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News

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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WRAP training makes confident benefits advisers

David Mitchell Law Centre NIThe Law Centre's new Training Officer, David Mitchell, is responsible for training delivery and coordination throughout the organisation.

From Tuesday 7 October, David will be delivering the Welfare Rights Adviser Programme (WRAP) in the Unison Building in L’derry to a new cohort of advisers.

The course runs every Tuesday for 8 weeks. It is accredited by the Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI). Successful participants are awarded an OCN NI certificate to mark their achievement.  

WRAP is designed for new advice workers who wish to acquire a sound level of knowledge in benefits and tax credits.  It can also be used by experienced advisers who have been working in other areas and want to branch out into social security advice.

Upon completion of this course, participants should feel confident in advice provision in the area of welfare rights, including entitlement to benefits and how to make a claim.

David says: “Voluntary and community groups, Trade Unions and solicitors can send their people on this course to ensure that they have well trained, confident staff who can advise and signpost clients effectively.  Staff can then complete their training with other Law Centre courses such as legal research skills for advisers, introduction to employment law or tribunal representation.”

The course is offered at a discounted rate for Law Centre members. All participants will be allocated a free place on the two day Employment Law course in Derry on 24 and 25 February 2015. 

There are still a few places on this course. For details and to enrol: 

www.lawcentreni.org/events/events/details/312-welfare-rights-adviser-programme-wrap.html

 or phone 028 9024 4401.

For info on our other courses in social security law, community care and mental health law, rights of employees and immigration: 

www.lawcentreni.org/training/training-programme.html

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Capacity and consent: Law Centre training for ARC

ARC Northern Ireland has commissioned training from the Law Centre on Capacity and Consent. The course will be held on 25 September.  More information on the ARC website: 

http://arcuk.org.uk/northernireland/events/event/capacity-consent-training/

ARC (NI) is a leading umbrella body representing service providers in the learning disability sector.

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Short film based on Law Centre trafficking cases shortlisted for UK award

Law Centre contributes story to Unchosen competition film

A short film based on a composite story of Law Centre cases involving trafficking and forced labour has been shortlisted for a UK-wide award. The film will be unveiled at the Unchosen Modern Day Slavery Short Film Competition awards ceremony in Bristol on 9 October, with a panel of judges including film director Ken Loach.

Meanwhile, you can read more about the competition, the Law Centre's involvement and the 'Jurgis' story, on which the film is based, in this Culture Northern Ireland article: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/6509/unchosen-short-film-competition

Last year's films can be seen here: http://www.unchosen.org.uk/films.html

The 'Jurgis' story, submitted by the Law Centre, was written as a composite of a number of cases we have encountered in our work with victims of trafficking. It tells of a young Lithuanian man lured to Northern Ireland on the promise of a good position, who is met at the airport, whisked away to a rural location, tricked into surrendering his passport and made to work 12 hour-days packing eggs for £20 a week. The film makers have relocated the story to England. 

The Law Centre's Anti-Trafficking Young People Project is funded by Comic Relief. 

Unchosen is a charity founded in 2008 to combat forced labour and exploitation.

 

Home Office awareness raising film

In a separate development, the Home Office has produced a short film to raise awareness of trafficking and forced labour, with help from Unchosen, ECPAT, The Salvation Army and the NSPCC. The 7 minute film is aimed at professionals who may come in to contact with potential victims (but is also suitable for the general public). It contains information on the types of labour exploitation victims can face, as well as advice on the signs to spot and how professionals have an important role to play in identifying and safeguarding victims. You can see it here: http://youtu.be/Jv1H_fAoOG4

 

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Advisers discuss benefit changes at Law Centre meeting

Adviser's meeting

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Human rights in social care: the McDonald case

This Law Centre briefing examines a recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights concerning an English local authority’s decision to remove the provision of a night time carer from the care package of a person with disabilities.

Who is it for?

The decision is of relevance to health and social care professionals involved in assessing the needs of people in Northern Ireland and in making decisions regarding the provision of social care services.

It is also of use to advisers, service users and carers who wish to understand the decision making process required to be undertaken by a trust when an individual’s human rights are involved.

Why is it important?

This landmark decision highlights the importance of a trust’s duty under Section 6 of the HRA and the need to identify and to give due consideration to human rights issues when making decisions concerning the provision of social care services in times of financial constraint. 

It emphasises the importance of ensuring that an individual’s social care needs are clearly defined and documented in an assessment of need which is kept under regular review. 

It also reminds trusts of the need for a clear legal basis for any actions (in accordance with law) the trust carries out which engage the right to private life.

Read it here:

Human rights and the provision of social care: the McDonald case

 

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Call out for event proposals for human rights festival

Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival – Call out for event proposals                                                      

Closing Wednesday 1st October

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival celebrates and promotes the importance of human rights at home and abroad and coincides with International Human Rights Day on the 10th December.

Now in its third year, NIHRF wants to make 2014 our biggest and most celebrated festival to date. Preparations for this year’s festival are underway and so an invitation is extended to members and other civil society groups to submit proposals for festival events they wish to host.

All events should:
- Take place in Northern Ireland between 8-13 December 2014 (inclusive).
- Be open to the public.
- Have a human rights issue/theme as a core element of the event/activity.
- Be as engaging and accessible as possible to a wide range of people.

Please check out our full guidelines for more details. See link below:

NIHRF-Event-Organisers-Guidelines

The closing date for applications is 1 October 2014.

If you would like to discuss an idea you have for the festival or have any questions regarding the festival, please feel free to contact us on 028 90313780 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information please go to: http://www.humanrightsfestivalni.com/

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Representing clients at mental health tribunals

Last chance to enrol: Representing Clients at Mental Health Tribunals

A training session for advisers, advocates and legal practitioners

This course, to be held on 26 September at the Law Centre’s Belfast office, will provide a general overview of mental health tribunals and the key principles relevant in Northern Ireland.

 It will make reference to case examples and explore good practice as it relates to pre-hearing preparation; understanding the psychiatric reports and advocacy techniques at hearing.

For more information and to book: http://www.lawcentreni.org/events/events/details/310-representing-clients-at-mental-health-tribunals.html

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