Law Centre (NI) monthly news

Welcome to our July 2016 eNewsletter.

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


Social security
Health and social care
Employees' rights
Refugees, asylum, trafficking
Summer training at the Law Centre: book your place now!


Leaving the EU: impact on social security

On the day after the EU referendum, Law Centre (NI) social security adviser Lee Hatton talked to BBC's On Your Behalf about what is known so far of the possible impact of leaving the European Union on social security benefits. 
Listen here until 24 July. The topic starts at 38.30 minutes.

Welfare reform NI
PIP now in place, and other changes

Some important developments in June/July, including:
  • Personal Independence Payment replaces DLA for people aged 16 to 64 from 20 June
  • new regulations on bedroom tax, ESA and JSA sanctions, benefit cap, Industrial Injuries Benefit, Universal Credit, time limits for DLA and PIP
  • Department announcement on mitigations measures in practice
Find out more and keep up to date with all things welfare reform on our Welfare Reform News site.

Mandatory reconsideration discussed at advisers' meetings

In June, Law Centre practitioner meetings with social security advisers discussed the journey through mandatory reconsideration to direct lodgement of with representatives of the Appeals Service and Department for Communities. 
To join the conversation on social security issues, join our practitioners meetings mailing list.


Securing benefit issues for young mother

Law Centre (NI) resolved a benefits issue for a Portuguese worker who suffered financial hardship through the late stages of pregnancy and the arrival of her child.
She had been living in Northern Ireland since 2011. Her most recent employment was on a zero-hour contract, as a cleaner in a local nursing home. 
When her employer could not give her any more shifts, she claimed the relevant benefits but - Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), then Income Support - but was refused both.
The Department thought that she did not have a right to reside for benefit purposes because there was a four weeks gap between the date when she last worked and the date she claimed JSA.
The Law Centre adviser appealed, arguing that she continued to be a worker for benefit purposes. This argument was based on the St Prix decision.
The adviser also helped her make a claim for Maternity Allowance.
The Department revised its decisions but did not need to pay JSA and Income Support as the adviser secured payment of Maternity Allowance and Working Tax Credit.
As the principle of right to reside has been established, the client should now be able to claim Income Support if she needs to extend her maternity leave after her entitlement to Maternity Allowance and Working Tax Credit ends.
The Law Centre has also advised her to seek immigration advice concerning her right to permanent residence later this year when she will have been resident for five years.
Advisers are welcome to refer similar cases and other social security cases involving complex issues. Law Centre (NI) advice line is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm: 028 9024 4401

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Protecting older person's right to live in her own home

The Law Centre’s community care team is often called on to help negotiate with trusts on behalf of older people who lack capacity.
In a recent case, an elderly woman with advanced dementia had been cared for at home by one of her sons for some time, with support from the local health trust. There had been no concerns about her care.
Other relatives felt that she should be in care and organised for her to taken into a nursing home against the son’s wishes. Aware of the disagreement, the trust should have made a formal decision on what living arrangements were in the best interests of the mother and if necessary seek a ‘Best Interests Declaration’ from the High Court. This was not done. Instead, her care team informed the day centre that she attended that she would be taken to the nursing home later that day.
In the nursing home, she suffered distress, disorientation and severe unhappiness. She resided there for 14 weeks before her case was referred to the Law Centre’s Community Care Unit.
The Law Centre adviser contacted the trust, citing local health and social care law and guidance and explaining that this case also raised deprivation of liberty and right to home and family life issues under the Human Rights Act.
The client was returned to the care of her son. She is now happily living back at home with appropriate care.
Advisers are welcome to refer similar cases and other community care cases involving complex issues. Law Centre (NI) advice line is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm: 028 9024 4401

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Negotiating unfair dismissal compensation

The Law Centre’s Legal Support Project relies on pro-bono work from law students and qualified lawyers to assist people who would otherwise be unrepresented, in social security and employment cases.
In a recent case, the client had worked for just over a year as an administration clerk with a large wholesale company when she was made redundant. She quickly secured alternative employment but she believed that her dismissal was unfair and she contacted the Legal Support Project for help.
The volunteer assessed the case with support from the project worker and concluded that the employer had failed to observe the minimum procedural requirements of the statutory dismissal procedures.
The Legal Support Project raised a complaint of automatic unfair dismissal with the employer.  With the help of the Labour Relations Agency, a pre-claim conciliated settlement was reached.
The employer agreed to pay the client compensation of £1,033.56 (four weeks’ gross pay) and to give her a reference, and the need to go to the industrial tribunal was avoided.
Advisers are welcome to refer social security and employment cases to the Legal Support Project. Conact the Law Centre advice line and queries will be passed on to the relevant service. Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm: 028 9024 4401

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MPs hear about refugee issues at the Law Centre

As part of Refugee Week, six Westminster representatives from Northern Ireland met with members of the Refugee Asylum Forum at the Law Centre. The meeting discussed what our MPs can do to help refugees and asylum seekers, including the recently arrived Syrian refugees.
The meeting brought up issues of destitution and homelessness, family reunion, travel difficulties, immigration detention, difficulties encountered during transition from asylum seeker to refugee status.  
Present were: Margaret Ritchie MP, Danny Kinahan MP, Mickey Brady MP, Jim Shannon MP, Gavin Robinson MP, Councillor Kate Mullan, of Alisdair McDonnell’s constituency office, and members of the Refugee & Asylum Forum.
It was a very informative discussion. The MPs took a real interest in the issues raised, offered to help with individual cases and pursue the wider issues with Westminster Home Office and DWP Ministers.
We look forward to working with our MPs on these issues.

20 unaccompanied children still missing

The Health Minister's response to a recent question in the Assembly suggests that between 16 and 20 unaccompanied minors who went missing in the last ten years in Northern Ireland are still unaccounted for.
See question AQW 466/16-21 on Northern Ireland Assembly website.
The response suggests that:
  • 67 separated children are known to have come to Northern Ireland since 2006
  • 22 of them went missing
  • of those, between 16 and 20 are still missing.
Earlier in June, a BBC Spotlight programme had uncovered eight young people who had gone missing while in the care of health trusts were still unaccounted for.
Law Centre (NI) believes that a guardianship system for all unaccompanied minors could help prevent further disappearances. This measure is provided for in Northern Ireland's Human Trafficking Act 2015 but has not yet been implemented.

UNCRC echoes concerns for migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children

On 9 June, the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child published its fifth periodic report on children’s rights in the UK.
The report echoes the concerns of the Law Centre and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People on the treatment of children in the asylum and immigration system.
The Committee’s recommendations include:
  • establishing legal guardians for all unaccompanied minors,
  • appropriate age assessments, to be conducted only in cases of serious doubt
  • end to all immigration detention of children
  • review policy on family reunion
  • ensure sufficient support and access to services for families and unaccompanied children
  • review the Immigration Act to ensure its compatibility with children’s rights.
Read more here.

Refugee week 2016: WelcomeFest

The Law Centre was pleased to be involved in WelcomeFest, by Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Belfast Friendship Club and British Red Cross, at Saint Anne's Cathedral Belfast.
Law Centre (NI) and British Red Cross held a joint welcome card making workshop. The cards will be distributed to newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees.

Refugee Week £10 challenge

Our Policy officer Liz Griffith joined in Refugee Week’s £10 challenge. This involved eating for a week on only £10, the amount of short-term support that British Red Cross in Northern Ireland would give to destitute asylum seekers and others who go to them for help when they have run out of solutions to survive.
Find out more about the challenge and the reasons why it was held on the Law Centre’s website and also on Twitter: @LawCentreNI #RefugeeWeek #SurviveOnTenPounds

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Social security and welfare reform

26 July Welfare Benefits and mandatory reconsideration and other changes - Belfast
9 August to 27 September Welfare Rights Adviser Programme [eight days] - Derry
17 August The mitigation schemes under the Welfare Reform Bill - Belfast
24 August Understanding Universal Credit - Belfast
1 - 8 - 15 September The complete Welfare Reform course [3 days] - Belfast

Employment law

23 - 30 August Introduction to employment law [2 days] - Belfast

Health and social care

12 August The law on deprivation of liberty - Belfast
7 September Deprivation of liberty safeguards: in summary - Belfast
14 September Rights in health and social care provision: key signposts for advisers - Belfast
The full training programme is on the Law Centre’s website.
All our courses carry CPD points. Discounts apply to Law Centre members. Further discounts are available for early birds and block bookings.
Contact or for more information.

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 Law Centre (NI) 

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