The Ulster University Law Clinic has provided free legal help to a number of clients on many different aspects of social security and employment law.
The cases below are examples of some of these:
Social Security: Disability Living Allowance
The client was referred to the Ulster University Law Clinic by the RNIB after her claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was unsuccessful. The case had been quite long, stretching back more than 12 months due to a number of factors. The student clinician had a number of meetings with the client and prepared an up to date submission which included an additional questionnaire from the client’s GP and a decision of entitlement to ESA, both of which further enhanced the case for an award of DLA. Due to the client’s visual impairment, the student clinician prepared all the client’s paperwork in large font and advised the Department that any documentation relating to the case was also required to be in large font.
The student clinician represented the client at her tribunal appeal. The appeal was successful, and the client was awarded DLA, receiving over £1,500 in arrears. The client was very grateful for the help she received: ““I was pleased with the way I was looked after throughout my appeal and want to say thanks once again for everyone who dealt with my case and looked after me from day one.”
Employment: Unfair Dismissal
The client came to the Ulster University Law Clinic directly, after initially acting as a self-litigant at an early Case Management Discussion (CMD). In this case our client was dismissed from his job due to allegedly breaching trust and confidence with an employer. A range of interesting legal issues were explored including an ECHR Article 8 argument pertaining to the right to a private and family life. This argument was relied upon as the respondent had engaged in the use of private surveillance.
The Clinic supported and represented the client at all stages of the tribunal process. This included taking full responsibility for all interlocutory matters, negotiations with the respondent’s legal representatives and formal advocacy on behalf of the client. A close relationship was maintained with the client throughout the case. The outcome is still pending, however the client has expressed immense gratitude and has been very complimentary of the assistance provided by the Ulster University Law Clinic: “Thank you again for all your effort. If I was doing this on my own I’d have given up long ago.”
Social Security: Disability Living Allowance
Representation was provided to a Lithuanian client referred to the Ulster University Law Clinic from the Migrant Centre NI. The individual had been disallowed Disability Living Allowance and needed support in her subsequent appeal.
The case was demanding as the client did not speak any English and there was no capacity to avail of translation services before the hearing. Nonetheless a detailed written submission was given and a student clinician represented the client at her appeal hearing. Unfortunately the appeal was unsuccessful but the client expressed thanks at being guided through the stressful process on the day and for the efforts of the Clinic. Support was provided to a very vulnerable individual who was then guided on the best steps to take after the appeal hearing.
Employment: Perceived Disability Discrimination
The client came to the Ulster University Law Clinic after being referred by the Equality Commission. He had sought assistance just before the Case Management Discussion (CMD) stage. Student clinicians wrote speaking notes for the client and provided him with other relevant documentation for the CMD.
The student clinicians assisted the client with all the preparation leading up to the tribunal hearing, that included notices of discovery, notices for additional information, replies for both, drafting the schedule of loss, witness statement, an agreed set of facts and issues and tackling any issues that came up over the course of this preparation such as legal costs orders.
This case was complex as the student clinicians had to rely on an EU Framework Directive as perceived discrimination is not included in Northern Ireland’s Disability Discrimination Act but it is included in the Equality Act which, while not applicable in Northern Ireland, could be persuasive. The student clinicians sought the help of outside bodies and EU law experts to help them with the case.
On the day of the hearing, upon instruction from the client, the case was settled. The client is very happy with the outcome and has expressed his gratitude for the hard work of the student clinicians in resolving his case.
Social Security: Employment and Support Allowance
The Client had been referred to the Ulster University Law Clinic by a former student. The client had previously been in receipt of ESA for over a decade and re-applied for ESA. He was turned down on the basis of the healthcare professional’s assessment and was not awarded the required 15 points. The Ulster University Law Clinic agreed to assist the client on all aspects of his appeal including sending an ESA medical questionnaire to the client’s GP.
The student clinician provided a detailed written submission to the panel before the hearing, based on oral evidence from the client, medical evidence and case law. The student clinician also represented the client at the hearing. The appeal was successful and the ESA award was backdated for four months, to the date of the Department’s original decision.
The client is very happy with the outcome of the case and with the work of the student clinician.
Employment: Unfair Dismissal
The client was referred to the Ulster University Law Clinic by the Labour Relations Agency. The client wished to pursue a claim for unfair dismissal. The respondent in the case disputed that a dismissal had in fact occurred. The case surrounded whether ambiguous language used by the employer amounted to a dismissal in the circumstances. The client wished to pursue a claim on the grounds that the dismissal was procedurally unfair or, in the alternative, that he had been constructively dismissed.
The client was represented by his sister, who contacted the Ulster University Law Clinic following a Case Management Discussion. The Clinic agreed to advise both the client and his representative and to assist with their preparations for the hearing. The students involved assisted the client with various interlocutory matters, including: drafting of notices, preparation of a schedule of loss, replies to notices for additional information and discovery, and the formatting of witness statements. Assistance was also provided with the preparation of submissions and cross examination techniques.
The client was found by the tribunal to have been unfairly dismissed and compensation was awarded accordingly.
The client gave this feedback on the service provided by the Ulster University Law Clinic: “The students and supervisor involved with my case were friendly, understanding and willing to answer any questions or assist with any queries that I had. Overall I found the service to be invaluable and would have struggled at tribunal without the support and assistance provided. Thank you very much.”
Social security: Employment and Support Allowance
The client had a degenerative disease and had been receiving Incapacity Benefit. She was required to apply for Employment and Support Allowance, but her claim was turned down on the basis of the healthcare professional’s (HCP) assessment. The Ulster Law Clinic agreed to assist the client in her appeal against the Department’s decision. A student clinician drafted a short questionnaire for the client’s GP in order to get alternative medical evidence to assess the claim. The client was also receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the student clinician was able to obtain copies of the evidence used to claim DLA.
The student clinician provided the social security appeal tribunal with a detailed, written legal submission, setting out the evidential flaws in the HCP’s assessment for the client’s ESA claim. The student then represented the client at the appeal hearing. The client’s appeal was successful and her ESA award was backdated to the date of the Department’s original decision which had been almost 11 months earlier.
The client gave this feedback on the service provided by the Ulster Law Clinic: “The Clinic’s help was really appreciated throughout my appeal and of course I was really pleased with the outcome … Thanks again for all your help.”
Social security: Jobseeker’s Allowance
The client had applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance and the Department had not made any decision on his claim. The Department believed that the client had access to shares in a family business but was unable to decide what the value of the shares might be. If the shares were worth more than £16,000 the claimant would not be entitled to JSA but if the shares were worth less than £16,000 the claimant could be entitled to JSA. The Department was unable to decide how to determine the value of the shares and so were unable to make a decision on our client’s claim for JSA.
The client contacted the Ulster Law Clinic for assistance and we agreed to help with his case. The difficulty for the client was that because the Department had not made a decision, the claimant had no decision to appeal against. We advised our client on his legal entitlement and contacted the Department on his behalf, referring the Department to its own guidance on capital threshold limits for JSA entitlement. The Department accepted the argument that the shares were not worth more than £16,000 to the client as he would not have been able to access the shares, and decided that he was therefore entitled to JSA.
The client gave this feedback on the service provided by the Ulster Law Clinic: “I was very satisfied with the service given.”
Employment: Lodging ET 1 claim forms
The client was dismissed by his employer on the grounds of gross misconduct and sought to challenge that decision on a number of grounds. The client was self-represented and contacted the Ulster Law Clinic two weeks before he was due to have a Pre-Hearing Review with the tribunal Judge. The Pre-Hearing Review was to decide whether the client’s case would be allowed to continue as the client had lodged his ET1 claim form after the deadline for lodgement.
The Ulster Law Clinic agreed to advise the client on what legal arguments could be raised to allow the time limit for lodging an ET1 claim form to be extended. Staff and students worked on the case and provided a detailed written legal opinion to support the client’s case. At the Pre-Hearing Review the tribunal Judge accepted that there were ‘just and equitable grounds’ to allow the case to proceed.
The client gave this feedback on the service provided by the Ulster Law Clinic: “Thank you for the quick and timely response to my query. I have referred other people to your service which I found excellent and professional.”
This client was referred to the Ulster Law Clinic by the Labour Relations Agency. The client had resigned from her job after her role was redeployed, which meant that her pay and work patterns had been changed. After her resignation the client contacted her former employer to try to get a redundancy payment.
The Labour Relations Agency arranged a conciliation meeting between the client and her former employer. The Ulster Law Clinic agreed to be present at the conciliation meeting and to provide support and advice to the client in the negotiations. The Clinic advised the client on the settlement offer that was made by her former employer and the client agreed to accept a slightly improved offer which reflected the amount of time she had been in employment and the subsequent loss of earnings.
The client gave this feedback on the service provided by the Ulster Law Clinic: “Thank you for all your help with my case and in reaching a settlement.”