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Helping young mother access her benefits

On referral from Antrim CAB, Law Centre (NI) represented a Polish lady who had problems with accessing benefits during her pregnancy.

She had been working in Northern Ireland for a long time, primarily through a recruitment agency.

As her pregnancy advanced, she was getting offered less and less work until she had no work at all and claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance. She then claimed Income Support in the late stages of pregnancy but was refused. The Department decided that she had no right of residence for Income Support purposes, although still entitled to Maternity Allowance and Housing Benefit.

After her child was born, she claimed Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. She was refused Child Benefit, again on grounds of no right of residence.

When her Maternity Allowance ended, Northern Ireland Housing Executive decided that a ‘reasonable period’ for her to find work had passed and therefore she had no right of residence for Housing Benefit either.

The Law Centre appealed all three refusals. The adviser was successful with the Income Support and Child Benefit appeals, having argued that the client retained worker status as long as she returned to work or workseeking after a reasonable period. At the time of hearing, her child was only a few months old and she had not found work yet.

The Housing Executive refused to change its decision, although a recent GB decision found that the reasonable period should be 52 weeks, and that it was sufficient that the mother had returned to the labour market by claiming JSA.

The client is now working and the correct benefits are in place, but the Law Centre is continuing with the Housing Benefit appeal as the decision had caused her financial hardship. 

Residence rules for social security purposes are complex. Advisers are welcome to contact our social security legal advisers for help on any cases involving right to reside, ordinary residence and habitual residence.

Our advice line: 028 9024 4401, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm

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