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UK government to cut vital support to asylum seeking families

The Law Centre is opposed to Home Office plans to cut support to asylum seeking families, due to come into effect on 10 August.

All asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their claim will now receive a flat rate of £36.95 per week per person*, whether they are adults or children.

Single parent families will be hit hardest: 

  • a single parent with one child will get £73.90 per week, compared to £96.90 now.
  • a single parent with two children will receive £110.85, compared to £149.86.
  • a couple with two children will receive £147.80. They currently receive £178.44.

The additional payments given to pregnant women and children under three will still be available. Pregnant women will continue to receive an additional £3 a week and very small children will continue to receive an additional £5 a week until the age of one, and £3 a week between the ages of one and three.


The Law Centre has stressed its concerns with the current levels of support - well below what a family on benefits is expected to live on - in a previous briefing which described the negative impact on children’s health, education and long-term prospects. Read it here: Policy Response to Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children 

We are concerned that this reduction in support will further compound the issues for families, particularly single-parent families who will lose around a quarter of their income.

The Children’s Society has recently published a useful briefing on this issue. Read it here: Children's Society Asylum Support Briefing


The Refugee Council has called on government to abandon its planned cuts until it has commissioned an independent review into the fairness of current asylum support levels.

Right to work

We are mindful that the majority of asylum seekers do not want to be reliant on the asylum support system at all. They would much prefer to be self sufficient. Unfortunately, the UK government refuses to allow asylum seekers to work. The Law Centre believes that granting permission to work is the right approach here. It would bring innumerable benefits for individual asylum seekers and their children. It would also generate money for the government through workers paying taxes and would reduce expenditure on asylum support. It really is a win win solution.

* To compare, in Northern Ireland, a single adult under 25 entitled to Income Support or Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance receives £57.90 per week, £73.10 per week if over 25. 


Call for volunteers!

The Law Centre's Legal Support Project (LSP) is recruiting volunteers to undertake representation in social security appeals and industrial tribunals.

Details of the LSP’s work and how to apply are here.

Applications should be received by 28 August 2015.

The LSP is running its next two day social security training programme on 15 and 22 September 2015.

If you have any queries about this volunteering opportunity please contact Sinead Mulhern, Head of Legal Support Project:

Phone 028 9043 5050

Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it





Mental Capacity Bill: respecting our humanity

"What is the ‘problem’ the Bill aims to solve? It is not complex. We are fragile creatures. We break down, parts of us stop working (for a short while or for good), some things may never have worked entirely well. This fragility is fundamental to our vulnerable humanity." 

Colin Harper, our Assistant Director (Community Care and Mental Health Policy), explains in Scope NI why the new Mental Capacity Bill is important for all of us, and how it will help safeguard the human rights and equality of anyone who has impaired decision making capacity, whether permanent or temporary.

You can read the article here: http://scopeni.nicva.org/article/complex-solution-simple-problem


Law Centre hosts roundtable on strategic litigation for social change

Speakers at Public Interest Litigation Workshop at Law Centre (NI)


Read more: Law Centre hosts roundtable on strategic litigation for social change


Learning from Scottish Welfare Reform Committee

Left to right: Ursula O'Hare, Michael McMahon MSP, Alex Maskey MLA, Grainne McKeever, Glenn Jordan


Read more: Learning from Scottish Welfare Reform Committee


Advisers and ESA staff roundtable at practitioners' meeting

Social security advisers and ESA staff around the table at Law Centre's social security practitioner meeting


Read more: Advisers and ESA staff roundtable at practitioners' meeting


Celebrating Refugee Week

Access to healthcare event

The Law Centre celebrated Refugee Week 2015 by speaking at the launch of the week at Belfast City Hall, and running two events of our own.


Read more: Celebrating Refugee Week


New cohort complete WRAP course

WRAP training officer Eamon Doherty and trainees June 15

Congratulations to advisers from Mencap, East Belfast Independent Advice Centre, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme and ACT who have completed our Welfare Rights Adviser Programme. 


Read more: New cohort complete WRAP course


Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill going for Assembly debate today

The Law Centre welcomes second stage consideration of the Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill today. This is an important piece of legislation with the policy objective of making provision for the control of data processing in relation to health and social care.

The functioning of the health and social care system in Northern Ireland requires the processing of confidential information relating to individual patients and service users for reasons other than the direct provision of care and treatment to those individuals. Examples of such processing include: auditing the quality of service provision; service planning; billing of organisations providing services to H&SC under contract; and identifying and monitoring the health and social needs of the population of Northern Ireland. There has been a long term legislative gap in Northern Ireland with respect to such processing (Westminster legislated to address this gap in the Health and Social Care Act 2001).

The Explanatory Memorandum makes clear the important policy intent of the Bill: “Providing a clear statutory framework, and robust and stringent safeguards, which will enable the use of health and social care information which identifies individuals to be used for medical or social care purposes which are designed to benefit health and social care, or achieve some other tangible benefit that might reasonably be described as a public good, without the consent of the individuals whose information may be used.”

The Law Centre welcomes the introduction of this important legislation and is supportive of its general principles. We have some concerns about achieving the right balance which needs to be struck in the details between the public interest in the protection of confidentiality and the public interest in the efficient and effective provision of health and social care. We believe that these concerns can be addressed through Assembly scrutiny and amendment of the Bill as entered.

More information on the Law Centre's views on the Bill here: http://www.lawcentreni.org/Publications/Policy-Responses/LCNI-response-to-Consultation-on-use-of-HSC-information-for-secondary-purposes.pdf 

Or you can contact Colin Harper, Assistant Director (Mental Health and Community Care Policy)  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  for more information on the Law Centre's position.


Extra statutory scheme for ESA claimants moving between GB and Northern Ireland

The Law Centre helped secure ESA payments for a man who had had his benefit stopped when he moved to Northern Ireland from England.

When he moved to Northern Ireland from England he expected that his claim for Contributory ESA (support group) would be transferred.  He suffers from severe medical problems and had recently passed the Work Capability Assessment in England.  After he moved he found it difficult to get information on what to do and he was told that he would need new medical evidence to support a fresh claim.  When he contacted the Law Centre he was facing street homelessness due to the delay in dealing with his application. 

The Law Centre was able to contact the Social Security Agency directly and payments were quickly made under the extra statutory scheme that was set up as a result of earlier Law Centre cases to pay those affected by the failure to include ESA in reciprocal arrangements between NI and GB.

As a result of this case, SSA has assured us that information will be made available on NI Direct in relation to the extra statutory scheme and how to access it.

The Law Centre has also been assured by the Department for Social Development that ESA will be included in amendments to the reciprocal arrangements in the course of welfare reform.

You can read more about past cases which led to the extra statutory scheme here and here.

Advisers who would like more information on the scheme are welcome to contact our advice line or to discuss this at practitioner meetings.

Practitioner meetings

We have two social security practitioner meetings coming up:

Wednesday 1 July, 11.00am, Law Centre (NI) Training Room, 124 Donegall Street, Belfast

Tuesday 7 July, 2.15pm, Law Centre (NI) Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry

All advisers and practitioners are welcome

RSVP to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


First Mayor of Derry and Strabane visits Law Centre

First Mayor of Derry and Strabane visits Law Centre's Western Area Office


Read more: First Mayor of Derry and Strabane visits Law Centre


Job opportunities at Citizens Advice NI

Citizens Advice NI has three exciting new career opportunities:

Pension Wise Head of Project and Contract - applications deadline 19 June

Read more

Deputy Director (Finance and Transformation) - applications deadline 3 July

Read more

Deputy Director (Services and Membership) - applications deadline 3 July

Read more


ESA to be discussed at Social Security Practitioner meetings

Law Centre (NI) practitioner meetings coming up on:

Wednesday 1 July, 11.00am, Law Centre (NI) Training Room, 124 Donegall Street, Belfast


Tuesday 7 July, 2.15pm, Law Centre (NI) Western Area Office, 9 Clarendon Street, L'Derry

Discussion topic: Employment and Support Allowance

With Tracey McCloskey - manager of ESA Office, Belfast and a decision-maker

Participants will be able to share concerns and discuss case studies.

All advisers and practitioners welcome

RSVP by Friday 25 June to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Refugee Week Belfast 2015

 Refugee Week logo

Download the full programme here.


Read more: Refugee Week Belfast 2015


Refugee week lecture: Refugees and Human Rights

As part of Refugee Week 2015
Law Centre (NI) invites you to attend a lecture by Professor Colin Harvey

Refugees and Human Rights

The Future of International Protection in the UK

With an opening address by a senior legal figure
Friday 19 June, 3 pm – 5 pm,  at Law Centre (NI), 124 Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2GY

In the context of an unprecedented number of people fleeing their homes around the world, the ongoing tragedy of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean and the uncertainty about the UK’s commitment to the Human Rights Act, this lecture will focus on the importance of human rights standards in the protection of asylum seekers and refugees. Colin Harvey is a Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen's University Belfast.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Please confirm your attendance to Trisha Tabet by Wednesday 17 June 2015 and notify us of any dietary/access requirements:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please be seated by 3pm.

This is a fundraising event in support of NICRAS and Homeplus, two community organisations that provide a lifeline to destitute asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. 

Voluntary donations will be welcome following the lecture, or you can donate online to Homeplus through Justgiving: www.justgiving.com/homeplus-ni


Helping elderly man with care package to continue living at home

We helped resolve the issue of an inadequate care package for an elderly gentleman with dementia. As his needs increased, his existing care arrangements were becoming insufficient. This was making it very difficult for him to continue living at home and his family members were under increasing pressure to address his needs.

Following negotiations with the local Trust, the domiciliary care package was significantly increased and the client was able to avoid going into a nursing home. The new arrangements are now in place and working well.

“I could not have got the care help for my father if it was not for the Law Centre”, said the client's daughter.

Human Rights Act and local health and social care laws

This is one of many Law Centre cases where the Human Rights Act was used to help resolve a care issue. The legal arguments used involved:

  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • article 8 of ECHR right to private, family and home life
  • Carers and Direct Payment Act (NI) 2002
  • Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978

Volunteer week: Avi McCabe, Legal Support Project

Avi McCabeAvi McCabe has volunteered with the Law Centre's Legal Support Project since January 2012. She now runs a consultancy service but continues to help when she can. 


What is your background?

I am a solicitor. I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2011. My professional background was in regulation/compliance work and I wanted to gain exposure to other practice areas, in particular areas which dealt with social justice issues. 

Why did you decide to volunteer with the LSP?

I was keen to keep my legal skills up-to-date and to use them to help people who would otherwise be unable to get advice or represent themselves. The LSP provided an opportunity to do both. When I met the LSP staff, their professionalism and commitment really impressed me and sealed the deal!

What have you gained from volunteering with the LSP?

Lots of positive experiences. I have developed professionally by doing social security and employment work; been able to take advantage of Law Centre( NI)’s training programme and, most satisfyingly, to develop personal and working relationships with fellow volunteers, Law Centre staff and members of various voluntary and practitioner groups.  

What difference do you think your involvement has made to your LSP clients?

I’ve hope I’ve made a small but significant difference in the lives of all my clients. Tribunal procedures are complex but my clients have always impressed me with their courage and determination to have their concerns heard. 

Do you think that the experience of volunteering with the LSP has or will benefit you in the future?

It has been very beneficial. I’ve had the professional satisfaction of securing many successful outcomes for clients who would not otherwise have been able to afford a legal adviser. I’ve gained the expertise and confidence to start my own consultancy, SEN Advice and Advocacy NI, which focuses on special educational needs; an area where there is also a significant unmet need for specialist advice and representation. 


Celebrating new healthcare rights

Refugee week

As part of Refugee Week (15-21 June 2015) Law Centre (NI), the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) and the British Red Cross invite you to:

Celebrate new healthcare rights

Monday 15 June, Crescent Arts Centre, 4.00pm–5.30pm

Join us to mark the introduction of new healthcare regulations that came into force in March 2015. The new regulations, passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, mean that all asylum seekers, and other specified migrant groups, will be able to enjoy access to healthcare while they are living in Northern Ireland.

This is an important development in Northern Ireland in protecting asylum seekers and we invite you to join with us to hear about the difference this will make.

Please be seated by 4 pm. Following some short speeches, light refreshments will be served.

RSVP is welcome for catering purposes but not essential.
Please email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by Thursday 11 June.
Please let us know of any dietary or access requirements.

We look forward to seeing you!


Work with us: Policy and Public Affairs Officer

Ref number: PO-04-15. 35 hours per week, based in Belfast

The Law Centre is recruiting a Policy and Public Affairs Officer to initially work in the area of health and social care policy. Essential criteria include at least 3 years experience of social policy work, of writing policy and lobbying materials and of undertaking research. Excellent communication skills are also essential as is an ability to work on own initiative and to prioritise work to meet deadlines.

Salary: £28,127 - £30,311. NJC Points: 33-36

Closing date for applications: 12 June 2015. Interviews: 26 June 2015

Download application form

Information about Law Centre (NI)


Care packages, direct payments and capacity topics of June meeting

Advisers, social workers, carers etc are invited to join in a community care practitioners meeting at the Law Centre's Belfast office on 12 June 2015, 10am to 12pm.

On the agenda

1. Update on recent cases and Legislation

2. Current topics of interest:   

    • third party top up payments;
    • direct payments;
    • reducing care packages
    • capacity and consent

3. Members updates and general discussion on topics and cases of interest or concern

To confirm attendance, email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or phone: (028) 9024 4401

Practitioner meetings

Law Centre (NI) holds quarterly practitioner meetings on social security, community care, mental health and migrant workers' rights. In these meetings advisers can discuss legal issues they have encountered in their work and latest law and policy developments in their area of expertise.

To receive regular information on meetings in your area of work, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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