Information for advisers

Law Centre NI provides information to support advisers in their work...

The Social Security hub at Law Centre NI seeks to produce resources to support advisers in their day-to-day work on the advice sector frontline. Resources include our quarterly bulletin, adviser guides, and resource sheets.

Law Centre NI Social Security Law and Practice Bulletin

Our quarterly Social Security Law and Practice Bulletin provides advisers with summaries of recent Northern Irish case law, including Social Security Commissioner Decisions, and legislation. We also update advisers on the work of our Policy branch, highlight topical issues grabbing our Legal Officers’ attention and list upcoming Training and Events at Law Centre NI.

If you would like to receive future editions of the Bulletin straight to your inbox, please sign up here.

Social security co-ordination rules post-Brexit: which country pays your benefit?

At Law Centre NI, we have received lots of enquiries about the social security co-ordination rules between the UK and European countries following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In response, we have published an Adviser Practice Guide to help social security advisers navigate this complex area of law.

Read it here.

Adviser Practice Guide: Appeals to the Appeal Tribunal for Northern Ireland

This Adviser Practice Guide is for social security advisers who are assisting a client with their appeal to an appeal tribunal in Northern Ireland.

For free, tailored advice on any of the issues discussed in this Adviser Practice Guide or any other
aspect of social security law, please contact our social security team on 028 90244401 or email benefitsadvice@lawcentreni.org.

Download (PDF 352.881 KB)

Accommodation for homeless migrants during Covid

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) implements the ‘Everyone In’ policy. This MoU creates a power for NIHE to provide accommodation to destitute migrants as a Covid-19 response. As you know, many migrants are not usually eligible to receive NIHE services due to their immigration status and so this MoU may prove to be extremely helpful as can provide temporary accommodation to homeless migrants.

A couple of points to note:

1. Under this MoU, the NIHE has powers to accommodate any migrant who would otherwise be destitute. This could include:

- EEA nationals who have Pre Settled Status

- EEA nationals who have not, for whatever reason, applied for EUSS

- EEA nationals who arrived in NI from 1 Jan 2021

- Non EEA nationals subject to the No Recourse to Public Funds rule

- Non EEA nationals who are visa overstayers (but note that Home Office will be informed, see below)

- Refused asylum seekers

2. This MoU is currently in place until end of March 2022.

3. NIHE is required to provide ‘suitable accommodation’, which for single adults is likely to be hostel accommodation.

4. NIHE also has powers to source and make arrangements for the provision of food to any person in receipt of MoU accommodation

5. NIHE is required to establish that a person is in the NRPF category before offering accommodation. In practice this means that NIHE will seek verification from the Home Office. Please be aware of this as not all persons will wish their details to be shared with the Home Office.

6. NIHE will keep records of persons accommodated under this MoU.

In order to access support under the MoU, a person needs to present as homeless to NIHE. Support organisations may wish to contact the NIHE team by phone in advance .

If anyone is refused support under the MoU then the first step is to request that NIHE puts its decision in writing. Please contact Law Centre NI or Housing Rights who might be able to help. Tel: 028 9024 5640.

Download (PDF 249.485 KB)

Adviser Practice Guide - How to find legal information

This Adviser Practice Guide outlines where advisers can find legal information including legislation, case law and useful websites. It also outlines resources available from the Law Centre itself including our quarterly Social Security Law and Practice Bulletin, as well as our regular Adviser Practice Guides on social security law and practice in Northern Ireland.

You can print off the poster for your office wall. Then, if you want to access any of the links in future, just scan the QR code to find an online version of the poster. From it, you’ll have sources of legal information at your fingertips.

Download (PDF 110.35 KB)

Appeals to the Social Security Commissioner

This adviser practice guide is for social security advisers who are assisting a client in their appeal from an appeal tribunal to the Social Security Commissioner. The guide is in two parts. Part 1 provides guidance on how to identify whether your client has grounds to appeal an appeal tribunal decision. Part 2 outlines your responsibilities as a representative at a social security hearing and the procedure that should be followed in appealing to the Social Security Commissioner

Download (PDF 222.74 KB)Download (PDF 291.128 KB)

Legal Briefing for Advisers: Bereavement Support Payment and Cohabitees

This Legal Information Briefing provides guidance on what action to take if a claimant is told they do not fulfil the eligibility conditions for a successful claim to Bereavement Support Payment.

Download (PDF 185.057 KB)

Update for Advisers - Changes to Social Security in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Northern Ireland

This update for advisers provides guidance on changes to social security in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Northern Ireland.

Download (PDF 476.357 KB)

Social Security Commissioner's Decision [C009/20-21(ESA)]

Social Security Commissioner's decision in the case of SK-v-Department for Communities (ESA) [2020] NICom 73, relating to whether an overpayment of ESA was recoverable and whether the Department for Communities could rely on the judgment in Hinchy v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions[2005] UKHL 16.

Download (PDF 290.293 KB)

Cliff Edge Coalition Briefing Paper - September 2020

This Cliff Edge Coalition briefing paper sets out key priorities, including a call to pass legislation to extend the
existing mitigations and to ensure the legislation:

  • Closes the current loopholes in the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap mitigations
  • Extends the mitigations indefinitely to avoid another ‘Cliff Edge’
  • Earmarks any underspend in the extended mitigations package for specific anti-poverty initiatives.
Download (PDF 78.323 KB)

Court of Appeal Judgment: Michael O'Donnell v Dept. for Communities [2020 NICA 36]

Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Michael O'Donnell v Dept. for Communities [2020 NICA 36].

Download (PDF 470.22 KB)

Letter to Minister on Terminal Illness Rules

On Wednesday 29 July, more than 25 organisations, including Law Centre NI, wrote to the Minister for Communities calling for urgent action to change the legal definition of a terminal illness and remove the six month criterion. The letter comes weeks after the High Court found that it discriminates against some terminally ill claimants.

Download (PDF 397.662 KB)

Decision in the Matter of an Application by Lorraine Cox for Leave to Apply for Judicial Review

A copy of the decision delivered by Mr Justice McAlinden on 07 July 2020.

Download (PDF 381.243 KB)

Adviser guide: Advice on PIP in Northern Ireland: Law Centre NI Guide for PIP Advisers

This guide is designed to support advisers to provide advice and assistance to those involved with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It helps advisers quickly identify and understand the relevant criteria involved in an award of PIP.

Download (PDF 911.674 KB)

Adviser guide: Universal Credit in Northern Ireland: A Law Centre NI Guide for Advisers

This guide aims to ensure advisers have an understanding of the changes brought in by the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) and will be able to advise claimants on entitlement and assist them in making claims.

Download (PDF 701.339 KB)

Adviser guide: understanding, avoiding and challenging sanctions

The Welfare Reform Support Project Consortium (Law Centre NI, Citizens Advice and Advice NI) presents ‘Understanding, avoiding and challenging sanctions: an adviser guide’. The guide is designed to assist frontline generalist advisers in their work in supporting benefit claimants who are at risk of being sanctioned or who have been sanctioned. A thorough understanding of sanctions will help advisers and their clients better understand, avoid and, where necessary, challenge sanctions.

Download (PDF 1.079 MB)