Asylum seekers and healthcare poster
Download a poster to inform asylum seekers on their right to free healthcare in Northern Ireland.
The Rights in Community Care Group
Convened by the Law Centre, the Rights in Community Care Group (RICC) is a collective of organisations with a shared interest in promoting an equality and human rights based approach to the delivery of community care services and support in Northern Ireland.
RICC advocates the provision of good quality community care and support services that emphasise; voice, choice and control for all.
RICC promotes equality and the rights of both those receiving care and those who deliver the services.
RICC provides a platform for information dissemination, sharing expertise and discussion.
Since 2011, RICC have hosted a series of seminars on topics such as:
- Facing the Funding Challenges;
- Building the Community care Workforce;
- The Northern Ireland Single assessment Tool, Care and Caring, Equality and Human Rights: Translating Equality and Human Rights into care and service delivery;
- Personalisation, Rights and Excellence in Care;
- Involving the Experts: Making the Most of Service User and Carer Participation.
The seminar series offers an informal opportunity to explore critical issues affecting the provision of social care in Northern Ireland against the backdrop of Transforming Your Care. The seminars feature speakers from both the statutory and non-statutory sectors and conclude with a panel discussion, chaired by the hosting organization.
RICC Coordinating Member Organisations
Legal Support Project: call for volunteers
The Legal Support Project (LSP) is seeking new volunteers to undertake representation in social security appeals and industrial tribunals.
Seminar - Domiciliary Care - 28 April
Rights in Community Care will hold a seminar on Domiciliary Care on Tuesday 28 April:
"Domiciliary Care – future developments, future challenges"
Claire Keatinge, Commissioner for Older People Northern Ireland
Kevin Keenan, Assistant Director Older People and Adult Services, HSCB.
Jonathan Swallow, Social Policy Consultant, UNISON
John McCormick, Carers NI
Presentations will be followed by a Chaired Panel discussion
Venue: Law Centre (NI)
Date: Tuesday 28 April 15
Time: 2pm – 4pm
New rules for repeat claims to ESA
Before 30 March 2015, a person who made a repeat claim to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) would automatically be treated as having limited capability for work provided s/he could provide certificate from her/his GP, even if the most recent decision after a Work Capability Assessment was that s/he did not have limited capability for work. This would apply until the next Work Capability Assessment.
This is no longer the case. From 30 March 2015, if a person makes a repeat claim to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), where the most recent decision after a Work Capability Assessment was that s/he does not have limited capability for work, s/he will not automatically be treated as having limited capability for work.
Instead the person will have to demonstrate her/his health condition has significantly worsened or s/he has a new health condition. This applies even if the repeat claim is made after a period of six months.
The previous six months rule continues to apply to those who are treated as not having limited capability for work because they failed to return the ESA50 or attend a medical examination.
In addition, a person will no longer be entitled to payment of ESA pending appeal where the appeal is against a decision on a repeat claim. Instead, a person in these circumstances will be expected to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). The period for which a person can have a period of sickness but remain entitled to JSA has been increased to 13 weeks.
Joe had claimed ESA on 14 June 2014 for the first time due to mobility difficulties. He initially received ESA payments at the assessment phase rate. He was subject to a Work Capability Assessment medical examination and it was determined that he did not have limited capability for work. He appealed this decision and continued to supply medical certificates from his GP. As a result, he continued to receive ESA at the assessment phase rate while waiting for his appeal to be heard. His appeal was heard on 28 March 2015 and the tribunal dismissed his appeal and found that he did not have limited capability for work.
Joe makes a new claim to ESA on 31 March 2015. He supplies a medical certificate from his GP which states that he remains unable to work due to his problems with mobility. However, as this is a repeat claim made after 30 March 2015, he cannot be treated as having limited capability for work unless he can show a new condition or that his condition has significantly worsened to the extent that he would be likely to score 15 points on the WCA.
In addition, the decision maker will consider the evidence from his previous claim in determining if Joe has limited capability for work. Joe may not be asked to attend a medical examination for this claim if that previous evidence can still be relied on.
If his claim to ESA is refused on the basis that he does not have limited capability for work and he appeals this decision, he will not be paid ESA while waiting for his appeal to be decided.
How we help: pregnancy, Income Support and the right to reside
We represented a Europan woman who had been refused Income Support and lost her Housing Benefit in the late stages of pregnancy. As she already had a child who was not yet in school, this had left her in a very precarious situation.
She had lost her job last autumn and had been awarded Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). A few weeks before her child was due to be born, her JSA was terminated and she was told to apply for Income Support, as the rules on availability for work mean that a woman in late stages of pregnancy cannot be entitled to JSA.
Her claim for Income Support was refused and she was told that she did not satisfy the residence requirements for this benefit. Her Housing Benefit was suspended as a result. She already had a child who was not yet in school.
We contacted Decision Making Services and supplied some evidence including sick notes from her GP saying she was incapable of work because of the birth of her child. We argued that she had retained her worker status because she was temporarily incapable of work on the grounds of pregnancy. We based our argument on the recent decision of Saint Prix v SSWP, which stated that a woman who gives up work or seeking work because of the physical constraints of the later stages of pregnancy and the aftermath of childbirth retains the status of ‘worker’ under Article 45 of the 2006 EEA Regulations, provided she finds work again within a reasonable period of time.
The Regulations “must be interpreted as meaning that a woman who gives up work, or seeking work, because of the physical constraints of the late stages of pregnancy and the aftermath of pregnancy and the aftermath of child birth retains the status of ‘worker’, provided she returns to work or finds another job within a reasonable period of time after the birth of her child.”
The Department agreed and revised the Income Support decision, and Housing Benefit was also reinstated.
Law Centre's immigration legal advice suspended at present
Please note that due to a restriction in funding, from 1 April 2015 the Law Centre is unable, until further funding is secured, to provide specialist legal advice and assistance on immigration matters.
The Law Centre continues to provide legal advice and assistance in relation to children and young people who are the victims of human trafficking. Please also note that the Law Centre also continues to provide legal advice and assistance on social security, employment, community care and mental health issues, including as these issues relate to migrants and those affected by immigration law.
Should you require legal advice and assistance with an immigration matter, please go to Law Society NI: www.lawsoc-ni.org, telephone 028 9023 1614.
For other support, the following organisations may be able to provide assistance:
Belfast Migrant Centre
Support and advice for victims of racist hate crime
028 9043 8962
Welfare advice for asylum seekers and refugees including destitution, education, housing issues, etc.
028 9024 6699
Chinese Welfare Association
Support and welfare advice for members of the Chinese community
028 90 288277
Welfare advice (including assistance with housing and benefits) for newly recognised refugees
028 9033 0433
British Red Cross
Support for destitute migrants
028 9073 5350
Assistance for asylum seekers applying for NASS support
0808 800 0630
Law and Migrant Rights Centre
Legal advice and information in the areas of immigration, employment, social security, housing and education
028 8775 0211
Citizens Advice NI
030 0123 3233
028 9064 5919
Benefit and tax credit rates 2015-16 now on our website
For an up-to-date list of benefits and tax credits rates which apply in Northern Ireland from April, visit our Encyclopedia of Rights:
Bringing a hospital patient back to his family
The Law Centre helped a family bring their brother back from England to a hospital in Northern Ireland where he would be able to see them more often.
He had been transferred from a local psychiatric unit two years ago in the hope that he would receive more appropriate treatment in tEngland but the treatment was not working out. The family wanted him moved back here where he would receive equal level of treatment but would be closer to them. This would have been more respectful of his Article 8 family rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
They had not managed to progress their case for some time and they were referred to the Law Centre by CAUSE, the association for families, partners and friends caring for people with mental illness.
In October, at a meeting between our clients, the Law Centre, the Trust and the Chair of the Health Committee, a commitment was given to transfer him back before Christmas. He was brought back in December and the family are very happy.
Getting legal status for a Syrian war refugee
Law Centre (NI) was contacted by the family of a Syrian man who had fled the war in his country with his family but was having problems getting refugee status.
He had been working as a dentist in Syria where the family had a good life before the war. Then the war broke out and a number of professionals and family members were killed or abducted. The family fled to Turkey in 2012.
His wife and children, who are British/Irish citizens were able to travel to Northern Ireland to stay with relatives but he had to return to Syria as he had no money and was not a British citizen.
Unfortunately, his life remained at risk in Syria so his wife returned for him in 2013. The family resided together in the Republic of Ireland, before coming up to Northern Ireland where he claimed asylum.
Following representations from the Law Centre, the Home Office has now accepted his claim for asylum and granted him Refugee Status and five years leave to remain.
Although he is a qualified dentist, as an asylum seeker he was unable to work whilst his claim was pending. Our social security and community care advisers had been able to help the family to access benefits and emergency help while he was going through this process.
The work of our immigration advice unit has ensured that he is now able to stay with his family and practice his profession.
Legal Aid: some good news for refugees and asylum seekers
The Justice Minister has accepted arguments by the Law Centre and the Refugee and Asylum Forum that immigration advice and family reunion must be kept within the scope of Legal Aid. More information here.
This is good news as refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable in our society. Asylum seekers and those who are appealing asylum refusals are not allowed to work and therefore are unable to build up any savings to pay for legal fees.
Glenn Jordan, Director of Law Centre (NI), said: “We are particularly pleased to hear that the Minister has dropped his proposal to remove legal aid for refugees who seek to be reunited with their families.
Many refugees are understandably worried about families left back home in dangerous situations or in unsustainable refugee camps, and bringing them to a place of safety is often their first priority.
We know that funding family reunion through the legal aid budget is much cheaper than the additional court cases that would be generated through lack of appropriate legal advice. More importantly, assisting in family reunion is a fundamental social justice issue which can impact positively on the welfare and mental health of often destitute refugees.
The Law Centre and our partners in the Refugee and Asylum Forum have been pressing the Minister on this issue and other concerns regarding the impact of proposed changes to legal aid on some of the most vulnerable groups in society.”
Our preferred position is that DoJ does not remove employment, immigration or social security from the scope of civil legal aid. If DoJ does proceed with proposals to cut legal aid from any of these areas then:
- DOJ must recognise that advice organisations rely on Green Form to fund interpreters and expert reports. Additional funding will need to be made available;
- a system for applying for funding on an exceptional basis needs to be devised.
Work with us: financial control officer
Would you like to work with us?
We are looking for a person with:
- a relevant accounting technician qualification (or equivalent), and
- at least three years experience in a finance position including:
- preparing accounts to trial balance,
- financial reporting,
- budgetary control, and
- operating computerised accounting systems including payroll.
Modern slavery discussed at Belfast Film Festival
Law Centre (NI) and Belfast Film Festival present:
Unchosen - Three short films on modern slavery
Saturday 25 April 2015, 12pm, Queen’s Film Theatre – FREE EVENT - panel discussion
Law Centre (NI) views on the future of Civil Legal Aid in Northern Ireland
The Law Centre has responded to the Department of Justice consultation on Civil Legal Aid.
Our preferred position is that DoJ does not remove employment, immigration or social security from the scope of civil legal aid.
If DoJ does proceed with the current proposals then:
- DOJ must recognise that advice organisations rely on Green Form to fund interpreters and expert reports. Additional funding will need to be available;
- a system for applying for funding on an exceptional basis needs to be devised.
New rules on access to healthcare for migrants in Northern Ireland
As of 3 March 2015, new regulations on access to health care for migrants are in place in Northern Ireland. The Provision of Health Services to Persons not Ordinarily Resident Regulations 2015 came into force in February 2015 although there was a short window when they could be challenged. No objections were made and so we are pleased to report that the regulations are here to stay.
What the changes are
The regulations ensure that all asylum seekers, and other specified migrant groups, have access to free healthcare while they are living in Northern Ireland. The regulations also provide much welcomed clarity with regards to migrants' access to primary care more generally. We are delighted with the result.
For a summary of the new regulations, please see here: New rules on access to healthcare for migrants in Northern Ireland.
The role of voluntary organisations
These new regulations are the culmination of two years of lobbying and engagement and we are pleased that the Health Committee and departmental officials listened to us during this process. The Law Centre took forward this work in partnership with the Red Cross and NI Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers and we also received support from a wide number of other organisations, to whom we are very grateful.
These include: African and Caribbean Community Support Organisation, Belfast City Mission, Belfast Migrant Centre, British Medical Association Northern Ireland, Bryson Intercultural, Children’s Law Centre, Chinese Welfare Association, Falls Women’s Centre, Horn of Africa People’s Aid, Homeplus, Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group, NICEM, Royal College of General Practitioners and Women’s Aid. The issue also attracted support from statutory human rights bodies the Commissioner for Children and Young People, NI Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission.
What's happening next
We will be working with partners to host a celebratory event and to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the changes - watch this space for more information. The Department is also due to issue new guidance and we have offered to be involved in this process.
In the meantime, any asylum seeker or migrant wishing to know how this change in the law affects them can contact the Law Centre's Community Care Legal Advice Line: 028 9024 4401, Monday to Friday, 9.30 to 1pm.
Community Care and Mental Health Practitioner Meetings - March 2015
These meetings will be of interest to advisers dealing with mental capacity or community care issues, health and social care practitioners.
To find out more, click on the links below:
- 13 March Mental Health Practitioners Meeting - Belfast
- 16 March Community Care Practitioner Meeting - Belfast
- 18 March Community Care Practitioner Meeting - Derry
- Law Centre (NI) practitioner meetings are a great chance for advisers and other practitioners to hear updates and discuss casework issues with peers and specialist advisers.
Parliamentary enquiry says immigration detention system needs fundamental reform
For far too long, the UK has unquestionably pursued its policies of immigration detention despite the immense human cost it brings. Today, however, a report issued following a Westminster inquiry brings us hope that something will change.
See the report here: The Report of the Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom - A Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees & the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration
The inquiry’s panel was cross party and consisted of members from both houses. The resulting report condemns the UK’s use of immigration detention and calls for radical and immediate change:
Crucially, this panel believes that little will change by tinkering with the pastoral care or improving the facilities. We believe the problems that beset our immigration detention estate occur quite simply because we detain far too many people unnecessarily and for far too long.
The report makes a number of key recommendations including a 28 day time limit on the length of time anyone can be held in immigration detention. Lay readers will perhaps be surprised – and dismayed– to know that immigration detention has no upper time limit in the UK. This was the very point the Law Centre made in our contribution to the inquiry back in Autumn 2014:
The UK stands apart in Europe for its policies on immigration detention: it is unique in that it does not limit the maximum period of detention. Additionally, the UK does not provide automatic judicial scrutiny of detention: the onus is on the individual to apply to a tribunal to have the legality of their detention reviewed. We find the UK’s stance extraordinary and unjustifiable.
See our full response here: Law Centre (NI) response to Parliamentary Enquiry into Immigration Detention.
The inquiry’s finding is clear: the current system is ‘expensive, ineffective and unjust’. We hope that the government is listening and that it draws a line under the current inhumane practices.
NI NGOs and Stormont paved the way for guardianship system for trafficked children in England and Wales
Following in the footsteps of Stormont, England and Wales are set to put in place a protection system for children who have been trafficked. The House of Lords has voted in favour of amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill to secure Child Trafficking Advocates with legal powers to effectively advocate for trafficked children and young people.
A similar but more far-reaching measure was included in Clause 22 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) which received Royal Assent in January. The Clause ensures that all separated children subject to immigration control are protected by legal guardians, thereby ensuring that children who may not be initially identified as victims of trafficking do not fall through the net.
The Law Centre had worked closely with the Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, ECPAT UK and other organisations involved in combatting trafficking to convince Stormont to include the amendment in the Northern Ireland legislation.
Read more about the guardianship measures in Northern Ireland:
Read more about the proposed measures in England and Wales:
Read more on the Law Centre’s views on protecting trafficked and other separated children:
Advice agencies welcome Mervyn Storey engaging with the sector on welfare reform
Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium welcomes DSD Minister Storey’s commitment to engage on funding discussions with the voluntary advice sector during the implementation phase of welfare reform.
The Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium, which comprises Law Centre (NI), Advice NI and Citizens Advice, has welcomed the Minister for Social Development’s statement in the Assembly during Further Consideration stage of the Welfare Reform Bill, to give ‘serious consideration’ to providing additional funding to the advice sector to help it prepare for the challenges and demand that will flow from the introduction of welfare reform in Northern Ireland.
Speaking on behalf of the Consortium, Bob Stronge, CEO of Advice NI, said:
“We were obviously disappointed that the Minister did not embrace the concept of a right to independent advice and assistance within the Bill as we feel this would have provided more protection to those people and families who may be impacted during the implementation phase of Welfare Reform. Nevertheless we are pleased that the Minister has introduced an amendment to ensure that advice and assistance are made available to persons making a claim resultant from Welfare Reform.
“We welcome the Minister’s support for the advice sector and the fact that he clearly values the work we do in supporting vulnerable people across Northern Ireland. We know that welfare changes will create uncertainty for many people in receipt of benefits and we are committed to helping them to understand how the new changes will affect them and also in supporting them to challenge unfair decisions. As an independent advice sector, that is what we are set up to do.”
The Bill completed Further Consideration stage on Tuesday 24th February; the next stage will be Final Stage, with Royal Assent expected in May 2015. During this period the Department for Social Development will also develop detailed proposals on payments to persons suffering financial disadvantage and how these schemes could provide support for those adversely impacted by the changes to the welfare system.
Commenting on the welfare reform changes, Pól Callaghan from Citizens Advice continued:
“We welcome the commitment to introduce a package of measures to help people who will lose out as a result of welfare reform and are keen to hear more about the detail of these. Just as government and its agencies will need to prepare for these measures, the advice networks need to prepare to help our clients. Our sector is already under pressure with increased workloads due to changes that have already occurred. We have already seen huge increases in demand as a result of earlier changes to sickness and disability benefits as well as demand for tribunal representation. We need to increase frontline capacity to cope with the surge in demand that we anticipate. We also need to provide training for advisers on the new benefits and on the mitigating measures; update our information systems; and improve our digital delivery systems and financial capability capacity.”
Law Centre (NI) Director Glenn Jordan concluded:
“We hope that the Minister will be able to use the Final Stage to strengthen his Department’s commitment to independent advice and to secure all possible mitigations that are in his power to deliver.”
Further information on the Welfare Reform Bill and the debates can be found on the NI Assembly website.
More about the Consortium partners:
Advice NI: http://www.adviceni.net/
Citizens Advice: http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/pages/about_us/
Law Centre (NI): http://www.lawcentreni.org/about-us/what-we-do.html
Social Security Practitioner meetings
Below are the provisional dates for Social Security Practitioner meetings at Law Centre (NI) this year.
13 March 2015
3 June 2015
3 September 2015
2 December 2015
March date to be arranged
10 June 2015
9 September 2015
9 December 2015
Further information, such as times, agenda etc will be published closer to the date of the meeting. Please see our Events page for these details.
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