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Successful representations for client with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Legal Support Project and social security lawyers work hand in hand in successful ESA/DLA case

People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can experience great difficulties with benefit claims.

The Law Centre helped a client who has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME for several years. His symptoms are both physical and mental/cognitive but evidence of his illness is gathered through observation or acceptance of his physical and mental/cognitive symptoms. His fatigue is very severe, unpredictable and results in delayed symptoms. 

This client has had to seek the help of the Law Centre at several stages of his benefit claims and we have previously represented him in two successful commissioner cases. Our latest involvement with this client involved three cases:

-          ESA

He had had a nil award of Employment and Support Allowance after a WCA assessment and the Commissioner had ordered that the case be remitted. We took up the case again and made representations with relevant GP notes and records attached.  The Department changed the decision days before the tribunal hearing and placed him in the support group for ESA during the fixed period within the scope of this case.

-          DLA

We represented him in two joined cases regarding the refusal of Disability Living Allowance awards, one remitted following a successful Commissioner case sending the case back for review. A tribunal hearing was held and a decision made awarding the high rate mobility component in both cases.

The client feels vindicated after years of trying to establish entitlement.  He received backdated ESA monies at the highest amount and backdated DLA money.  He now receives high rate mobility for DLA and ESA at the WRAC (work related activity component) level.

We have given him a supporting letter and copy of medical evidence to ask for reconsideration of his current award. This is important to the client as he now receives Contributions-based ESA.  Once welfare reform comes in and the 365 day rule for contributions based ESA, he will lose his ESA completely unless he is placed in the support group.  Time spent in the support group is ignored for this 365 day rule.

Representing this client involved partnership work between our Legal Support Project, which took on the routine work pro-bono, and our social security legal advice unit, which provided representation at complex hearings.


National Minimum Wage: new rates

The rates for national minimum wage are changing on Wednesday:

  • for a worker aged sixteen or seventeen£3.79 per hour from 1 Oct 14;
  • for a worker aged eighteen to 20: £5.13 per hour from 1 Oct 14;
  • for a worker aged 21 and over: £6.50 per hour from 1 Oct 14.

Workers paid on a piece-rate basis should be paid the minimum hourly wage or get a fair piece-rate which allows them to earn the minimum wage.

Apprentices aged over nineteen and who have completed the first year of their apprenticeship must receive the national minimum wage at the rate applicable to their age.

Apprentices who are (i) in the first year of their contract of apprenticeship irrespective of age; or (ii) under nineteen must be paid at least  £2.73 per hour from 1 Oct 14).

More information on rights of employees in our Encyclopedia of Rights: http://www.lawcentreni.org/EoR/employment/rights-of-employees.html


Trafficking and the National Referral Mechanism

Drawing on its experience of working with people who have been trafficked, the Law Centre has responded to the Home Office consultation on the review of the National Referral Mechanism. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM)is a process set up by government to identify and support victims of trafficking in the UK.

We call for significant reform of the NRM, including removing the Competent Authority role from the Home Office; putting the NRM on a statutory footing and introducing a right of appeal for those who get a negative decision.

See our response to the NRM review here.


Capacity Bill - Law Centre response

Colin Harper, Law Centre NI, speaking at Chambré Public Affairs event on Capacity Bill 2014

The Law Centre welcomes the publication of the draft Mental Capacity Bill for Northern Ireland as a key milestone to achieving progressive and rights-based reform of mental health legislation.  


Read more: Capacity Bill - Law Centre response


NI Advice Services Consortium consults with front-line centres

Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium logoThe Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium is the umbrella organisation of Citizens Advice, Law Centre (NI) and Advice NI.

The consortium is consulting frontline advice agencies on its draft Advice Quality Standard, draft Minimum Training Requirements and the ongoing implementation of the Council Reporting Template.

Stakeholders in the advice sector from across Northern Ireland have been invited to share their views on these issues, and help to inform the implementation of these initiatives.

The consultation is taking the form of an online survey (available here), as well as two face-to-face focus groups.

The first meeting was held on 17 September, 12-2pm at Derry CAB.

The next focus group will meet Wednesday 24 September, 12pm-2pm at the Law Centre’s Belfast office.

Commenting on the consultation, Advice NI Head of Policy Kevin Higgins said: ‘Uptake on the survey responses so far has been excellent - we are getting some encouraging and constructive feedback. The events in Belfast and the north-west should offer further opportunity for the front-line to shape these initiatives from the ground up.’

Any questions on the consultation, or additional feedback about any of these Consortium initiatives, can be sent to Stephen Orme, the Consortium Co-Ordinator, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


WRAP training makes confident benefits advisers

David Mitchell Law Centre NIThe Law Centre's new Training Officer, David Mitchell, is responsible for training delivery and coordination throughout the organisation.

From Tuesday 7 October, David will be delivering the Welfare Rights Adviser Programme (WRAP) in the Unison Building in L’derry to a new cohort of advisers.

The course runs every Tuesday for 8 weeks. It is accredited by the Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI). Successful participants are awarded an OCN NI certificate to mark their achievement.  

WRAP is designed for new advice workers who wish to acquire a sound level of knowledge in benefits and tax credits.  It can also be used by experienced advisers who have been working in other areas and want to branch out into social security advice.

Upon completion of this course, participants should feel confident in advice provision in the area of welfare rights, including entitlement to benefits and how to make a claim.

David says: “Voluntary and community groups, Trade Unions and solicitors can send their people on this course to ensure that they have well trained, confident staff who can advise and signpost clients effectively.  Staff can then complete their training with other Law Centre courses such as legal research skills for advisers, introduction to employment law or tribunal representation.”

The course is offered at a discounted rate for Law Centre members. All participants will be allocated a free place on the two day Employment Law course in Derry on 24 and 25 February 2015. 

There are still a few places on this course. For details and to enrol: 


 or phone 028 9024 4401.

For info on our other courses in social security law, community care and mental health law, rights of employees and immigration: 



Capacity and consent: Law Centre training for ARC

ARC Northern Ireland has commissioned training from the Law Centre on Capacity and Consent. The course will be held on 25 September.  More information on the ARC website: 


ARC (NI) is a leading umbrella body representing service providers in the learning disability sector.


Short film based on Law Centre trafficking cases shortlisted for UK award

Law Centre contributes story to Unchosen competition film

A short film based on a composite story of Law Centre cases involving trafficking and forced labour has been shortlisted for a UK-wide award. The film will be unveiled at the Unchosen Modern Day Slavery Short Film Competition awards ceremony in Bristol on 9 October, with a panel of judges including film director Ken Loach.

Meanwhile, you can read more about the competition, the Law Centre's involvement and the 'Jurgis' story, on which the film is based, in this Culture Northern Ireland article: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/6509/unchosen-short-film-competition

Last year's films can be seen here: http://www.unchosen.org.uk/films.html

The 'Jurgis' story, submitted by the Law Centre, was written as a composite of a number of cases we have encountered in our work with victims of trafficking. It tells of a young Lithuanian man lured to Northern Ireland on the promise of a good position, who is met at the airport, whisked away to a rural location, tricked into surrendering his passport and made to work 12 hour-days packing eggs for £20 a week. The film makers have relocated the story to England. 

The Law Centre's Anti-Trafficking Young People Project is funded by Comic Relief. 

Unchosen is a charity founded in 2008 to combat forced labour and exploitation.


Home Office awareness raising film

In a separate development, the Home Office has produced a short film to raise awareness of trafficking and forced labour, with help from Unchosen, ECPAT, The Salvation Army and the NSPCC. The 7 minute film is aimed at professionals who may come in to contact with potential victims (but is also suitable for the general public). It contains information on the types of labour exploitation victims can face, as well as advice on the signs to spot and how professionals have an important role to play in identifying and safeguarding victims. You can see it here: http://youtu.be/Jv1H_fAoOG4



Advisers discuss benefit changes at Law Centre meeting

Adviser's meeting


Read more: Advisers discuss benefit changes at Law Centre meeting


Human rights in social care: the McDonald case

This Law Centre briefing examines a recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights concerning an English local authority’s decision to remove the provision of a night time carer from the care package of a person with disabilities.

Who is it for?

The decision is of relevance to health and social care professionals involved in assessing the needs of people in Northern Ireland and in making decisions regarding the provision of social care services.

It is also of use to advisers, service users and carers who wish to understand the decision making process required to be undertaken by a trust when an individual’s human rights are involved.

Why is it important?

This landmark decision highlights the importance of a trust’s duty under Section 6 of the HRA and the need to identify and to give due consideration to human rights issues when making decisions concerning the provision of social care services in times of financial constraint. 

It emphasises the importance of ensuring that an individual’s social care needs are clearly defined and documented in an assessment of need which is kept under regular review. 

It also reminds trusts of the need for a clear legal basis for any actions (in accordance with law) the trust carries out which engage the right to private life.

Read it here:

Human rights and the provision of social care: the McDonald case



Call out for event proposals for human rights festival

Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival – Call out for event proposals                                                      

Closing Wednesday 1st October

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival celebrates and promotes the importance of human rights at home and abroad and coincides with International Human Rights Day on the 10th December.

Now in its third year, NIHRF wants to make 2014 our biggest and most celebrated festival to date. Preparations for this year’s festival are underway and so an invitation is extended to members and other civil society groups to submit proposals for festival events they wish to host.

All events should:
- Take place in Northern Ireland between 8-13 December 2014 (inclusive).
- Be open to the public.
- Have a human rights issue/theme as a core element of the event/activity.
- Be as engaging and accessible as possible to a wide range of people.

Please check out our full guidelines for more details. See link below:


The closing date for applications is 1 October 2014.

If you would like to discuss an idea you have for the festival or have any questions regarding the festival, please feel free to contact us on 028 90313780 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information please go to: http://www.humanrightsfestivalni.com/


Representing clients at mental health tribunals

Last chance to enrol: Representing Clients at Mental Health Tribunals

A training session for advisers, advocates and legal practitioners

This course, to be held on 26 September at the Law Centre’s Belfast office, will provide a general overview of mental health tribunals and the key principles relevant in Northern Ireland.

 It will make reference to case examples and explore good practice as it relates to pre-hearing preparation; understanding the psychiatric reports and advocacy techniques at hearing.

For more information and to book: http://www.lawcentreni.org/events/events/details/310-representing-clients-at-mental-health-tribunals.html


Immigration law with Adrian Berry QC

Leading barrister Adrian Berry of Garden Court Chamber, London, delivered two important training sessions at the Law Centre to update solicitors and other legal advisers.

Adrian Berry delivers specialist immigration training at the Law Centre


Read more: Immigration law with Adrian Berry QC


Practitioner meetings at the Law Centre

Advisers and other practitioners meet regularly at the Law Centre to discuss common issues and hear updates in law and practice in their area of work. Why not join into the next meetings?

Social security practitioners

All social security advisers and practitioners are welcome to attend the next social security practitioners meeting.
On the agenda:

  • short presentation on changes to the habitual residence and right to reside requirements introduced in 2014 (these changes impact upon both EEA nationals and returning residents and affect benefits such as JSA, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit);
  • discussion on the changes already implemented and those anticipated to be introduced later;
  • discussion on issues experienced by advisers working in the field.

Belfast: 124 Donegall Street: 17 September 2014, 11am to 1pm

RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Western area: 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry: 17 September 2014, 2.15pm to 4.15 pm

RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mental health law practitioners

Mental health legal practitioners will be meeting on Friday 12 September 2014, 10am to 12pm, in our Belfast office.

On the agenda:

  • Update on recent cases: issues arising out of tribunals
  • Strategic cases: Second opinion appointed doctor
  • Training: representing clients at mental health review tribunals 26th September 2014
  • Policy Issues: Consultation Draft Mental Capacity Bill (NI)
  • Members updates: Attendees can share their own organisation’s work

With: Catherine Harper, Mental Health Legal Adviser at Law Centre (NI)

All welcome. RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

Community care practitioners

Advisers, health and social care staff, carers representatives and others involved in community care and long term care are warmly invited to attend the next community care practitioners meeting.

Belfast: 124 Donegall Street: 2 October 2014, 10am to 12pm.

On the agenda:

  • new caselaw and legislation, in particular human rights in Community Care following the European Court decision in the McDonald Case [application no 4241/12], Guardianship following the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal decision in JMCA [12.05.14] and charging for respite care following the judgement in PH's Application [2014] NIQB 60;
  • general discussion on current issues in the Direct Payments scheme, update on the Mental Capacity Bill process.

RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

or phone (028) 9024 4401.

Tea and coffee provided. The venues have disabled access.


Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival

 Film festival

The 2nd Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival will launch on Wednesday 17th September from 3-5pm in the Canada Room & Council Chamber in the Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nichola Mallon will open the event which will feature song, poetry and music highlighting the impact of the arts on mental health and creativity.

This year's Festival Director, Jane Reynolds, herself a mental health practitioner at Holywell Hospital, said:

"I'm very excited to be presenting the line-up for this year's five-day festival. It is going to be engaging, entertaining and challenging. It is becoming more and more evident that mental health is an issue that concerns us all, so we would encourage people all across Northern Ireland to come and see what the festival has to offer."

In its first year, NIMHAFF reached over 1500 people and this year's festival promises to widen its appeal even further – with events from Derry to Dungannon, Newcastle to Newry, with arts on offer from visual arts and photography, poetry and song to psychodrama, music, comedy and film, the festival promises to put transformation on the agenda across NI.

Fresh from their success at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, York-based Six Lips Theatre company brings their ground-breaking theatre/dance fusion show, The House of Tragic She, to QUB while, for the first time, simultaneous film screenings of Take Shelter take place in Fermanagh, Dungannon, Newcastle and Belfast.

With potential collaborations with Dublin's First Fortnight festival, events in kick-boxing clubs, hospitals, cafes and shopping centres, this festival will be one to watch.

All the information and up-to-date event listings can be found at www.nimhaff.org or contact info@nimhaff.org, Facebook: www.facebook.com/NIMHAFF, Twitter @nimhaff


Changes to social security residence requirements

2014 has seen and will continue to see a substantial number of changes to the residence requirements for entitlement to certain benefits.

The Law Centre has published a briefing setting out the changes which have been implemented so far and those which are anticipated to be introduced later.

Who is it for?

This briefing is of use to all social security advisers and to organisations working with migrants 

NOTE - January 2105. This briefing has been updated. Read it here:

Timeline of changes to the habitual residence and right to reside requirements - updated January 2015



Capacity Bill consultation ends 2 September

Mental Capacity consultation

Reminder: the consultation deadline for the NI Mental Capacity Bill is 2 September.


Read more: Capacity Bill consultation ends 2 September


Law Centre director moves to NIHRC

Les Allamby 2013Les Allamby is taking up a position as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission from Monday 1 September.


Read more: Law Centre director moves to NIHRC


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.


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