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Successful resettlement for client with learning disabilities

The Law Centre represented a long-term patient in Muckamore Hospital who wanted to be resettled in the community.

He was admitted as a detained patient and re-graded to voluntary status after two years. Three years later, he was transferred to the step-down unit which prepares people for discharge, and sought the help of the Law Centre because he wanted to be resettled in the community and to enjoy an independent life as far as possible. He said he had attended various meetings about potential discharge into a flat or other suitable accommodation in the community but nothing ever came of it.

We entered into legal correspondence with the Trust Solicitors and Departmental Solicitor’s Office, arguing that his resettlement needs had not been adequately assessed for five years. After several letters and negotiations with the Trust and Department he was eventually resettled into the community

His successful resettlement was strengthened by JR47, another case the Law Centre ran and won regarding a long-stay patient in Muckamore.

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Helping a family to stay together

“The only place where we could get real help. Thanks.”

Our immigration unit helped a Latvian man, his Latvian wife and her non-EEA mother living in the UK. The couple have two children, both born in the UK.

Our clients applied for registration certificates for the two Latvian nationals and a residence card for the non-EEA mother. The husband had worked in the UK from 2004 and obtained a Workers Registration Certificate in 2009. He became ill in 2013 and was off work for eight weeks, but then returned to his employment. His mother-in-law had been visiting the UK since 2009 for extended periods and had very close family ties to the couple and their two young children. Her flights, accommodation and basic living costs were paid for by her daughter and son in law.

The Home Office refused the application on the basis that the husband did not lodge sufficient evidence that he was a worker and his mother-in-law did not lodge evidence of her dependence.

We submitted supporting documents and a skeleton argument to the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Court) and the Home Office withdrew its refusal decision at the tribunal.

The Home Office has granted our clients EEA registration certificates to the two EEA nationals and a residence card to the mother. The family are now able to travel freely and feel more secure.

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Residence permit for victim of forced labour

‘I just wanna say thanks to the Law Centre for helping me with my case. They are very kind. Because of the Law Centre I got my residence permit to work.’

We represented a man who was recruited via an agency in the Philippines, thinking he was going to England to work for a short while to earn money for his family. On arrival, he realised he was in Northern Ireland and was put to work on fishing boats, working long hours without breaks.  Migrant Help referred him to us as a potential victim of trafficking.
 
We made representations to the Home Office on his behalf on grounds of deception and forced labour and the Home Office agreed that he was a victim of human trafficking.  A residence permit valid for one year has been granted as he is required to help with the PSNI investigation into his employment conditions and circumstances.  He has a right to work during this period.
 

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Respite care: what does the law say?

Community care law training at the Law Centre

Whether you are a social care professional, a carer or an adult wishing to access respite care, you may wonder what health and social care services are legally obliged to do.

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Mental Capacity Bill discussed at Derry practitioner meeting

The Department of Health issued its draft Mental Capacity Bill for consultation in May 2014. The consultation period finished on 2 September 14. The meeting took this opportunity to discuss with practitioners the main proposals/changes in the Bill, the Law Centre’s response to the consultation, as well as other responses from voluntary/ community group consultees.

Practitioners discussed other topics and cases of interest to them.

When: 10 December 14, 11am to 1pm

Where: Law Centre (NI) Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry

Who: community care and mental health legal advisers, advocates, health and social care staff and other interested practitioners.

With: Seán Mc Parland and Caroline Cooley, legal advisers at the Law Centre.

Find out about future health and social care practitioner meetings:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Benefits and residence rules: client helped out of destitution

“My adviser reached 100% goals. I was left on my own for over two months. No one would help me. The Law Centre was able to sort it out.”

Residence rules for social security benefits are difficults to navigate, for advisers and social security staff, and especially for claimants. We recently helped an EEA national who had wrongly claimed ESA because of confusion over the residence rules. 

He was unable to work following some incidents where he was assaulted and was advised by a Jobs and Benefits adviser that he should claim ESA on the basis of his injuries and mental health condition following the attacks.  His claim was refused and he appealed. 

A social security tribunal decided that he had limited capability for work but another tribunal that he did not have the right to reside for ESA purposes. As a result of the first tribunal’s decision, he thought he would be entitled to receive ESA.

He had claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance while his ESA appeal was being dealt with.  His claim for JSA was terminated once he produced the successful tribunal decision on limited capability for work and his Housing Benefit was suspended.

In fact he was not entitled to ESA.  The decision that he had limited capability for work was nullified by the unsuccessful decision that he did not have the right to reside.  He was therefore never awarded ESA and never received an ESA payment.

When he came to the Law Centre for help, he had been without money for a while.

We contacted the Social Security Agency to withdraw his ESA claim and help him make a new JSA claim. This was more complicated than it should have been as ESA did not immediately withdraw the ESA claim, leading to more delays.

Some of the staff at the ESA office did not seem to be aware that EU/EEA nationals need a right to reside for benefit purposes (clearly wrong); other staff believed that if the client did not have a right to reside for ESA purposes then he would not have one for JSA purposes and the claim would not succeed.

We managed to resolve this case and our client now receives JSA, after four months of living in destitution.

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Direct Payments scheme explained

A new Law Centre information briefing examines the legal rules and requirements relating to the Direct Payments scheme and highlights the obligations of both Health and Social Care Trusts and recipients under the Scheme.

It concentrates on the position for individuals who are able to consent to the Direct Payments Scheme.

Download Direct Payments scheme explained

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Social justice in Action: Law Centre impact report 2014

Law Centre social security client 2104

Find out how we made a difference in 2014.

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The future of advice

Roger Smith

Roger Smith spoke on the future of advice in the digital age at the Law Centre's AGM in November.

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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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