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Mental Capacity Bill explained

The Mental Capacity Bill explained - Law Centre (NI) policy briefing

Capacity Bill Law Centre NI information briefing 2014 front cover

The Mental Capacity Bill was issued for public consultation on 27 May 2014 and the consultation ends on 2 September. The Bill fuses mental health and mental capacity law into a single piece of legislation. 

The Law Centre believes it is important that all stakeholders engage with the consultation but we are aware that it is a complex piece of legislation. To this effect, we have put together an information briefing, The Mental Capacity Bill explained, to clarify the core civil provisions of the Bill.

The aim of this briefing is to foster a greater level of understanding of the complexities of the draft legislation amongst the wide number of stakeholders with a keen and practical interest in the Bill.

Consultation documents can be found at: www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/pr-mentalcap270514


July 2014 e-newsletter

The Law Centre's e-newsletter for July 2014 is now available.

Go to the e-newsletter page to download it and previous e-newsletters.


New vacancies - Director, Finance Officer, Legal Secretary

Law Centre (NI) has three posts available - Director, Finance Officer and Legal Secretary. Full details and downloadable application forms can be found on the Work With Us page.

Go to: Work With Us


Law Centre (NI) hosts WCA review hearing

WCA review hearing at Law Centre NI with Dr Litchfield and representatives of voluntary advice sector, SSA and BHSCT July 2014

Today, Law Centre (NI) hosted a Northern Ireland hearing by Dr Litchfield, who is heading a UK-wide independent review of the Work Capability Assessment.


Read more: Law Centre (NI) hosts WCA review hearing


Roundtable: asylum on the island of Ireland


On 27 June, Law Centre (NI) and Irish Refugee Council held a roundtable discussion at Stormont Castle, 'seeking asylum on the island of Ireland: an opportunity for learning’.


Read more: Roundtable: asylum on the island of Ireland


Training plan 14-15: supporting advisers

Training 2014

Find out more about  Law Centre (NI) Training Programme 2014-15


Read more: Training plan 14-15: supporting advisers


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

Refugee Transition cover

On behalf of Belfast City Council, the Law Centre has produced Refugee Transition, a guide for people who have just received refugee status.


Read more: Refugee Transition guide launched


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:



Read more: Refugee week: the invaluable contribution of refugees and asylum seekers


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.

To respond:

Consultation on Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014 – 2024 (PDF 297KB)

Consultation on the Racial Equality Strategy Indicators

Consultation on Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014 – 2024 (Surveymonkey)


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.

This event is free but requires pre-registration as spaces are limited. Contact Chris McCreery at Stratagem on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 028 90 872800

• 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

Register for the event

For further information contact Gemma or Jenny at Chambré Public Affairs on 028 9026 8600 or visit www.eyeonthehill.com


Refugee Week 2014

Refugee Week

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.

Programme of Refugee Week events

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

Unchosen logo

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.

Why enter

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

Les Allamby, Director, Law Centre (NI)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.

Cost: Free

For more information and / or to book a place contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   (tel: 02890366346)

All are welcome to attend


NICVA conference: working poverty

It has long been arNICVA logogued 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

LSP award 2015

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. 


Read more: Legal Support Project wins prestigious award


Supporting victims of trafficking

Trafficking roundtable

Politicians from Northern Ireland and Scotland came together on 29 April to discuss how best to support victims of trafficking to rebuild their lives.


Read more: Supporting victims of trafficking


Welfare rights adviser training

WRAP 2013

Grab one of the few remaining places.


Read more: Welfare rights adviser training


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