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How we help: resolving benefit problems for young mother

Law Centre (NI) resolved a benefits issue for a Portuguese worker who suffered financial hardship through the late stages of pregnancy and the arrival of her child.

She had been living in Northern Ireland since 2011. Her most recent employment was on a zero-hour contract, as a cleaner in a local nursing home. 

When her employer could not give her any more shifts, she claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) but was refused. She claimed Income Support two weeks later when she came within the maternity period for Income Support.  She was refused again.

The Department’s decision was based on the fact that, because there was a four weeks gap between the date when she last worked and the date she claimed JSA, she was not thought to have a right to reside for benefit purposes.

The Law Centre adviser lodged appeals for the two benefits, arguing that she continued to be a worker for benefit purposes. During the four weeks, she had first been on holiday leave and then temporarily incapable of work due to pregnancy-related illness. After that, she was entitled to worker status because she gave up seeking work during the late stages of pregnancy and would retain that status for a reasonable period after the birth of her child. This argument was based on the St Prix decision.

The adviser also helped her make a claim for Maternity Allowance.

The Department revised its decisions but did not need to pay JSA and Income Support as she was entitled to Maternity Allowance, having paid sufficient national insurance contributions, and to Working Tax Credit.

As the principle of right to reside has been established, the client should now be able to claim Income Support if she needs to extend her maternity leave after her entitlement to Maternity Allowance and Working Tax Credit ends.

The Law Centre has also advised her to seek immigration advice concerning her right to permanent residence later this year when she will have been resident for five years.

Advisers are welcome to refer similar cases and other social security cases involving complex issues. Law Centre (NI) advice line is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm: 028 9024 4401

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