Court of Appeal hears landmark case on right to reside test for Child Benefit
On 24 June, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal by HMRC against a successful challenge by the Law Centre to the ordinary residence and right to reside test for Child Benefit.
This is an important challenge to the legality of the ordinary residence and right to reside test for Child Benefit. The chief social security commissioner had decided in a landmark judgement that our client was entitled to Child Benefit as the ordinary residence and right to reside rule was unlawful direct discrimination under EU law.
There is no other case law on the legality of the right to reside test for Child Benefit and the case is therefore of UK-wide interest.
The client is an EU national. She has always been in employment and has never claimed means tested benefits. Child Benefit is treated differently to means tested benefits under EU social security rules. At the time of the claim, our client should have registered with the workers registration scheme but when her employer contacted the Home Office she was led to believe that it was not necessary*.
Richard Drabble QC represented our client at hearing on behalf of the Law Centre. He is one of the leading counsel in this area in the UK and we were very grateful for his interest and assistance. We have received support from the Public Interest Legal Support project as our client is not entitled to legal aid. We have entered into a protective costs agreement with HMRC. If they lose the appeal they will pay our costs at an agreed rate. If they win PILS will cover counsel’s fees. Both senior and junior counsel have agreed to reduced fees.
The court of appeal is likely to give its decision in the autumn.
*The Workers Registration Scheme applied to A8 nationals until 1 May 2011. Before that date A8 nationals had to register the first twelve months of work under this scheme to have full EU law rights. Complicated rules applied to the scheme which often led to misunderstandings. So for example our client was lawfully working in the UK under a work permit on 1 May 2004 and it was unclear to her next employer and to the Home Office that she needed to register with the workers registration scheme.
Refugee Transition guide launched
On behalf of Belfast City Council, the Law Centre has produced Refugee Transition, a guide for people who have just received refugee status.
Refugee week: the invaluable contribution of refugees and asylum seekers
On Monday 16 June, the Northern Ireland Assembly held a debate called by OFDMFM Committee to welcome Refugee Week and Community Relations Week.
In preparation for the debate, the Law Centre put together two briefing papers for MLAs:
- a joint briefing prepared with local organisations highlighting the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees. It is available on the Assembly's website:
- an information sheet debunking myths and setting out facts and figures about the reality of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees:
Racial equality strategy out for consultation
OFMDFM has published the long awaited consultation documents for a racial equality for Northern Ireland (2014-2024):
The proposals have been developed with minority ethnic representative groups and representatives of the wider community through the Racial Equality Panel.
The deadline for responses is 10 October 2014.
Latest statistics on transfer from Incapacity Benefit to ESA
The latest figures from the Social Security Agency on Employment and Support Allowance show that by 31 March 2014:
76.58% of people who were in receipt of Incapacity Benefit had moved to Employment and Support Allowance, of which 45.24% ended up in the Support Group and 31.33% ended up in the Work Related Activity Group;
21.81% had their benefit disallowed;
1.61% had other outcomes.
Of those appealing decisions, 38.3% had been successful with their appeals.
Mental capacity consultation: two important conferences
The Law Centre's Colin Harper, Assistant Director (Community Care and Mental Health Policy), will speak at two conferences focusing on the draft Mental Capacity Bill for Northern Ireland.
The Mental Capacity (Health, Welfare & Finance) Bill which has just been issued for public consultation will break new ground by fusing mental health and mental capacity law into a single piece of legislation. It will introduce a single, statutory framework governing all situations where a decision needs to be made in relation to the care, treatment or personal welfare and finance of persons who lack capacity to make the decision for themselves.
• Mental Capacity in an Ageing Society
Tuesday 1 July 2014, 9.45am, The Duncairn Centre, Belfast
Alzheimer's Society and Stratagem are holding a half day discussion focussing on how the draft bill relates to people with dementia and family carers. An international line-up of experts will present lessons learnt from recent experience outside Northern Ireland and will suggest how the developing legislation has or might benefit from these precedents.
• A Draft Mental Capacity Bill for NI: reducing stigma, empowering the individual
Thursday 3 July 2014, 9am, The Law Society, Belfast
At an event organised by Chambré Public Affairs, Health Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford will explain their Departments' framework intended to deliver the Bamford vision of reducing the stigma associated with having a separate mental health law.
They will be joined by other speakers discussing how the vision can be implemented, including Professor Roy McClelland, former chair of the Bamford Review.
View the conference programme
For further information contact Gemma or Jenny at Chambré Public Affairs on 028 9026 8600 or visit www.eyeonthehill.com
Refugee Week 2014
The Law Centre will be contributing to two events for Refugee Week this year.
On Monday 16 June, the Northern Ireland Assembly will hold a debate called by OFDMFM Committee. In preparation for the debate, the Law Centre has put together a briefing paper for MLAs, with information gathered from local organisations highlighting the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees.
The motion to be discussed is:
'That this Assembly notes that 16 -22 June 2014 marks both Refugee Week 2014 and Community Relations Week 2014; further notes the respective themes of 'Shared Future' and 'Building a United Community'; and expresses its support for both Refugee Week and Community Relations Week, particularly in relation to their shared aim of facilitating positive encounters between diverse cultures in order to encourage greater understanding, overcome hostility and build a shared society.'
On Wednesday 18 June, Belfast City Council will launch a new guide for people who are transitioning from the status of asylum seeker to that of refugee, and for their advisers. Refugee Transition has been produced by Law Centre (NI) on behalf of Belfast City Council Community Relations Unit. Translated versions in Somali, Arabic, French and Simplified Chinese will be published soon, with support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
For more information see: www.nicras.btck.co.uk
Statement of support
The Law Centre is very aware of the public debate that has arisen following the recent sermon from Pastor James McConnell on the Muslim faith.
As an organization that has a number of member organizations who comprise individuals from the Muslim community we are cognisant of how attributing homogenous traits or characteristics to all followers of a religion or a particular community is inappropriate, and counter-productive. We have had to advise significant numbers of people over the years who have been the victims of attacks and discrimination based on their race or religion.
Our own experience of working with individuals and community organizations from the Muslim community is that the people involved have views and opinions which are as diverse as other community organizations, whether secular or faith based.
Our experience is that the groups we work with are committed to improving the lives of people within their community and working with other organizations for positive ends.
We therefore continue to support the organisations affiliated to the Law Centre.
Modern day slavery short film competition
The Law Centre is proud to be involved in the UK-wide Unchosen Modern Day Slavery short film competition 2014.
About the competition
Make a short film, maximum 10 minutes, based on one of the forced labour case studies listed here.
Working closely with leading support charities, academics and government agencies, Unchosen has collated a series of genuine case studies that demonstrate the complex reality of forced labour. We have included cases where the forced labour takes place in the UK & Ireland as well as international cases where individuals are exploited in the supply chain of products and services that end up on UK and Irish High streets.
The case studies look at the multiple and varied reasons why an individual might find themselves in a position of forced labour and also look at what the different exit routes from these exploitative situations might be.
All case studies are based on genuine accounts however some details have been changed to protect confidentiality.
The winning films will be used to:
- Raise awareness about forced labour in the UK & Ireland, and also internationally so that victims are more easily identified and given access to appropriate support.• Raise awareness about how our consumer choices here in the UK have a direct impact on people all around the world.
- Engage a wide variety of audiences from politicians and policy makers, the media, schools and universities as well as the general public.
See films from last year's competition here.
Prizes: a cash prize of £300 will be awarded by Marsh Christian Trust to the winners of each subject category, plus an award for best Young Filmmaker. The overall winner will receive an additional £300.
Maximum Exposure: an expert panel will select the winning films which will be screened at a high profile awards ceremony in London. All winning films will embark on a road show tour of the UK & Ireland taking in film festivals and multiple other venues nationwide starting in October 2014.
Human Rights/Social change: your film will be used as a key tool in combatting modern-day slavery that takes place today in UK and Ireland.
For more information, and to enter: www.unchosen.org.uk/film-competition.html
About the project
Unchosen is an anti-trafficking charity that organises film campaigns to raise public awareness and combat all forms of human trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in the UK and Ireland.
Partners and supporters in the initiative are:
Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Economic Social Research Council, Rowntree Foundation, Behind the Label, Manchester Metropolitan University, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Law Centre (NI), Precarious lives project (University of Leeds), Wai Yin Chinese Women's Society, Human Trafficking Foundation, Stop the Traffik, Kalayan justice for migrant domestic workers, Bright Button Productions, Segura, Into Film and the Marsh Christian Trust.
Policy Impact through Law in Action
24th June 2014, 16:30-18:30 - University of Ulster, Belfast Campus, Room 82A02
Les Allamby, Director of Law Centre (NI), member of the Social Security Advisory Committee and Visiting Professor at the School of Law will be discussing the lessons learned from the Law Centre's work in influencing policy change.
The lecture will run from 5-6 pm with a drinks reception from 4.30 pm.
All are welcome to attend
NICVA conference: working poverty
It has long been argued that work is the best route out of poverty. However for the first time, working households make up the majority of those in poverty. This raises concerns around issues such as low pay, the rise of part-time and temporary working, and the high cost of childcare. The conference will discuss the extent and causes of in-work poverty in Northern Ireland, and what should be done to address the problem.
For more information: www.nicva.org/events/creating-good-economy-life-working-poverty
Legal Support Project wins prestigious award
The Law Centre's Legal Support Project picked up the award for best new placement employer at the University of Ulster’s Employer Placement Awards 2014.
Supporting victims of trafficking
Politicians from Northern Ireland and Scotland came together on 29 April to discuss how best to support victims of trafficking to rebuild their lives.
Welfare rights adviser training
Grab one of the few remaining places.
New Policy Bulletin
Law Centre (NI) Policy Bulletin 17 is out now, giving an update on policy issues the Law Centre has been working on in the first quarter of 2014.
Frontline 91 Spring 2014
Separated children, Modern slavery bill, Welfare reform, Benefit cap, NIASC, Budget 2014, Housing equality, Care homes, Benefit rates 2014-2015
Sneak preview: Law Centre training plans for next quarter
6 May Welfare Rights Advisers Programme - 8 days - Introductory level
20 May Introduction to Mental Health Law - Introductory/Intermediate
23 May Understanding Universal Credit - Introductory/Intermediate
29 May Personal Independence Payment - Introductory
10 June Carers and their Rights - Advanced
12 June Dublin III Regulation - ½ day - Advanced
20 June Social Security Appeals – Identifying Errors in Law and Appeals to the Social Security Commissioner - Advanced
15 May Understanding Universal Credit - Introductory/Intermediate
22 May Personal Independence Payment - Introductory
18 June Carers and their Rights - Advanced
Law Centre training counts towards CAB, Law Society and Bar Council Continuing Professional Development.
All courses are mapped towards National Occupational Standards.
Welfare Rights Adviser Programme is accredited by Open College Network Northern Ireland.
For more information, contact training officer Eamon Doherty on 9024 4401 or administration manager (Western Area Office) Elaine McCorriston on 7126 2433
Or visit our website: www.lawcentreni.org
Community Care Briefing: Identifying and meeting a carer's needs
Law Centre Community Care Briefing 32: Identifying and meeting a carer's needs is now available. This briefing provides a synopsis of the law and guidance governing the assessment of need process for individuals who provide informal care to adults with social care needs.
It is of use to trust staff required to conduct carers' assessments and also to those carers undertaking an assessment of their needs.
Apprentice solicitor vacancy
The Law Centre is offering an apprenticeship for law students who have secured a place at either the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queens University Belfast or the University of Ulster Graduate School of Professional Legal Education.
We will be able to offer advice, casework and advocacy experience in one or more of our areas of work, alongside dealing with legal aid applications and an opportunity to gain experience of how the Law Centre’s work contributes to policy development.
For more information and an application form please visit the Work With Us page.
Community care briefing: Domiciliary care eligibility
The Law Centre has a new community care briefing available on assessing eligibility for domiciliary care services.
This briefing examines a case taken by Law Centre (NI) in the matter of
an Application by Kathleen McClean for Judicial Review  (McClean’s
The decision in McClean’s Application is of relevance to any health and/
or social care professional required to assess an adult’s eligibility to
access a domiciliary care service from the Trust.
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