Law Centre (NI) monthly news

Welcome to our November 2015 eNewsletter.

Please feel free to circulate to anyone you think may be interested.


Planning the next phase of our work
Training and professional development
Access to Justice conference
Social security
Employment rights
Health and social care
Forced migration
Trafficking and labour exploitation
Join us at Foyle Film Festival screening


Help us plan the next phase of our work

The Law Centre is preparing its development plan for 2016-2020. We would be very grateful if Law Centre members could help us by answering this very short survey.
Thank you.


Updates and skills building sessions for advisers in social security, mental health and employment law

19 November Taking a case to the Social Security Commissioner - Belfast - 1 day
24 November - 25 November Introduction to employment law - Derry - 2 days
25 November Understanding the Law on Holiday Pay - Belfast - Lunch & Learn
30 November Challenging Tax Credit Decisions: Overpayments - Derry - 1/2 day
3 December Applied mental health law - Belfast- 1 day
14 January Personal Independence Payment - Belfast - 1/2 day

All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors, barristers and CAB advisers.
Discounts for Law Centre members. Click here for more information on becoming a member.
In addition, we have discounts for early bookings and for booking three or more places together.  
See our training brochure for details: Law Centre (NI) training programme 2015-16

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Way forward for access to justice debated at A2J Conference

On 6 November, Law Centre (NI) and Ulster University Law School hosted a conference examining the future of access to justice, at Clifton House, Belfast.
The conference aimed to generate some discussion on Access to Justice Review 2. Report author Colin Stutt presented his findings, which can be found on the DoJ's website.The consultation on the findings of Access to Justice Review 2 ends on 6 February 2016.
The importance of maintaining access to free specialist and generalist legal advice was stressed by speakers throughout the day, as a vital safeguard for those who are most disadvantaged.
Speakers included Justice Minister David Ford MLA; Mr Justice Gillen; NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby; Professor Pascoe Pleasence, University College London; Matthew Smerdon, Legal Education Foundation; Marie Anderson, NI Ombudsman; Dr Gráinne McKeever and Pr Eugene McNamee, Ulster University; Ursula O’Hare and Glenn Jordan, Law Centre (NI).

The Ulster University Law School’s research on the role of university law clinics in the access to justice landscape was launched at the conference. The report is available on UU's website

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New code of practice for tribunal representatives

The President of the Appeal Tribunals for Northern Ireland has published a useful code of practice for tribunal representatives.
While the Code has no formal statutory basis, it provides useful guidance on best practice for those providing representation.
You can download a copy from the Law Centre’s website.

Practitioners meetings:  the appeal tribunal 

The Law Centre held a practitioner meeting on appeal tribunals at its Belfast office on 11 November. Adrian McCullough, Legally Qualified Panel Member of the Appeal Tribunal, gave a valuable presentation on effective advocacy, issues and challenges involved in representing at Tribunal. He addressed the new Code of Practice for Tribunal Representatives.
The next practitioner meeting will be held on Monday 23 November, 2.15pm to 4.15pm, in our Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, Derry.
Terence Rafferty, Legally Qualified Panel Member of the Appeal Tribunal, will address the Derry meeting.
Participants will also be able to discuss common caseload issues and recent test cases of interest to advisers. 
Please confirm attendance with Margaret Reid,

Resolving tax credit problems due to computer error

Last year Belfast Trust experienced well publicised difficulties with its new IT payroll system.  Tar Isteach referred to us a client who was having severe problems with tax credits as a result. She had been overpaid by the Trust and had immediately returned the overpayment. However, as the Trust system had notified HMRC of the original payment, she was asked to repay £4,500 in tax credits and HMRC stopped her weekly payment of £60.
Although the Trust wrote twice to HMRC to explain that they did not know how to correct the figures on HMRC’s system, HMRC insisted it would not change its mind when it carried out a mandatory reconsideration.
We lodged an appeal against the overpayment and final award decisions.
We sent a letter before action to the legal department requiring that our client's actual entitlement on her current earnings be put into payment within 14 days or we would seek a court order to compel HMRC to pay her.
On the fourteenth day her tax credit payment was made and she was informed that arrears would be paid. 

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Legal updates 

The employment section of the Law Centre’s online rights guide has been updated to reflect new rates of minimum wage and statutory sick pay as well as important changes on shared parental leave and statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures.
It is available at:

Foiling attempt to reduce compensation in constructive dismissal case

The Law Centre successfully represented a client at the Industrial Tribunal in a claim for constructive dismissal.  The Law Centre’s legal adviser identified that the company’s key aim in defending the case was to seek to cap any compensation due to him, relying on the argument that compensation should be reduced to reflect the possibility that the claimant would have been dismissed fairly in any event (following the case of Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd).
The Tribunal agreed that the employer had not given sufficient or relevant evidence to support its claims.
Our client was awarded compensation for unfair dismissal and paid the wages due to him.

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Using Human Rights Act to advocate for dignity in home care

The Law Centre acted on behalf of a client who considered that her mother, an adult with dementia, had been treated unprofessionally by staff attending to her domiciliary needs. We raised obligations under the Human Rights Act to resolve the matter through the Trust’s complaints mechanism. The case was referred to us by the mother’s social worker.

Practitioners meeting: Capacity Bill, needs assessment, HSC panels

Friday 27 November, 10.30 to 12.30, Law Centre (NI), 124 Donegall Street, Belfast
On the agenda:
  • Update on recent cases /Legislation (Mental Capacity Bill)
  • Assessment of need and meeting need in times of budget constraint;
  • HSC Panels and decision making (Mr Eamonn McNally, Solicitor with the Children’s Law Centre will give a short presentation).
  • Members updates/ general discussion on topics and case issues of interest/concern.
To confirm attendance, ring 028 9024 4401 or email by Friday 20 November.

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Refugee support groups share ideas

Refugee support organisations from across the UK met at the Law Centre to exchange ideas on strategies and best practice in supporting refugees in their respective regions. This was a productive meeting, in preparation for the first arrivals of Syrian refugees and also to plan for better support for all refugees and asylum seekers.

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Guardianship for separated children

On 3 November, the Law Centre and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People held a roundtable discussion to consider the role and practice of independent guardians for separated children in Northern Ireland, including those who may have been trafficked. 
The legal guardians system, provided for in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (NI) 2015, is in the process of being implemented, and the Department of Health and Social Services is consulting on criteria for the appointment, regulation and monitoring of guardians.
The roundtable brought together delegates from the Netherlands and Britain as well as key players in Northern Ireland.
This event was intended to generate further initiatives to ensure a robust guardianship system is implemented as early as possible.The discussion was very positive and will feed into individual groups’ responses to the consultation which ends on 6 November. 

Unchosen - short films on modern slavery

Thursday 19 November 2015, 2pm, Nerve Centre Cinema 2 – followed by panel discussion

FREE EVENT but places are limited. RSVP to:
In collaboration with Foyle Film Festival and Unchosen, the Law Centre will screen three critically acclaimed short films that illustrate what modern slavery looks like.
Following the screening, there will be a Q&A where the audience can discuss modern slavery in Northern Ireland with an expert panel, and explore what we can do to help.
Films: Yoke Farm, My Friend Ivor, Nicu, What do you see?
Panel speakers:
Caroline Maguire, Law Centre (NI) solicitor specialising in employment rights and labour exploitation
Júlia Tomás, Unchosen
Agnieszka Luczak NICEM North West
Read more

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 Law Centre (NI) 

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