New cohort complete WRAP course
Congratulations to advisers from Mencap, East Belfast Independent Advice Centre, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme and ACT who have completed our Welfare Rights Adviser Programme.
Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill going for Assembly debate today
The Law Centre welcomes second stage consideration of the Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill today. This is an important piece of legislation with the policy objective of making provision for the control of data processing in relation to health and social care.
The functioning of the health and social care system in Northern Ireland requires the processing of confidential information relating to individual patients and service users for reasons other than the direct provision of care and treatment to those individuals. Examples of such processing include: auditing the quality of service provision; service planning; billing of organisations providing services to H&SC under contract; and identifying and monitoring the health and social needs of the population of Northern Ireland. There has been a long term legislative gap in Northern Ireland with respect to such processing (Westminster legislated to address this gap in the Health and Social Care Act 2001).
The Explanatory Memorandum makes clear the important policy intent of the Bill: “Providing a clear statutory framework, and robust and stringent safeguards, which will enable the use of health and social care information which identifies individuals to be used for medical or social care purposes which are designed to benefit health and social care, or achieve some other tangible benefit that might reasonably be described as a public good, without the consent of the individuals whose information may be used.”
The Law Centre welcomes the introduction of this important legislation and is supportive of its general principles. We have some concerns about achieving the right balance which needs to be struck in the details between the public interest in the protection of confidentiality and the public interest in the efficient and effective provision of health and social care. We believe that these concerns can be addressed through Assembly scrutiny and amendment of the Bill as entered.
More information on the Law Centre's views on the Bill here: http://www.lawcentreni.org/Publications/Policy-Responses/LCNI-response-to-Consultation-on-use-of-HSC-information-for-secondary-purposes.pdf
Extra statutory scheme for ESA claimants moving between GB and Northern Ireland
The Law Centre helped secure ESA payments for a man who had had his benefit stopped when he moved to Northern Ireland from England.
When he moved to Northern Ireland from England he expected that his claim for Contributory ESA (support group) would be transferred. He suffers from severe medical problems and had recently passed the Work Capability Assessment in England. After he moved he found it difficult to get information on what to do and he was told that he would need new medical evidence to support a fresh claim. When he contacted the Law Centre he was facing street homelessness due to the delay in dealing with his application.
The Law Centre was able to contact the Social Security Agency directly and payments were quickly made under the extra statutory scheme that was set up as a result of earlier Law Centre cases to pay those affected by the failure to include ESA in reciprocal arrangements between NI and GB.
As a result of this case, SSA has assured us that information will be made available on NI Direct in relation to the extra statutory scheme and how to access it.
The Law Centre has also been assured by the Department for Social Development that ESA will be included in amendments to the reciprocal arrangements in the course of welfare reform.
Advisers who would like more information on the scheme are welcome to contact our advice line or to discuss this at practitioner meetings.
We have two social security practitioner meetings coming up:
Wednesday 1 July, 11.00am, Law Centre (NI) Training Room, 124 Donegall Street, Belfast
Tuesday 7 July, 2.15pm, Law Centre (NI) Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry
All advisers and practitioners are welcome
First Mayor of Derry and Strabane visits Law Centre
Job opportunities at Citizens Advice NI
Citizens Advice NI has three exciting new career opportunities:
Pension Wise Head of Project and Contract - applications deadline 19 June
Deputy Director (Finance and Transformation) - applications deadline 3 July
Deputy Director (Services and Membership) - applications deadline 3 July
ESA to be discussed at Social Security Practitioner meetings
Law Centre (NI) practitioner meetings coming up on:
Wednesday 1 July, 11.00am, Law Centre (NI) Training Room, 124 Donegall Street, Belfast
Tuesday 7 July, 2.15pm, Law Centre (NI) Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry
Discussion topic: Employment and Support Allowance
With Tracey McCloskey - manager of ESA Office, Belfast and a decision-maker
Participants will be able to share concerns and discuss case studies.
All advisers and practitioners welcome
RSVP by Friday 25 June to
Refugee week lecture: Refugees and Human Rights
As part of Refugee Week 2015
Law Centre (NI) invites you to attend a lecture by Professor Colin Harvey
Refugees and Human Rights
The Future of International Protection in the UK
With an opening address by a senior legal figure
Friday 19 June, 3 pm – 5 pm, at Law Centre (NI), 124 Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2GY
In the context of an unprecedented number of people fleeing their homes around the world, the ongoing tragedy of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean and the uncertainty about the UK’s commitment to the Human Rights Act, this lecture will focus on the importance of human rights standards in the protection of asylum seekers and refugees. Colin Harvey is a Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen's University Belfast.
A reception will follow the lecture.
Please be seated by 3pm.
This is a fundraising event in support of NICRAS and Homeplus, two community organisations that provide a lifeline to destitute asylum seekers in Northern Ireland.
Voluntary donations will be welcome following the lecture, or you can donate online to Homeplus through Justgiving: www.justgiving.com/homeplus-ni
Helping elderly man with care package to continue living at home
We helped resolve the issue of an inadequate care package for an elderly gentleman with dementia. As his needs increased, his existing care arrangements were becoming insufficient. This was making it very difficult for him to continue living at home and his family members were under increasing pressure to address his needs.
Following negotiations with the local Trust, the domiciliary care package was significantly increased and the client was able to avoid going into a nursing home. The new arrangements are now in place and working well.
“I could not have got the care help for my father if it was not for the Law Centre”, said the client's daughter.
Human Rights Act and local health and social care laws
This is one of many Law Centre cases where the Human Rights Act was used to help resolve a care issue. The legal arguments used involved:
- Human Rights Act 1998
- article 8 of ECHR right to private, family and home life
- Carers and Direct Payment Act (NI) 2002
- Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978
Volunteer week: Avi McCabe, Legal Support Project
Avi McCabe has volunteered with the Law Centre's Legal Support Project since January 2012. She now runs a consultancy service but continues to help when she can.
What is your background?
I am a solicitor. I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2011. My professional background was in regulation/compliance work and I wanted to gain exposure to other practice areas, in particular areas which dealt with social justice issues.
Why did you decide to volunteer with the LSP?
I was keen to keep my legal skills up-to-date and to use them to help people who would otherwise be unable to get advice or represent themselves. The LSP provided an opportunity to do both. When I met the LSP staff, their professionalism and commitment really impressed me and sealed the deal!
What have you gained from volunteering with the LSP?
Lots of positive experiences. I have developed professionally by doing social security and employment work; been able to take advantage of Law Centre( NI)’s training programme and, most satisfyingly, to develop personal and working relationships with fellow volunteers, Law Centre staff and members of various voluntary and practitioner groups.
What difference do you think your involvement has made to your LSP clients?
I’ve hope I’ve made a small but significant difference in the lives of all my clients. Tribunal procedures are complex but my clients have always impressed me with their courage and determination to have their concerns heard.
Do you think that the experience of volunteering with the LSP has or will benefit you in the future?
It has been very beneficial. I’ve had the professional satisfaction of securing many successful outcomes for clients who would not otherwise have been able to afford a legal adviser. I’ve gained the expertise and confidence to start my own consultancy, SEN Advice and Advocacy NI, which focuses on special educational needs; an area where there is also a significant unmet need for specialist advice and representation.
Celebrating new healthcare rights
As part of Refugee Week (15-21 June 2015) Law Centre (NI), the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) and the British Red Cross invite you to:
Celebrate new healthcare rights
Monday 15 June, Crescent Arts Centre, 4.00pm–5.30pm
Join us to mark the introduction of new healthcare regulations that came into force in March 2015. The new regulations, passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, mean that all asylum seekers, and other specified migrant groups, will be able to enjoy access to healthcare while they are living in Northern Ireland.
This is an important development in Northern Ireland in protecting asylum seekers and we invite you to join with us to hear about the difference this will make.
Please be seated by 4 pm. Following some short speeches, light refreshments will be served.
RSVP is welcome for catering purposes but not essential.
Please let us know of any dietary or access requirements.
We look forward to seeing you!
Work with us: Policy and Public Affairs Officer
Ref number: PO-04-15. 35 hours per week, based in Belfast
The Law Centre is recruiting a Policy and Public Affairs Officer to initially work in the area of health and social care policy. Essential criteria include at least 3 years experience of social policy work, of writing policy and lobbying materials and of undertaking research. Excellent communication skills are also essential as is an ability to work on own initiative and to prioritise work to meet deadlines.
Salary: £28,127 - £30,311. NJC Points: 33-36
Closing date for applications: 12 June 2015. Interviews: 26 June 2015
Care packages, direct payments and capacity topics of June meeting
Advisers, social workers, carers etc are invited to join in a community care practitioners meeting at the Law Centre's Belfast office on 12 June 2015, 10am to 12pm.
On the agenda
1. Update on recent cases and Legislation
2. Current topics of interest:
- third party top up payments;
- direct payments;
- reducing care packages
- capacity and consent
3. Members updates and general discussion on topics and cases of interest or concern
Law Centre (NI) holds quarterly practitioner meetings on social security, community care, mental health and migrant workers' rights. In these meetings advisers can discuss legal issues they have encountered in their work and latest law and policy developments in their area of expertise.
Law Centre welcomes UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner
Domiciliary care seminar
On 28 April the Law Centre held a successful event facilitating discussion of the current Health and Social Care Board review of domiciliary care and its implications for service users.
Funding secured for specialised chair for nursing home resident
Alzheimer’s Society contacted our Community Care Unit on behalf of a woman who was trying to get a specialised chair for her husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and lives in a nursing home. There was a disagreement over who was responsible for this type of provision.
Following negotiations between the Law Centre, the nursing home and the Western Health and Social Care Trust, the Trust agreed to part-finance a chair that would meet his need.
This case reveals the lack of clarity around legal responsibility for the provision of specialised equipment when someone is placed by the Trust in nursing care.
The Human Rights Act 1998 was engaged in this case, along with the Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978.
'Our caseworker dealt with our case very well. It was a difficult situation but she had a great success.'
New residence rules for benefit entitlement cause hardship for young people back from placements abroad
The Law Centre has dealt with several cases recently where British and Irish citizens have fallen foul of a new requirement that a claimant must have been living in the Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland) for three months prior to a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The unforeseen consequences of a rushed-through piece of legislation
This new rule was rushed through just as the restrictions on access to labour market for citizensof Romaniaand Bulgaria were lifted.
At the time, there was little understanding that returning nationals were also going to be affected but many have been.
The rule has caused a lot of hardship and is being interpreted in a very narrow way, affecting young people who went abroad to gain work experience.
A young man was referred to the Law Centre by Cookstown CAB. He had been told he would have to wait for three months before reapplying for JSA when he came back from a short placement abroad.
He had always lived in Northern Ireland where he had worked and studied. In 2013 he became unemployed and claimed JSA but used that time to improve his skills through part-time work and an internship. He stopped claiming JSA to take up a three-month placement in Italy on an EU scheme working in the hospitality industry in exchange for food, lodging, flights and 100 euros a month.
The Law Centre argued that during his period of temporary absence he was still technically living in Northern Ireland. He had kept his possessions at his parents’ house, kept his car and bank accounts at that address and clearly intended to return.
Because he had both British and Irish nationality, we also pointed out that, in accordance with EU Treaty rights he exercised his right to free movement as an Irish citizen. An appeal tribunal agreed with the Law Centre's argument.
Correction: an earlier version of this article mentioned that the young man had been paid arrears of JSA. We have been told that JSA has not been paid and that the Social Security Agency has requested the tribunal's statement of reasons with a view to appealing to the Social Security Commissioner.
Timeline of changes to residence rules
This rule is one of a number of changes to residence requirements introduced in the last year.
A Law Centre briefing explains the changes. You can read it here.
The residence rules are complex and anyone who may be affected by them is advised to consult an independent advice centre, Citizen’s Advice Bureau or, in complex cases, the Law Centre’s advice line.
Our social security legal advice unit is always happy to help in such cases and other benefit entitlement cases referred by members. Advice line: 028 9024 4401 or 028 7126 2433, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm.
Befriending service established for young man with learning disabilities
The Law Centre negotiated with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to set up a befriending service for a young adult with a learning disability.
The family had contacted Mencap who referred them to the Law Centre's Community Care Unit.
The Trust had conducted an assessment and had agreed that the young man had a genuine need. However, there was no adequate provision within the Trust for befriending young people with learning disabilities and there was a long delay in arranging the service.
As the primary carer, the mother was finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the level or care her son needed at home and her own health was suffering.
Following negotiations, the Trust has now set up and funded the service and the family are reporting that it is working well.
As well as specific laws on health and social care, this case involved article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to private and family life.
The young man's mother has praised the Law Centre's community care legal advice service: 'Excellent support, excellent advice'.
Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972
Carers and Direct Payments Act (NI) 2002
Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978
Human Rights Act 1998
Working with member CAB secures swift happy outcome for client
L’Derry Citizens Advice Bureau contacted the Law Centre last December on behalf of a Lithuanian lady who had become destitute when her Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit were stopped.
She had come to Northern Ireland in 2005 and worked continuously until 2014. Her award was stopped following a Genuine Prospects of Work interview because the Agency did not think she satisfied residence rules for entitlement.
Our social security unit established that the client had permanent residence for benefit purposes but had missed the deadline for appeal. We advised the CAB adviser to lodge a late appeal and to obtain the relevant documentation from the client, covering continuous work and completion of worker registration scheme. We helped write up the grounds for appeal and wrote a submission to NIHE.
This joint effort secured a speedy resolution for the client. JSA was reinstated on 19 December and Housing Benefit soon after. Both benefits were backdated.
Work with us: training officer
Training Officer (Temporary post until 31 March 2016)
Reference number: TO 03-15. 35 hours per week. Based in Belfast -
We are seeking a person with a professional qualification related to training and at least two years experience of writing, designing, preparation and direct delivery of training/tutoring to adult learners.
Salary: £29,528 - £30,311 NJC Points: 35-36
Closing date for applications: Friday 22 May 2015 at 12.30 pm
Interviews: Monday 1 June 2015
Law Centre (NI) is striving towards equal opportunities and welcomes applications from all sections of the community. As Protestants and men are currently under-represented in our workforce, we would particularly welcome applications from them. All appointments will be made on merit.
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