerned about how their data is collected and used on mobile apps, it’s important to use content personalisation tools with caution.

“As consumers continue to learn and become more informed about their data rights and how their data is currently used, I expect we’ll see more and more calls from consumers to have their data protected,” claims Swish Goswami, CEO of browser extension platform Surf.

The key here is to keep your consumers in the loop. Give your followers a chance to choose what they share, and make sure the data you collect is transparent. Personalised ads, posts and targeting is a business game changer, as long as you have consent.

Automated content posting

Creating content for your brand is the driving force behind audience engagement.

While experts recommend that brands upload social media content daily, this process can be time-consuming. Using AI-driven social media tools, marketers can feel the pressure drain away, as automated assistants not only create original content formats but automatically schedule them too.

For example, AI-infused content planner Sprout Social can generate personalised tweets that reply to fans and followers in seconds. Instead of physically manning social channels and checking for replies, Sprout Social monitors a brand’s comment section before analysing the tone and sentiment of a reply. Sprout can then suggest an auto-response that aims to carry on the conversation between the brand and the consumer.

While automatic replies can pose ethical questions about a brand’s true identity, Sprout Social ensures that before an automatic reply is posted, the social media manager is able to review and edit the content. This guarantees that the brand’s voice still has a human tone when connecting with its audience.

Hubspot is also a nifty tool to have under your belt, especially if you’re struggling to develop new content ideas. By simply pasting a content link into Hubspot’s content generation feature, it uses AI to quickly analyse the metadata and create an original social post.

Social media advertising

Social platforms are the perfect vessels for advertising success. Whether you choose TikTok or Instagram, with the ability to post a pop-up on a user’s scroll-down feed, or a sponsored TikTok that blends seamlessly into a For You Page, social channels allow for a more organic future of ad placement.

However, with so many brands utilising social media, it can be hard to make your ad stand out from the crowd. Your ads must be full of compelling captions, quick links to your online store and contain a personalised hook for your target consumer.

Using AI, brands can optimise their ad performance on social channels. With the ability to analyse historic campaigns and current trends among industry leaders, AI-driven ad tools such as Sprinklr can make recommendations for smarter campaigns that drive better results.

Also, AI-infused ad strategies are more likely to be personalised to each user’s feed. AI tools like Phrase can generate customisable ad phrasing that adapts to target individual customers. This is a great way to ensure your ad captions remain fluid and speak directly to a diverse set of leads.

Predictive analytics

While it’s easier than ever to track social media performance, acting on your results can be tricky. AI-generated monitoring tools utilise the data harvested on content engagement, clicks and consumers, and turn these insights into predictions for new campaigns, content formats and new target groups to work on.

The key here is to take these predictions and turn them into content campaigns that frame the values of your brand. It’s also important to do your own research before jumping into an AI-generated content campaign, as just like humans, AI can have a decision system bias.

“AI is fallible and in a perfect world should be used critically, responsibly and democratically,” says Annie Brown, founder of the creative sharing platform Lips. “AI is only as fair and accurate as the algorithm, and the algorithm is only as fair or accurate as the human-generated information it gathers.”

For example, if the only data your AI tool collects is from a specific consumer group, it’s likely to inherit the same biases. Therefore, it’s important to perform your own content research if you want your brand voice to remain objective on social media.

However, with more data to inform their strategy, brands that use AI to influence their social campaigns are more likely to see higher conversion payoffs.

As social platforms continue to become more visual, AI can also enhance video and image analysis. For example, AI algorithms can now identify certain aspects of Instagram images and TikTok videos, making it easier to gather more data on a user’s interests and behaviours.

Visual analytics could help a brand improve its content styles as AI tools learn more about audience preferences and the formats going viral.

Could AI take social media marketing to the next level?

AI can enhance the experience a consumer has with a brand on social media. With predictive analytics at play, the content targeted users receive is more likely to speak directly to their values.

While there are still ethical concerns surrounding an AI-infused future of campaigning, there’s hope on the horizon for data-sharing transparency and the impact of algorithmic biases as both consumers and marketers take control of how data is gathered and shared.

As machine learning gets even smarter, the possibilities are endless for brands that want to get close to their leads. From automated responses to automatic content creation, the future of social media marketing is AI-driven.

By Rebecca Barnatt-Smith

Rebecca Barnatt-Smith is a freelance content writer and multi-media marketing executive at Solvid Digital, specialising in social media trends and widespread digitalisation in the marketing sector.


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