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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!


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 .


Law Centre welcomes UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Law Centre (NI) staff meet UK anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland


Read more: Law Centre welcomes UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner


Domiciliary care seminar

RICC seminar

On 28 April the Law Centre held a successful event facilitating discussion of the current Health and Social Care Board review of domiciliary care and its implications for service users.


Read more: Domiciliary care seminar


Funding secured for specialised chair for nursing home resident

Alzheimer’s Society contacted our Community Care Unit on behalf of a woman who was trying to get a specialised chair for her husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and lives in a nursing home. There was a disagreement over who was responsible for this type of provision.

Following negotiations between the Law Centre, the nursing home and the Western Health and Social Care Trust, the Trust agreed to part-finance a chair that would meet his need.

This case reveals the lack of clarity around legal responsibility for the provision of specialised equipment when someone is placed by the Trust in nursing care.

The Human Rights Act 1998 was engaged in this case, along with the Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978.

'Our caseworker dealt with our case very well. It was a difficult situation but she had a great success.'


New residence rules for benefit entitlement cause hardship for young people back from placements abroad

The Law Centre has dealt with several cases recently where British and Irish citizens have fallen foul of a new requirement that a claimant must have been living in the Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland) for three months prior to a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The unforeseen consequences of a rushed-through piece of legislation

This new rule was rushed through just as the restrictions on access to labour market for citizensof Romaniaand Bulgaria were lifted. 

At the time, there was little understanding that returning nationals were also going to be affected but many have been.

The rule has caused a lot of hardship and is being interpreted in a very narrow way, affecting young people who went abroad to gain work experience.

Case study

A young man was referred to the Law Centre by Cookstown CAB. He had been told he would have to wait for three months before reapplying for JSA when he came back from a short placement abroad.

He had always lived in Northern Ireland where he had worked and studied. In 2013 he became unemployed and claimed JSA but used that time to improve his skills through part-time work and an internship. He stopped claiming JSA to take up a three-month placement in Italy on an EU scheme working in the hospitality industry in exchange for food, lodging, flights and 100 euros a month.

The Law Centre argued that during his period of temporary absence he was still technically living in Northern Ireland. He had kept his possessions at his parents’ house, kept his car and bank accounts at that address and clearly intended to return.  

Because he had both British and Irish nationality, we also pointed out that, in accordance with EU Treaty rights he exercised his right to free movement as an Irish citizen.  An appeal tribunal agreed with the Law Centre's argument.

Correction: an earlier version of this article mentioned that the young man had been paid arrears of JSA. We have been told that JSA has not been paid and that the Social Security Agency has requested the tribunal's statement of reasons with a view to appealing to the Social Security Commissioner.

Timeline of changes to residence rules 

This rule is one of a number of changes to residence requirements introduced in the last year. 

A Law Centre briefing explains the changes. You can read it here.

The residence rules are complex and anyone who may be affected by them is advised to consult an independent advice centre, Citizen’s Advice Bureau or, in complex cases, the Law Centre’s advice line. 

Advice line

Our social security legal advice unit is always happy to help in such cases and other benefit entitlement cases referred by members. Advice line: 028 9024 4401 or 028 7126 2433, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm.


Befriending service established for young man with learning disabilities

The Law Centre negotiated with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to set up a befriending service for a young adult with a learning disability.

The family had contacted Mencap who referred them to the Law Centre's Community Care Unit.

The Trust had conducted an assessment and had agreed that the young man had a genuine need. However, there was no adequate provision within the Trust for befriending young people with learning disabilities and there was a long delay in arranging the service.

As the primary carer, the mother was finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the level or care her son needed at home and her own health was suffering.

Following negotiations, the Trust has now set up and funded the service and the family are reporting that it is working well.

As well as specific laws on health and social care, this case involved article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to private and family life.

The young man's mother has praised the Law Centre's community care legal advice service: 'Excellent support, excellent advice'.

Relevant Legislation:

Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972
Carers and Direct Payments Act (NI) 2002
Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978
Human Rights Act 1998


Working with member CAB secures swift happy outcome for client

L’Derry Citizens Advice Bureau contacted the Law Centre last December on behalf of a Lithuanian lady who had become destitute when her Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit were stopped.

She had come to Northern Ireland in 2005 and worked continuously until 2014.  Her award was stopped following a Genuine Prospects of Work interview because the Agency did not think she satisfied residence rules for entitlement.

Our social security unit established that the client had permanent residence for benefit purposes but had missed the deadline for appeal. We advised the CAB adviser to lodge a late appeal and to obtain the relevant documentation from the client, covering continuous work and completion of worker registration scheme.  We helped write up the grounds for appeal and wrote a submission to NIHE.

This joint effort secured a speedy resolution for the client. JSA was reinstated on 19 December and Housing Benefit soon after. Both benefits were backdated.


Forced labour in NI: mapping issues and remedies

Tim Keeling, Director of Yoke Farm, Minister for Justice David Ford MLA, Júlia Tomás, Unchosen Films and Glenn Jordan, Director, Law Centre NI 


Read more: Forced labour in NI: mapping issues and remedies


Reminder: films and Q&A on forced labour this Saturday

unchosen logoSlavery was abolished over 200 years ago but human exploitation is still very much alive in Northern Ireland. Law Centre (NI), Unchosen and Belfast Film Festival have joined forces to bring to Belfast three short films that tell the human stories behind forced labour and trafficking.

The films will be screened at the QFT this Saturday 25 April at 12pm, followed by a discussion at 1pm. This is a free event. Advance booking is recommended but not essential. Light refreshments will be served.

The films include ‘Yoke Farm’ which won the 2014 Unchosen Short Film competition.  ‘Yoke Farm’ draws on the Law Centre’s experiences of providing legal advice and representation to victims of exploitation and its director, Tim Keeling, will join the panel discussion on modern day slavery and forced labour. 

Other speakers will be:

  • Kasia Garbal, Migrant Workers Project Officer, Irish Congress of Trade Unions;
  • Fidelma O’Hagan, Anti-Trafficking Legal and Policy Adviser, Law Centre (NI); and
  • Caroline Maguire, Employment Legal Adviser, Law Centre (NI).

Glenn Jordan, Director at Law Centre (NI), who will chair the discussion, commented: "We are delighted to partner with Belfast Film Festival and Unchosen for this important event which will highlight the human dimension of a hidden scandal.”


People can find themselves in situations of forced labour in legitimate businesses, not just in illegal enterprises.  Many have not been trafficked but are vulnerable to exploitation, maybe because they don’t know their rights or are unsure about their immigration status.

Glenn Jordan added: “The challenge for Northern Ireland is to identify exploitation where it occurs and to ensure that victims receive full protection and that enforcement measures are put in place to create a strong deterrent.” 

The Law Centre’s employment advisers provide legal advice and representation to victims of labour exploitation across Northern Ireland. The organisation’s Anti-Trafficking Young People Project helps children and young people who have been identified as victims of trafficking.

For advance booking, go to: http://belfastfilmfestival.org/films/unchosen



Asylum seekers and healthcare poster

Download a poster to inform asylum seekers on their right to free healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Asylum healthcare poster



The Rights in Community Care Group

RICC seminar

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.

More information

For further information contact Colin Harper This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or phone 028 9024 4401

RICC Coordinating Member Organisations

Alzheimer’s Society


Disability Action

The Cedar Foundation

Carers NI

Age NI

Law Centre (NI)

Centre for Independent Living



Legal Support Project: call for volunteers

LSP adviser

The Legal Support Project (LSP) is seeking new volunteers to undertake representation in social security appeals and industrial tribunals.


Read more: Legal Support Project: call for volunteers


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"

Guest Speakers:

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

RSVP by Monday 27 April to Trisha Tabet by e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or phone 028 90 244401


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.


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