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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.


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


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