Welfare Rights Adviser Programme
Some places are still available on the Law Centre's WRAP refresher courses in Belfast and Derry in December and on the main Belfast course in the new year.
More benefit cuts will increase child poverty
Over 50 organisations, including the Law Centre, have warned against the impact on child poverty of more benefit cuts in a letter to the Independent.
International Human Rights Day
Monday 10 December is International Human Rights Day. The Human Rights Consortium will be holding a Human Rights Festival, on the theme of ‘Celebrating and Protecting Human Rights’.
More details, including how to book, on www.billofrightsni.org/humanrightsday
Free training - wrongly convicted asylum seekers and victims of trafficking
A three-hour course at Law Centre (NI). Carries 2.5 CPD points for solicitors
Tuesday 4 December, 10.45am to 1.30 pm
Law Centre (NI), 124 Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2GY
Tutors: Members of the Criminal Cases Review Commission
Who should attend?
Solicitors and advisers who work on asylum and trafficking cases and anyone working within the criminal justice system, NGOs and anyone with an interest in the law relating to asylum seekers and trafficking.
What does the course offer?
- The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is an independent public body set up to review possible miscarriages of justice and decide if they should be referred to an appeal court. This course will cover the prosecution of asylum seekers and refugees for offences relating to their flight from persecution (typically false passport offences) and will consider Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, the case of R v Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court and Another, Ex parte Adimi  EWHC Admin 765 and section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999; and
- the prosecution of victims of human trafficking through a case study.
Application/details should be returned to:
Tel: (028) 71262433 for any queries.
Parity and the Welfare Reform Bill
The NI Welfare Reform Group has published its briefing paper on Parity and the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill. This paper explores areas for operational flexibility and includes recommendations on where flexibility may be applied to the parity principle in respect of the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill.
The Group advocates that a different approach may be taken to a number of the measures contained within the Bill and the subsequent regulations and guidance in order to achieve a tailored Northern Ireland approach to the issues presented in the Welfare Reform Bill.
Advice NI online discussion on debt
The impact of debt on individuals and households across Northern Ireland
Advice NI is facilitating an online discussion to find out how debt is affecting people across Northern Ireland. Everyone is invited to log on to www.voiceni.net and have their say. The eConsultation will run from 19 November to 17 December.
Key findings will then be fed into a wider research project being carried out on behalf of the Centre for Economic Empowerment by NICVA and Advice NI into the nature, extent and impact of both illegal and expensive legal lending in Northern Ireland.
Anyone struggling to make ends meet and cope with household bills and expenses can take part. Advice NI is particularly interested to hear from people who have accessed credit from expensive legal lenders like payday loans or illegal money lenders and are now struggling to keep up the repayments.
Advice NI can offer people access to Debt Action NI which is aimed at helping those most financially vulnerable in Northern Ireland. The service offers FREE, confidential and impartial debt and money advice services. The purpose is to help people manage their money and debt issues so they can take back control. It also aims to ease the stress and powerlessness people may feel about their financial situation.
Commenting on the online debate, Advice NI Chief Executive Bob Stronge said:
‘We are seeing evidence on a daily basis of the impact of debt on individuals and households across Northern Ireland. We want to know more about people’s experiences of debt – how people got into debt; the impact on their lives and what more could be done to help.’
‘We know that debt can ruin lives. We also know that people can and do get their debt back under control. We want to understand more about people’s experiences of debt, including the causes and impacts.’
Commenting on the overall research project, Peter Hutchinson, Co-ordinator of the Centre for Economic Empowerment, said:
‘The recession has had a significant impact on employment and income levels. It has also led banks and financial institutions to tighten up on their lending. The growth in expensive legal lending and illegal lending appears to be a consequence of these changes. ‘This research project will examine why and how people are accessing expensive legal and illegal lending and explore the implications of this.’
New vacancy at Law Centre (NI)
Legal Adviser (Social Security)
21 hours per week Based in Derry
The Law Centre is seeking candidates who are either:
- a solicitor or barrister with at least the full time equivalent of one year’s experience of providing advice, casework and/or representation in social security law; or
- a legal adviser with at least the full time equivalent of five years’ experience of providing legal advice, casework and/or representation in social security law.
Housing people first
As part of Homelessness Awareness Week, Depaul Ireland and Housing Rights Service are jointly organising a seminar.
Housing People First - Exploring housing solutions for vulnerable people with complex needs
Tuesday 27th November
Clifton House, Belfast
The event will:• launch new Housing Rights Service research into ‘Meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable homeless people in the private rented sector in Northern Ireland’
• explore how people with complex needs can be accommodated in the community
• understand the housing led/housing first model in a Northern Ireland context.
AGM 12: future of adult care
The Law Centre (NI) AGM and Seminar 2012 will focus on the future of adult care and support in Northern Ireland.
Creating the good economy through job creation
NICVA’s Centre for Economic Empowerment (CEE) welcomes two influential voices in UK economics and politics, Stewart Lansley and Matthew Taylor, to its conference this December - Creating the good economy through job creation.
The rise in unemployment is one of the most devastating consequences of the current economic difficulties. In Northern Ireland, the unemployment rate has increased from 3% in 2007 to 8% in 2012. Youth unemployment is a staggering 24%.
Good employment is an essential part of a good economy and society. It not only provides a livelihood, but also a sense of dignity and self-worth.
This conference brings together a variety of people to discuss what more we can and should do to create jobs and reduce unemployment. We know there are no easy solutions to the challenges facing the Northern Ireland economy; but if we are serious about creating a good economy we must ensure that job creation is central to any revival in economic growth.
The conference will be opened by a senior representative from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. This year’s keynote addresses will be delivered by widely respected economist and financial journalist Stewart Lansley whose recent book ‘The Cost of Inequality’ was described as deserving of ‘a wide hearing and an urgent place on the policy agenda’ by the Times Higher Education, and Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) who is a former Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to Tony Blair and is a renowned social innovator and thinker.
An impressive list of local speakers from the academic, business and voluntary and community sectors will share their views and visions for job creation and the economy. These speakers include: Angela McGowan, (Chief Economist Northern Bank); Ian Coulter, (CBI Chairman); Timothy Brundle, (Director of Innovation University of Ulster); Seamus O’Prey, (General Manager ORTUS, Chairman UCIT); Mark Langhammer, (Director Association of Teachers and Lecturers); and Maeve Monaghan, (Chief Executive NOW).
Creating the good economy through job creation takes place on Tuesday 4 December at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast. For more information or to book your place at this year’s conference visit www.nicva.org/events.
Book your course now
Some places still available on:
Challenging Tax Credit Decisions – Overpayments (Half Day – 28 Nov – Belfast)
Advocacy Skills (2 Days - 5 & 6 Dec - Belfast)
WRAP Refresher – Means Tested Benefits (Half Day - 7 Dec - Belfast)
WRAP Refresher – Means Tested Benefits (Half Day - 10 Dec - Derry)
News on Law Centre (NI) work on welfare reform, trafficking, pro bono legal work, training and a redundancy case report, all in one eNewsletter: Law Centre (NI) Newsletter November 2012
Promoting pro-bono legal work
On 17 October, the Law Centre’s Legal Support Project and PILS (Public Interest Litigation Service) co-hosted a well attended seminar on pro bono litigation, at the Inn of Court, Royal Courts of Justice.
Cautious welcome to welfare reform changes
The Law Centre today welcomed the Social Development Minister’s announcement that he has secured changes to the way Universal Credit can be paid in Northern Ireland.
Speaking ahead of giving evidence to the Social Development Committee on the Welfare Reform Bill today, 23 October 2012, Law Centre Director Les Allamby said, “The Minister’s announcement yesterday represents a step towards tailoring welfare reform to Northern Ireland’s circumstances, but more can still be done to improve upon the Welfare Reform Bill currently before the Social Development Committee. It is imperative that the proposed changes will work effectively in practice for Northern Ireland”
“We are not looking to devise an alternative social security system but rather to ensure that the proposals designed for Britain take into account the specific circumstances and local needs of Northern Ireland,” Mr Allamby told the Social Development Committee today.
“The Minister’s announcement that the housing costs of Universal Credit will be paid direct to landlords and that there is scope for payment of Universal Credit to be split within the household and paid fortnightly, unlike in Britain, will make a positive difference to those affected by these changes,” he said.
He went on, “while flexibilities have been achieved on some issues, the Committee needs to closely examine what other steps can be taken to protect households affected by the changes. For example, the Committee needs to carefully scrutinise the under occupation penalty for people in public rented housing, the level of conditionality and sanctions proposed under the Welfare Reform Bill and the lack of childcare provision across Northern Ireland.”
Mr Allamby also called on the Social Development Committee to ensure that there is an opportunity for comprehensive scrutiny of the regulations that will ultimately implement the welfare reform legislation as this is where lies the scope and flexibility for things to be done differently in a Northern Ireland context.
The Minister announced on 22 October that changes had been secured to the way Universal Credit can be paid to reflect Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances.
The changes are:
- the housing cost element of Universal Credit will be paid direct to landlords rather than the claimant;
- the payment of Universal Credit may be split between two parties in the household;
- the payment of Universal Credit may be payable twice each month;
- and Universal Credit in Northern Ireland will now begin in April 2014.
The Welfare Reform Bill is largely an enabling Bill which means it only provides an outline of Universal Credit with detail left to regulations, still to be drafted.
See DSD press release about the announcement: http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news-dsd-221012-tailoring-welfare-reforms
Welfare reform evidence to Assembly Committee
The Law Centre has submitted written evidence on welfare reform to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Social Development. The document provides a clause by clause analysis of the Welfare Reform Bill 2012.
The Law Centre will be giving oral evidence to the Committee this afternoon.
Read the Law Centre's written submission on welfare reform here: Law Centre (NI) evidence on Welfare Reform Bill for Assembly Committee.
Pro Bono litigation seminar
A joint seminar by Legal Support Project and the PILS Project - Getting involved in Pro Bono litigation: Opportunities in Northern Ireland is being held on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at the Inn of Court, Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast.
This could be you
Congratulations to all Housing Rights Service attendees who successfully completed the Welfare Rights Adviser Programme.
Judicial Review and Austerity training at Housing Rights Service
Housing Rights Service is running a lunchtime learning seminar on Judicial Review and Austerity on the 26 October 2012.
The session, which is eligible for 2 hours CPD, will be delivered by Gordon Anthony, Professor of Public Law at Queens University Belfast, and Barrister-at-Law. It is ideal for legal professionals wanting to enhance their knowledge in this important area.
Visit the Housing Rights Service website for more information, including costs.
Frontline 85 online
Frontline 85 is now online, with a focus on welfare reform at Stormont.
Last chance for training course bookings
Time is running out to book a place on the Law Centre's Welfare Rights Adviser Programme (WRAP) and Tribunal Representation Course.
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