Enrol now for essential updates on:
- Personal Independence Payment
- mental health care law
All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors, barristers and CAB advisers.
Discounts are available for Law Centre members. We also 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
Why Fight Poverty? Because we can win!
Poverty is not inevitable and must be addressed urgently in Northern Ireland was the key message by Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Julia Unwin at the Law Centre's Social Justice Lecture on 19 October.
Read more about it here
Listen to the talk and to an interview with Julia Unwin
Follow the Twitter conversation: #EndPovertyNI
Conference: The Future of Access to Justice
The Ulster University Law School and Law Centre (NI) are hosting a conference examining the future of access to justice, on Friday 6 November, 10am to 4.30pm, Clifton House, Belfast.
- Colin Stutt, author of the Access to Justice Review 2
- Professor Pascoe Pleasence, University College London
- Dr Gráinne McKeever, Ulster University
- Matthew Smerdon, Legal Education Foundation
- Ursula O’Hare, Law Centre (NI)
- Representative from the Office of the Lord Chief Justice
- Senior representative from government
Full conference programme is available at:
Attendance is free but places are limited. To register please contact Beverly Coulter or Sharon McCullough or call 028 9036 6346
Securing positive Commissioner Decision on a child’s DLA entitlement
The Law Centre successfully challenged a refusal to award Disability Living Allowance to a seven year old boy with brittle asthma and ADHD.
The family had challenged the decision at a social security tribunal. At the date of the decision and up until the tribunal hearing, the child had been referred to be assessed for ADHD but the assessment had not yet been completed. His mother was told by the tribunal that the ADHD element could not be considered and therefore she did not discuss the care and mobility needs arising from his ADHD condition.
The tribunal rejected the appeal and the family was referred to the Law Centre.
The Law Centre adviser successfully challenged the decision in front of the Social Security Commissioner.
The Commissioner agreed that the tribunal had failed to take into consideration the fact that the child’s need for outdoor supervision was far greater than that of a child of his age without a disability. In addition, the tribunal had failed to conduct all the fact-finding stages needed to satisfy itself that the child had a disability relevant to the mobility and care components of DLA.
The case was referred back to a second tribunal. Meanwhile the child was granted DLA on a second application. He has now been diagnosed with ADHD and a very detailed assessment of his needs has been made.
Non-EU parents of EU children: claim benefits now
The Law Centre’s social security unit is currently advising ‘Zambrano’ parents who are not allowed to receive Child Benefit or means-tested benefits under current rules.
As a test case on this issue is due to be heard by the Supreme Court, advisers should encourage other ‘Zambrano’ parents* to lodge claims urgently if they are in need of Child Benefit or means-tested benefits. Under the current rules, the application will be refused but the person should then challenge the decision as this may give them the right to receive back-payments if the Court decides these rules are unlawful.
The person should contact the Law Centre for advice on how to challenge the decision to protect their rights.
* What is a Zambrano parent/carer?
A Zambrano carer is a non-EU person who is allowed to stay as the parent of an EU national, because otherwise the child would be deprived of her/his rights through having to leave the country to accompany the parent. UK law expressly excludes 'Zambrano’ carers from means-tested benefits, Child Benefit and social housing.
For example, this could be an Algerian mother who is looking after her primary school age child, who has Irish / British nationality.
We would encourage advisers to be alert to this type of situation, and to refer their clients to our advice line if appropriate: 028 9024 4401, 9.30am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.
Advisers are also welcome to seek advice from our social security legal advisers for any other cases where they require assistance.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE
Helping vulnerable client manage daily life
The Law Centre helped a client whose mental health condition left him unable to clean his home. Although this had resulted in his property becoming unfit for habitation, the health and social care trust had classified his need as low and placed him on an unmet need list. This was because cleaning was not considered to be a critical service.
The Law Centre adviser relied on a successful decision in one of our previews cases to argue that its is the risk to the person which should be categorised, not the service. In this case, the risk of not having a cleaning service should have been placed in the critical/substantial category. The trust agreed and the appropriate service was arranged.
Like much of our community care work, this case relied on local health legislation but also on article 8 of the Human Rights Act (right to respect for private and family life).
If in doubt when encountering similar cases, seek advice from our community care legal advisers, 9024 4401, Monday to Friday 9.30am to 1pm.
Sharing knowledge at community care practitioner meeting
On 15 October, advisers and practitioners working in the field of community care and long-term care got together in the Law Centre’s Western Area Office. They shared their experiences and discuss developments relevant to their casework.
The issues covered include:
- work towards the new mental health and capacity legislation
- laws governing decisions by health and social care trusts to remove, reduce or refuse social care services
- legal position on overnight care provision
- legislation governing right to direct payments in lieu of services
- recent strategic cases.
Mental health legal advice service
Saturday 10 October was World Mental Health Day, a good time to remind you that the Law Centre can provide free legal advice and representation to users of mental health services and their families. We can help in cases involving:
- compulsory treatment in hospital
- access to mental health and learning disability services
- related issues of benefit entitlement and rights at work
Our advisers have extensive experience of representing at Mental Health Review Tribunals and human rights based Judicial Review proceedings. Call 028 9024 4401, 9.30am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.
More information on our mental health legal advice service here
The new mental capacity legislation for Northern Ireland which is currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly is an important step in ensuring the rights and dignity of mental health service patients. You can read our views in our consultation response
, our briefing
on the Bill, and our suggested amendment
. and article
in Scope NI.
Myth-busting: how many refugees in Northern Ireland?
In the absence of official Northern Ireland data on numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, we have examined information from various sources to provide estimates.
We calculated a total of around 600 asylum seekers
currently living in NASS accommodation, some of whom have been waiting for a decision for several years.
We estimate that there are 200 to 300 new refugees (people who have received a positive decision on their asylum application) including family members each year. Some refugees choose to live in Northern Ireland permanently but many move to GB to be closer to extended family members or existing communities and some return to their home country when it safe to do so.
Five actions for refugee support and integration
The Law Centre is a member of the Refugee and Asylum Forum which supports the call for Syrian refugees to be resettled in Northern Ireland. The Forum has identified five key actions that Stormont could take to smooth the integration of newly arriving Syrian refugees and considerably improve the situation for current asylum seekers and refugees.
The five key actions are explained in a briefing:
Five Key Actions - Ensuring Northern Ireland Responds to the needs of Refugees
and a leaflet: SAFER - 5 small asks (+1) for a big NI welcome for refugees
We presented the '5 key actions' to a specially convened meeting of Belfast City Council, and briefed MLAs ahead of an Assembly debate on supporting refugees.
We will continue to press the Northern Ireland Executive to do all that is in its power to ensure the successful settlement of refugees. We have been invited to give evidence to OFMDFM committee on refugee issues on 4 November.
We have produced a video in association with NVTV explaining the 5 Actions and SAFER campaign: In Focus – The Syrian Refugee Crisis
Law Centre (NI) responds to plans to cut support for ‘failed’ asylum seekers
The Home Office has been consulting on reforming support for ‘failed’ asylum seekers. Proposals include reducing NASS support for single adults and children. This would compound the hardship experienced by many asylum seekers. Our experience is that the asylum support system is already insufficient to enable recipients to provide for their essential living needs.
We have asked the Home Office to instead urgently improve NASS support for all asylum seekers. Read our response here
'How can we stamp out modern slavery?' was the question explored at a Law Centre conference on 10 September. Charities involved in combatting human trafficking and exploitation shared experiences and ideas with trade unionists, business leaders and government officials.
The conference examined new legal requirements to tackle forced labour and trafficking in Northern Ireland and across the UK as well as strategies to eradicate modern slavery in the labour market and best practice in protecting victims.
You can see a summary of the day and listen to the speakers, courtesy of Alan Meban: Modern Slavery – can NI’s history of activism shake off its long history of slavery?
Scope NI has an interview of UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland and a report on the conference: Can Slavery Be Defeated?
We have produced a video explaining the issues in association with NVTV: In Focus – Modern Day Slavery
You can watch Yoke Farm
RIGHTS OF EMPLOYEES
Advisers get together with DEL to discuss plans for new employment tribunal rules
On 15 September, the Law Centre held a roundtable discussion on the Department for Employment and Learning’s consultation on Tribunal Rules.
Alan Scott of DEL outlined the proposals, and Daire Murphy, employment legal adviser at the Law Centre, shared his experience of working with the current rules and the challenges faced by unrepresented claimants. Paul Shevlin, of Thompsons Solicitors, gave the GB perspective.
The proposed new rules take significant inspiration from the revised employment tribunal rules in Britain, which emerged following the Underhill Review. Paul Shevlin explained what works well in the GB rules from the perspective of supporting claimants, and what could work better.
This event enabled voluntary and statutory sector representatives to exchange ideas on shaping new Northern Ireland Tribunal Rules, keeping track of the important goal of providing access to justice for employees.
ADVICE: CONSUMER RIGHTS
Consumer Rights Initiative
The Consumer Rights Initiative, a collaboration between the three NIASC partners and the Consumer Council was launched on 7 October. The vision is of a Northern Ireland where consumers know who to contact when they have a consumer rights problem and will be referred to the most appropriate help and information regardless of which organisation they first contact.
The CRI partners will develop cross-referral mechanisms; share strategic case outcomes, knowledge and information on consumer issues; signpost effectively between organisations and explore opportunities for shared learning and best practice. They will also seek to inform policy and legislation and improve overall services to consumers.