Legal Support Project launched
The Law Centre’s Legal Support Project was
formally launched on 1 March at the Law Society,
in an event sponsored by Allen & Overy. The
Honourable Mr Justice Stephens, Karen MacKay,
Chief Executive, FRU (Free Representation Unit)
and Sinead Mulhern, Head of the Legal Support
Project, spoke at the well attended event.
The new service is delivered by trained volunteers who
will provide free advice and representation in
social security appeals and industrial tribunals.
The project is starting with social security cases
and will progress to employment cases in the
We will keep members advised as the work of the
project develops. If you would like to find out
more about the project contact Sinead Mulhern on
028 9043 5050 or
A productive conference
on welfare reform
With the Welfare Reform Bill
due to be introduced this spring, the Law Centre and NICVA hosted a
conference on welfare reform on Tuesday 6 March at
The impact of sanctions, cuts to housing and
disability benefits, payments to ‘head of
household’, whether welfare will address poverty or
worsen living conditions, child poverty, the
timescale of reforms and the different situation in
Northern Ireland were much
debated throughout the day.
event was broadcast live from NICVA on
www.nicva.org/live and twitter.
Neil Couling, Director, Department for Work and
Pensions, explained the principles and process of
the government’s welfare reform programme, while Les Allamby
the impact of and concerns about welfare
reform in Northern Ireland.
Labour peer Baroness Ruth Lister spoke from her
experience in the House of Lords about the pitfalls of the current
trend of reform and criticised the demonisation of
people in receipt of benefits.
Will Haire, Permanent Secretary, Department for
Social Development, gave the current Northern
Ireland position on the Bill. The panel
discussion explored ways to implement welfare reform
differently in Northern Ireland without affecting
the parity principle.
The conference closed with a political
debate involving Neil Couling, Alex Maskey MLA,
Chair of Social Development Committee, Baroness Ruth
Lister, Mark H Durkan, MLA, Judith Cochrane, MLA,
Paula Bradley, MLA.
The next issue of Frontline
will feature a report of the conference and the
day's broadcast will be available on NICVA's
Join our spring training
Look out for our new training
programme which is due out in April.
we still have some places on the following courses:
Children and young people in the immigration system
Identifying Errors of Law - Taking Cases to the
Commissioner - Belfast
Benefits for Carers - Derry
Benefits for Carers - Belfast
All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors,
barristers and CAB advisers.
For more details, contact
firstname.lastname@example.org, 028 7126 2433
or visit our website:
Zambrano and McCarthy:
what it means for residents in Northern Ireland
The Law Centre’s new information briefing explains
the implications of two recent European cases,
Zambrano and McCarthy, which have
important implications for non-EEA nationals
residing in Northern Ireland (the EEA is the
European Economic Area).
Read the full briefing on Zambrano and McCarthy here.
are interested in referrals from members on cases
which involve the issues raised by these cases.
Tribunals must record evidence justifying their
In a recent DLA case, we established that a social
security tribunal had failed to give objective
reasons for its decision to uphold a reduction in
our client’s DLA award.
Our client had a
significant mental health condition. His
the higher rate of the care component of
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)had
changed to middle rate care component
and lower rate mobility
Social Security Tribunal
confirmed the change.
We took the case to the Social Security
Commissioner, arguing that:
the tribunal had erred in its assessment and reasons
for not allowing the care component for day time
attention arising from
it had misinterpreted the evidence relating to
mental health and therefore had not dealt
properly with his need for frequent attention
throughout the day.
Commissioner Stockman set the decision aside on the
grounds that he could find no basis in the evidence
recorded by the tribunal to justify its findings
that our client’s mental health was variable in
nature. If the
had an objective basis for making such a finding, it
is not recorded in the record of proceedings or
statement of reasons.
Revision of DLA decision
another recent case, we persuaded the Social
Security Agency to revise a decision to refuse
Disability Living Allowance to a client who suffers
from a degenerative spinal condition. He had been
refused DLA on the basis of a negative Examining
Medical Practitioner report but was awarded the
middle rate care and higher rate mobility components following a fresh
application a year later.
The client had appealed the initial refusal but
received a negative decision from the
appeal tribunal. We obtained a successful decision from the Commissioner
on further appeal.
case was returned to the appeal tribunal to be heard
by a differently constituted panel. At this stage
we approached the Social Security Agency to request
a revision of the initial decision.
This request was
ultimately successful due to strong evidence from
the client’s GP about the extent of his condition at
the time the initial award was refused. Following
revision, he received a back-dated payment
of DLA at the rate he is currently on.
Importantly, when requesting the revision, we
pointed out to the Social Security Agency that a
decision to revise would be in keeping with the
recommendation by the President of the Appeals
Service that the preferred course of action is to
try and have appeals resolved before going to
hearing in those cases where it is possible.
In appropriate cases, for example where the medical
evidence is strong and indicates that a tribunal is
likely to find in favour of the appellant, we would
suggest requesting a revision of decisions to refuse
by the Department.