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News

Transferring ESA claims from GB to Northern Ireland

Extra statutory scheme entitles people to transfer their claims between GB and NI without going through WCA again

Through a number of cases last year and this year, the Law Centre had convinced the Agency to introduce an extra statutory scheme allowing claims of ESA, which allows people to transfer their claims without having to go through the Work Capability Assessment again. This scheme applies to both contributions based and income related ESA.

We represented a woman who had moved from Britain to Northern Ireland. The Social Security Agency asked her to make a fresh claim of income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). We contacted the ESA manager, asking for our client to be included under the extra statutory scheme. We received a confirmation letter that this had been resolved, the client was paid over £600 of arrears and the Work Capability Assessment appointment was cancelled.

Advisers with queries on this scheme are encouraged to contact our social security advice line:

Monday to Friday, 9.30 to 1pm

9024 4401 or 7126 2433

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Welfare Reform: the reality

Mervyn Storey MLA

Conference focuses on the need to protect those who are most affected while Minister explains package of mitigations.

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Law Centre (NI) AGM and seminar 2014

Law Centre (NI) AGM 2013 - impact report presentation

You are warmly invited to  Law Centre (NI) AGM and seminar on Friday 21 November in Groundwork NI.  The theme is the future of advice in the digital age.

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Welfare reform conference update

Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium logoUPDATE

All places are booked up for Welfare Reform: the Reality, a joint conference of Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium and NICVA  examining the practical implementation of welfare reform in England and Scotland.

When? 29 October, 9.30am to 1.30pm

Where? Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast

Hosted by Karen Patterson, the conference will give members of the voluntary and community sector an opportunity to hear from, and directly engage with the newly appointed Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey.

It will focus on the reality of how the reforms have impacted on people in England and Scotland and draw out any lessons for Northern Ireland. It will also hear from local advice workers on the issues and concerns of their clients in Northern Ireland.Steve Cullen, Chief Executive of Warrington CAB, will speak about the on the ground impact of Welfare Reform. Warrington is one of the pathfinder areas for Universal Credit.

Conference Agenda

Hosted by Karen Patterson

Welcome and opening remarks from Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive NICVA       

Minister for Social Development Mervyn Storey MLA - setting out where we are now and next steps. Introduced by Ursula O'Hare, Law Centre (NI)

Social Fund Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Karamjit Singh CBE - discussing the Social Fund in devolved regions and options for NI.

Steve Cullen, Chief Executive of Warrington CAB - Warrington is a Universal Credit Pathfinder Area, discussing the on the ground impact of welfare reform.

Lynn Williams, Policy Officer, SCVO - to outline Scotland’s experience of welfare reform

Mary McManus, Manager, East Belfast Independent Advice Centre. Will outline frontline experiences of welfare reform as an advice worker in Northern Ireland.

Discussion/question and answers

Close for lunch

For a twitter conversation on the day:#WRNI14

 *Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium (NIASC) is an umbrella body comprising Law Centre (NI), Advice NI and Citizens Advice NI.

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Anti-slavery day: Law Centre NI joins in awareness raising at St George's Market

On Saturday 18 October, anti slavery day, Law Centre (NI) joined other NGOs to help in the Department of Justice NI's awareness raising effort at St George's Market Belfast.

Elizabeth Griffith, Law Centre NI Policy Officer at DoJ awareness raising stall on Anti-#trafficking day

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Zero-hour contracts: the Law Centre's views

The Law Centre believes that the use of zero hours contracts must be curtailed in situations where they are inappropriate.  

We suggest a model of regulation which we believe achieves this whilst not disadvantaging employers who have a genuine need for casual work.   

Here is our submission to the Department for Employment and Learning consultation: DEL: Zero Hours Contracts Oct 2014

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Law Centre anti-traffficking story wins film award

The film based on a composite trafficking story supplied by our Young People Anti-Trafficking Project has won the overall award in the Unchosen film festival.

Congratulations to Tim Keeking, the director of this excellent short film. We are delighted to have been chosen by judges who include no less than Ken Loach!

On a serious note, this is great awareness raising for the issues involved, the misery caused, and the important work that is being done to help people free themselves from modern slavery and hopefully move on with their lives. Although the story was transposed to an English setting for the purposes of the film, it is based on situations that are happening here in Northern Ireland, and that we have encountered in our work.

Follow the link below to find a trailer for the film and a PDF of the story we sent (the film is Yoke Farm, the story is Yurgis):

http://www.unchosen.org.uk/films.html

Yoke Farm is in the process of being submitted to international film festivals:

http://www.timkeeling.com/filter/film/About-Tim

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Law Centre contributes to OFMDFM consultation on Racial Equality Strategy

OFMDFM has been consulting on the Racial Equality Strategy. The Law Centre has:

1. endorsed the Common Platform paper;

2. written our own response specifically on the chapter on immigration;

3. written a joint submission with other members of the Refugee and Asylum Forum on the need for a Refugee Integration Strategy.

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Welfare Reform: the reality

NIASC-logoA date for your diary

The Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium and NICVA will host a half day conference examining the practical implementation of welfare reform in England and Scotland.

When? 29 October, 9.30am to 1.30pm

Where? Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast

Hosted by Karen Patterson, the conference will give members of the voluntary and community sector an opportunity to hear from, and directly engage with the newly appointed Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey.

It will focus on the reality of how the reforms have impacted on people in England and Scotland and draw out any lessons for Northern Ireland. It will also hear from local advice workers on the issues and concerns of their clients in Northern Ireland.Steve Cullen, Chief Executive of Warrington CAB, will speak about the on the ground impact of Welfare Reform. Warrington is one of the pathfinder areas for Universal Credit.

To book a place: www.nicva.org/services/communications

For a twitter conversation on the day: #WRNI14

*Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium (NIASC) is an umbrella body comprising Law Centre (NI), Advice NI and Citizens Advice NI.

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Joint UK / Republic of Ireland visa scheme announced

The Law Centre welcomes this week’s announcement that the British and Irish governments have agreed a joint visa scheme. The scheme will allow visitors from outside the EU who are holders of short-term visas to move freely within the two jurisdictions on a single permit.

The scheme only applies to certain UK visitors and initially will begin with visitors from China and India. We understand that the scheme will gradually be extended to other nationalities.

The UK and Ireland are part of the Common Travel Area, which allows free movement for their citizens across the island of Ireland. EEA nationals and their family members also have free movement due to European law. However, overseas nationals do not have free movement. The current arrangements can cause confusion and hardship: the Law Centre is aware of overseas nationals who, not understanding visa requirements, have been detained after moving into the other jurisdiction.

The Law Centre has worked on this issue with our sister organisations in the Republic of Ireland for a number of years. We have consistently argued that mutual visas are beneficial (for example for free movement, family life, tourism, etc) and would reduce the risk of ethnic profiling, which is prohibited in international law. Therefore, while the underlying purpose of this scheme is to boost tourism and business travel, the scheme is also good for human rights. We look forward to its extension.

More information about the scheme can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-irish-visa-scheme

A BBC news article is here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-29509552

Please note: If you are not sure whether this scheme applies to you, we strongly advise you to obtain immigration advice before travelling to the Republic of Ireland. Our immigration advice line runs Mon – Fri 9.30 – 1pm, 028 9024 44001

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EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator visits Belfast

Ursula O'Hare, Acting Director, Law Centre (NI), and Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator

Law Centre (NI) was delighted to welcome Myria Vassiliadou, the EU Coordinator on Trafficking, in Northern Ireland for the first time on 7 and 8 October.

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October e-newsletter

The Law Centre's e-newsletter for October 2014 is now available.

Go to the e-newsletter page to download it and previous e-newsletters.

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Administrative justice report launched

On 26 September, the Northern Ireland Ombudsman and Law Centre (NI) held a seminar on the way forward for administrative justice.

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Western Area Joint Mental Health & Community Care Practitioners Group Meeting

The next meeting of this practitioners group meeting will take place on 23 October 2014 at 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm at Law Centre (NI), 9 Clarendon Street, Derry, BT48 7EP.

It will be hosted by Caroline Cooley, Law Centre (NI) Community Care Legal Adviser and Séan McParland, Law Centre (NI) Mental Health Legal Adviser.

The meeting will feature a discussion on the Mental Capacity Bill. The Department of Health issued its draft Mental Capacity Bill for consultation in May 2014 and the consultation period finished on 2 October 2014. This provides an opportunity to discuss with practitioners the main proposals/changes in the Bill and also look at the Law Centre’s response to the consultation, as well as other responses from relevant voluntary/community group consultees.

There will also be time for general discussion by practitioners on any topics/cases of interest to them.
 
Please confirm attendance by email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or telephone 028 7126 2433.

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Vacancies at Law Centre (NI)

The Law Centre has three new vacancies available:

Director (re-advertisement)

Reference number: D-07-14.  35 hours per week.  Based in Belfast

We are seeking a person to lead the Law Centre through its next phase of development. The person must have a minimum of five years experience of managing an organisation either at chief executive or at a senior management level, and a demonstrable track record of leading strategic development and change.

A legal and/or management qualification, experience of legal advice services and knowledge of one or more of the Law Centre’s areas of work are desirable.

Salary: £46,620 - £52,420 NJC Points: 54 – 60   PO9/PO10

Closing date for applications: Monday 13 October 2014 at 1.00 pm

Previous applicants need not apply.

 

Assistant Director (Organisational Services)

Reference number: AD-06-14.  35 hours per week.  Based in Belfast

We are seeking a person with at least two years experience in a management position involving the management of complex budgets, human resources and administration.

A professional qualification as an accountant and experience of senior management are desirable.

Salary: £39,351 – £42,032 NJC Points: 46 - 49

Closing date for applications: Friday 17 October 2014 at 1.00 pm

 

Receptionist

Reference number: REC-05-14.  20 hours per week.  Based in Belfast

We are seeking a person who has RSA II Word Processing or RSA II typing, a minimum of two years office experience, experience of working with Microsoft Office and experience of manual and electronic file management. Experience of working in a legal or advice environment and with databases is desirable.

Salary: £15,189 - £16,215 (pro rata)  NJC Points: 12 - 15

Closing date for applications: Wednesday 15 October 2014 at 1.00 pm

 

For full details of the criteria for all of the above posts, further information and application forms please visit our Work With Us page

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Successful representations for client with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Legal Support Project and social security lawyers work hand in hand in successful ESA/DLA case

People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can experience great difficulties with benefit claims.

The Law Centre helped a client who has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME for several years. His symptoms are both physical and mental/cognitive but evidence of his illness is gathered through observation or acceptance of his physical and mental/cognitive symptoms. His fatigue is very severe, unpredictable and results in delayed symptoms. 

This client has had to seek the help of the Law Centre at several stages of his benefit claims and we have previously represented him in two successful commissioner cases. Our latest involvement with this client involved three cases:

-          ESA

He had had a nil award of Employment and Support Allowance after a WCA assessment and the Commissioner had ordered that the case be remitted. We took up the case again and made representations with relevant GP notes and records attached.  The Department changed the decision days before the tribunal hearing and placed him in the support group for ESA during the fixed period within the scope of this case.

-          DLA

We represented him in two joined cases regarding the refusal of Disability Living Allowance awards, one remitted following a successful Commissioner case sending the case back for review. A tribunal hearing was held and a decision made awarding the high rate mobility component in both cases.

The client feels vindicated after years of trying to establish entitlement.  He received backdated ESA monies at the highest amount and backdated DLA money.  He now receives high rate mobility for DLA and ESA at the WRAC (work related activity component) level.

We have given him a supporting letter and copy of medical evidence to ask for reconsideration of his current award. This is important to the client as he now receives Contributions-based ESA.  Once welfare reform comes in and the 365 day rule for contributions based ESA, he will lose his ESA completely unless he is placed in the support group.  Time spent in the support group is ignored for this 365 day rule.

Representing this client involved partnership work between our Legal Support Project, which took on the routine work pro-bono, and our social security legal advice unit, which provided representation at complex hearings.

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National Minimum Wage: new rates

The rates for national minimum wage are changing on Wednesday:

  • for a worker aged sixteen or seventeen£3.79 per hour from 1 Oct 14;
  • for a worker aged eighteen to 20: £5.13 per hour from 1 Oct 14;
  • for a worker aged 21 and over: £6.50 per hour from 1 Oct 14.

Workers paid on a piece-rate basis should be paid the minimum hourly wage or get a fair piece-rate which allows them to earn the minimum wage.

Apprentices aged over nineteen and who have completed the first year of their apprenticeship must receive the national minimum wage at the rate applicable to their age.

Apprentices who are (i) in the first year of their contract of apprenticeship irrespective of age; or (ii) under nineteen must be paid at least  £2.73 per hour from 1 Oct 14).

More information on rights of employees in our Encyclopedia of Rights: http://www.lawcentreni.org/EoR/employment/rights-of-employees.html

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Trafficking and the National Referral Mechanism

Drawing on its experience of working with people who have been trafficked, the Law Centre has responded to the Home Office consultation on the review of the National Referral Mechanism. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM)is a process set up by government to identify and support victims of trafficking in the UK.

We call for significant reform of the NRM, including removing the Competent Authority role from the Home Office; putting the NRM on a statutory footing and introducing a right of appeal for those who get a negative decision.

See our response to the NRM review here.

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Capacity Bill - Law Centre response

Colin Harper, Law Centre NI, speaking at Chambré Public Affairs event on Capacity Bill 2014

The Law Centre welcomes the publication of the draft Mental Capacity Bill for Northern Ireland as a key milestone to achieving progressive and rights-based reform of mental health legislation.  

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NI Advice Services Consortium consults with front-line centres

Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium logoThe Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium is the umbrella organisation of Citizens Advice, Law Centre (NI) and Advice NI.

The consortium is consulting frontline advice agencies on its draft Advice Quality Standard, draft Minimum Training Requirements and the ongoing implementation of the Council Reporting Template.

Stakeholders in the advice sector from across Northern Ireland have been invited to share their views on these issues, and help to inform the implementation of these initiatives.

The consultation is taking the form of an online survey (available here), as well as two face-to-face focus groups.

The first meeting was held on 17 September, 12-2pm at Derry CAB.

The next focus group will meet Wednesday 24 September, 12pm-2pm at the Law Centre’s Belfast office.

Commenting on the consultation, Advice NI Head of Policy Kevin Higgins said: ‘Uptake on the survey responses so far has been excellent - we are getting some encouraging and constructive feedback. The events in Belfast and the north-west should offer further opportunity for the front-line to shape these initiatives from the ground up.’

Any questions on the consultation, or additional feedback about any of these Consortium initiatives, can be sent to Stephen Orme, the Consortium Co-Ordinator, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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