legal victory for
In a landmark judgement on 31
January, the High Court clearly established the
obligation on DHSSPS and on health and social care
trusts to regularly complete an assessment of need
of all those who require community care services in
The Law Centre had brought the case
on behalf of a patient who had waited more than ten
years to move out of a learning disability hospital
and into the community.
Justice McCloskey found that the
DHSSPS and the trust owed
a legal duty to assess and review, on a regular
basis, the community care needs of long stay
residents in learning disability hospitals.
Maureen Piggott, Mencap's Northern
Ireland Director, commented:
'Mencap welcomes today's decision and
congratulates Law Centre (NI) for taking and winning
this important case. People with a learning
disability and their families need this strong
Justice Minister David Ford announced
proposals for major reform of the tribunal system in
Northern Ireland at a conference organised by
the University of Ulster and the Law Centre.
Tribunal Reform: the Way Ahead
was held in the Bar Library, Belfast, on Friday 25
Centre (NI) director Les Allamby said:
‘We are delighted that many of the
findings and recommendations of research we
commissioned have influenced the consultation
document. The document recognises the importance of
the tribunal user and the need for an independent
and accessible tribunal system with appropriate
oversight. Independent advice and support are also
The Department is inviting responses
to the consultation document,
The Future Administration and Structure of Tribunals
in Northern Ireland, by Friday 19 April.
Download Law Centre commissioned research on
tribunal reform here.
Roundtable on the impact
The Law Centre hosted a roundtable discussion on
the impact of austerity measures on local
communities and individuals in Northern Ireland
behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Part of a UK wide investigation, the 17 January
aimed to gain a perspective from Northern Ireland
The Foundation is visiting different parts
of the UK to interview people in need and the
organisations working with them. The findings will
be published on the JRF website.
Frontline 86: focus on
Frontline 86 focuses on employment and
unemployment matters, and also discusses
the progress of the Welfare Reform
Bill at Stormont, long term adult care, older people’s strategy, using the tax credits fast track
Other publications to look out for
Social security and judicial review, February 2013, explains when judicial review can
usefully assist in tax credit and other social
Alternatives to Court in Northern
Ireland, a joint publication of Law Centre (NI) and the
Northern Ireland Ombudsman, has been updated to
include new mediation services.
at the Law Centre
Personal Independence Payment, Belfast
Mental Health and Criminal Justice, Belfast
Employment Law, 2 days, Derry
Children and Young People in the Immigration System,
Understanding Universal Credit and Other Changes,
Understanding Universal Credit and Other Changes,
19 March Commissioner Appeals, Identifying Errors in Law,
Challenging Tax Credit Decisions, Overpayments,
21 March Legal Research Skills for Advisers, half day,
26 March Benefits for Carers, Belfast
28 March Personal Independence Payment, Derry
NOTE: The course on
Social Security, Seeking Work, Other Requirements
and Sanctions, which was planned for 14
February, has been
postponed to 24 September.
All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors,
barristers and CAB advisers.
For more details, visit the
training section of our website or contact
firstname.lastname@example.org, 028 7126
Welfare reform bill
Last month, the Law Centre gave evidence to the
Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on welfare reform.
The Committee has now reported to the Assembly.
The Committee has concluded by majority vote that there
were no specific human rights or equality breaches
in the Bill but has highlighted areas of concern.
DOJ engagement group on
The Law Centre attended the first meeting of the
Engagement Group on Human Trafficking.
The group, bringing together the Department of
Justice, police, health and social services and
relevant statutory and non governmental
organisations, aims to inform the development of
human trafficking policy and programmes.
Its work will include sharing resources and
expertise and identifying best practice and gaps in
information and in the provision of services and
areas of research.
Photo courtesy of Department of Justice.
using fast-track procedure
In a case referred to the Law Centre by ARK
Housing Association, we ensured that a Sudanese
refugee and his family received their entitlement of
Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
The case highlighted an ongoing problem with
delays in the processing of claims for Child Benefit
and Child Tax Credit, especially for refugees, which
can take up to six months to process.
HMRC has a statutory duty to make decisions on
claims. Under the fast track procedure, the Jobs
and Benefits Office can verify original
documentation to ensure the claim is paid more
Unreasonable delays need to be challenged as they
leave vulnerable clients living on half what the law
says they need to live on.
Our client was incorrectly refused Child Benefit. HMRC sent a request for further information
about his Child Tax Credit claim even though he had already
given this information through the fast track claim
at the Jobs and Benefits Office.
The Law Centre adviser sent a pre-action letter to
HMRC and this resulted in backdated payment of Child
Benefit and Child Tax Credit within fourteen days.
For more information on the fast track procedure,
see social security update in
Frontline 85 and
Macmillan lunch at Law
Law Centre (NI) staff and management
committee met for a fundraising lunch on 30 January
in the Belfast office. The event raised £135 for
Macmillan Cancer Support.