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New Report: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge

New Report: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge

Advice NI, Housing Rights and the Law Centre NI launched a joint report which highlights the approaching 2020 ‘cliff edge’ when funding for the mitigation package agreed as part of the Fresh Start Agreement in 2015 is due to expire.

The report also identifies the impact if these protections were to cease and highlights further areas where protections are required post 2020.

Commenting on the report, Kevin Higgins at Advice NI said;

“We are hoping this report will initiate conversations across the sector and with political and government representatives about the approaching mitigations ‘cliff edge’. It is critical that urgent attention is brought to bear on these issues”

Ciara Fitzpatrick at Law Centre stated;

“As advice organisations our work shows us the continuing need for protection from the harshest elements of welfare reform. We are also mindful of new and significant upcoming challenges presented by the roll out of Universal Credit which will continue until 2023. Any new mitigation arrangements must take account of this.”

Kate McCauley at Housing Rights commented;

“We note the under spend in some of the previous mitigation arrangements and are calling for this money to be redirected to address the future impact of Universal Credit and measures such as the 2 child tax credit policy. Additionally, government support is required people on low incomes who are renting privately and who have been impacted by welfare reform.”

You can access the report here.

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Universal Credit: protecting claimants through the migration process

Universal Credit: protecting claimants through the managed migration process.

The government has laid out its proposals for the transfer of 3 million claimants from legacy benefits to Universal Credit in the draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration) Regulations 2018.

Law Centre has developed a briefing paper which outlines our concerns about the proposals and makes recommendations which will better ensure the protection of all those who will be required to move to UC between 2019 - 2023. This paper has been endorsed by many members of the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Group (WRG). The WRG is an umbrella grouping of organisations that campaign for positive changes to policy, service provision and legislation for persons in receipt of social security.

We agree that the draft regulations should be opposed by Parliament in their current form, as they provide for the termination of legacy benefits if a Universal Credit claim is not made by a set deadline.

You can access the briefing paper here.

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Law Centre training update

 

Law Centre NI will soon launch its Autumn 2018 Training Programme. This will include training on a wide range of topics, aimed at meeting the training requirements of advisers across the sector.

Also, the Level 3 Certificate in Generalist Advice (incorporating the Welfare Rights Adviser Programme) will be delivered for the first time starting October 2018.

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Read more: Law Centre training update

   

**New Briefings** Brexit and eYou

Brexit-and-eYou-2

The Law Centre (NI) is excited to announce a new collaboration with the Institute for Conflict Research (ICR). We are working together to develop an online resource for those who are concerned about the impact of Brexit on their economic and social rights.

ICR has already developed some useful resources including a number of case studies which address a range of issues such as residency; right to healthcare, the right to free education, pension entitlement, access to health care, child benefit, and social security, among others. They raise questions for EU/EEA nationals and their representatives which must be addressed in the Brexit negotiations and final political settlement. ICR also provide:

  • Links to the Migrant Centre NI; STEP; the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) which regulates immigration advisers in the UK
  • Sources of further information; including links to publications by the Law Centre NI and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)
  • Links to the wide range of individual UK and Irish politicians and governmental bodies currently working on Brexit issues who represent NI constituents or are involved in the Brexit negotiations
  • You can access the Brexit and eYou resouces here.

 ICR has published two briefing papers:

  • The first briefing published in May 2018 highlighted the fears that many EU/EEA migrants have about Brexit's potential impact on their social and economic rights. You can access it here.
  • The follow up briefing paper published in September 2018 provides an overview of a meeting between EU nationals and MLAs that took place in Stormont on 13 June 2018. You can access it here.

 

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Sanctions Guide 2018

The Welfare Reform Support Project Consortium (Law Centre NI, Citizens Advice and Advice NI) presents ‘Understanding, avoiding and challenging sanctions: an Adviser Guide’.

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Read more: Sanctions Guide 2018

   

Adult social care reform

In advance of a roundtable on 'Putting human rights at the centre of transformation,' Age NI and Law Centre welcomed the decision by the Department of Health to publish the report of the Expert Panel on Adult Care and Support.

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Civil and Family Justice Review

Law Centre NI today welcomed Sir John Gillen to outline the recommendations of the Review of Civil and Family Justice in Northern Ireland. 

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Read more: Civil and Family Justice Review

   

Victims of modern slavery deserve financial compensation

The Law Centre is calling for measures to be put in place to reduce the vulnerability of victims of modern slavery and labour exploitation to re-trafficking. The call coincides with EU Anti-Trafficking Day on 18 October which seeks to increase awareness of the issue.

In the last three years, 138 potential victims of slavery were identified in Northern Ireland. Whilst these figures may appear small, it is believed that they represent the “tip of the iceberg” because many victims are not identified. 

A report published by the Law Centre found that the current system is not equipped with a contemporary understanding of modern slavery, and that legal avenues of redress are not fit for purpose.

The Law Centre believes that financial compensation can reduce the victim’s vulnerability to re-trafficking, and in psychological terms, is a powerful symbol of justice that can help them move on with their lives. 

Director of the Law Centre, Ursula O’Hare, said:

“Modern slavery can take a range of different forms, including trafficking and forced labour, and it happens today in Northern Ireland.

“A victim-centred approach is needed for those entrapped in modern slavery to ensure that wrongs are acknowledged, and that people have the means to be able to move on from the emotional and physical damage which can follow as a result of exploitation.”

The Law Centre is calling for three key changes to be implements to help victims of modern slavery, which are:

  1. Introduction of  a state-funded scheme that would enable victims to secure unpaid wages arising from their ordeal;
  2. A new civil wrong of “labour exploitation that would allow recovery of compensation for injury to feelings; and
  3. Provision of legal aid for those who wish to take civil proceedings either at the Industrial Tribunal or in the civil courts.

Full report and recommendations here.

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New employment posts at Law Centre NI

Law Centre NI is looking for a Legal Officer (Employment Law) and an Employment Law Adviser

See our work with us page for full details.

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Law Centre (NI) launches Digital Guide for PIP benefit appeals

Law Centre (NI) has today launched a Digital Guide to help people who are bringing a social security appeal without the support of a representative.   Focusing on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeals, the guide gives practical information and advice to help them prepare for what can be a daunting experience by showing what to expect in an appeal hearing

 The guide comes at a time of significant change to welfare benefits in Northern Ireland. Disability Living Allowance benefit is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP). As many people are undergoing reassessment for the new benefit, a large increase in the number of appeals is expected.

Director of Law Centre (NI), Ursula O’Hare, said:

“Bringing an appeal can be a challenging and stressful experience for people with no experience of the legal system. We know that not everyone is represented before a tribunal and we hope this guide offers some support to those navigating an appeal tribunal without the support of a representative.

“We produced this guide because we recognise how important it is that people have as much information as possible about the appeal process.  The guide will ensure that anyone facing an appeal will know what to expect and how to prepare in a way that gives them the best chance of achieving a successful outcome.”

The guide is also a practical resource for new tribunal representatives, and is available for download here.

Law Centre (NI) is a not-for profit organisation which promotes social justice and provides specialist legal services to advice organisations and disadvantaged individuals.

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Law Centre NI's new premises

Law Centre NI is moving premises this month to Middleton Building (Third Floor), 10–12 High Street, Belfast.

From Monday 26 June we will be operating from our new premises and the contact details are below.

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Read more: Law Centre NI's new premises

   

New June - Sept 2017 Training Programme

The Law Centre (NI) social security Training Programme for June to September 2017 is now available.

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Read more: New June - Sept 2017 Training Programme

   

Resettled Syrians to be granted refugee status

On 22 March, the Home Secretary announced that Syrians admitted through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme (VPR) will now be granted refugee status. To date, VPR Syrians have been granted Humanitarian Protection.

Law Centre (NI) welcomes this announcement. At the outset of Northern Ireland’s participation in the VPR scheme, we highlighted how Humanitarian Protection would afford the Syrians fewer entitlements especially in the context of access to Further Education and entitlement disability benefits. We have worked constructively with Northern Ireland government departments to secure amendments to statutory guidance that facilitates access to VPR Syrians. We commend the Department for Communities and the Department for Economy for their approach.
 
However, despite the positive changes that Northern Ireland made, we continued to maintain that refugee status should be awarded to VPR Syrians. Refugee status provides access to a Travel Document that is cheaper and more widely accepted than that available for holders of Humanitarian Protection. In addition, refugee status is underpinned by the UN Refugee Convention and therefore is a term that has meaning in an international context.  This change will mean that VPR Syrians will now have the same type of status as other Syrian refugees living in Northern Ireland.

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Controversial 2-children limit for Child Tax Credit starts 6 April

From 6 April, people will not be able to claim Child Tax Credit (CTC) for third or subsequent children or qualifying young persons born on or after 6 April 2017. 

The change also applies to Universal Credit (UC), which is to be rolled out in Northern Ireland from 25 September. However, government has indicated that until November 2018, existing claimants with more than two children who would otherwise claim UC will be directed to claim CTC instead.

Limited exemptions apply, including multiple births and the controversial 'rape clause'.

Concerns have also been expressed about the impact on child poverty.

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Important changes to bereavement benefits

From 6 April, Bereavement Support Payment is being introduced to replace three existing bereavement benefits: Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parents Allowance.

Unlike the existing bereavement benefits, Bereavement Support Payment will only be paid for up to 18 months after the death:

  • surviving partners with at least one dependent child – an initial payment of £3,500 and up to 18 monthly payments of £350;
  • surviving partners with no dependent children – an initial payment of £2,500, no additional payments.

Bereavement Support Payment will be paid to new claimants where the date of death of a spouse or civil partner is on or after 6 April 2017. People already receiving Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance or Widowed Parents Allowance will continue to do so and will not be affected by the introduction of Bereavement Support Payment.

Further information can be found on the Department for Communities website www.communities-ni.gov.uk/advisor-information.

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Minimum wage and living wage increase from April 17

Reminder: minimum wage and living wage are increasing from April 17. See: NI Direct

Over 25

£7.50

21 to 24

£7.05

18 to 20

£5.60

Under 18

£4.05

Apprentice under 19 or in first year of apprenticeship

£3.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Benefits, pensions, tax credits, Child Benefit and Guardians Allowance rates from April

New benefits and tax credit rates apply from 6 April, see below. Many other changes happening as part of welfare reform Northern Ireland and UK-wide changes. More information in our welfare reform news and information pagesAnyone with any concerns should contact the Welfare Changes Helpline 0808 802 0020.

For tax credits, Child Benefit and Guardians Allowance, see: www.gov.uk/government/publications/tax-and-tax-credit-rates-and-thresholds-for-2017-18/tax-and-tax-credit-rates-and-thresholds-for-2017-18#working-and-child-tax-credits-child-benefit-and-guardians-allowance

For other benefits and pensions rates, no Northern Ireland chart available yet, but see the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2017 for details of changes in force in Northern Ireland from April 2017, and check GB rates charts, which are largely similar. Differences include Universal Credit which will only be introduced to Northern Ireland in the Autumn, and welfare reform mitigation payments which apply in Northern Ireland.

Also in force from April 2017, the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017:

  • prevent any rate that is changed by the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2017 from applying in cases where there is a question about its effect on a benefit that is already in payment that is still to be determined;
  • restrict the application of the increases specified in the 2017 Order in cases where the beneficiary is not ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland; and
  • increases by 1% the amount of benefit that a person must be left with if they live in a care home and, because they find it difficult to budget for their care fees, the care home costs are paid direct from their benefit to the person or body charging for care.

Again, anyone with any concerns should contact the Welfare Changes Helpline 0808 802 0020. See: www.lawcentreni.org/casework/welfare-changes-helpline.html

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Welfare reform: free specialist awareness training at the Law Centre

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Legal remedies for victims of labour exploitation

The Law Centre has published a policy briefing outlining the legal remedies available for victims of labour exploitation and making suggestions to improve the compensation system. 

Read it here:

Legal Remedies for Victims of Labour Exploitation

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Work-related activity component of ESA ends on 3 April

From 3 April, the work-related activity component will be removed from both contributory and income-related ESA in Northern Ireland.

See: the Welfare Reform and Work (Northern Ireland) Order 2016 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2017 (SR.No.46/2017), which brings into force provisions of the Welfare Reform and Work (Northern Ireland) Order 2016

If you are worried about the impact of this new regulation on you or your clients' ESA, please contact the Welfare Changes Helpline: 0808 802 0020

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