ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 05 July 2012

Venue: Room 29

The meeting began in public session at 10:04am                   

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

Mr Alastair Ross joined the meeting at 10:05am

Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10:06am

2. Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Management of Response Maintenance Contracts - Departmental Briefing:

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10:06am:

Mr Jim Wilkinson, Director of Housing, DSD; and
Mr Michael Sands, Deputy Director of Housing, DSD.

Ms Pam Brown joined the meeting at 10:07am

The officials briefed the Committee on the management of response maintenance contracts by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Members expressed concerns regarding the key findings of the C&AG’s report referred to by the Minister in his statement to the House.  Members questioned the officials on a number of issues including the possibility of fraudulent claims resulting in a potential PSNI investigation; the nature of the contracts awarded and how they were tendered; the invoicing procedures; and the process for inspecting and providing quality assurance and inspection on the work undertaken.

Officials expressed their intentions to return to the Committee with further information when it becomes available.

The Chairperson thanked officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10:29am.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10:29am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed – subject to the Public Accounts Committee’s consideration in September – to return to this issue in the new session once the C&AG’s report has been received and once the Housing Executive has made its response to the report.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 28 June 2012       

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 28 June 2012 were agreed.

4. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members of his intention to meet with representatives of the Scottish firm CARDUUS in relation to how the company has developed a funding vehicle in Scotland for social housing and how this might translate to the situation here.

The Chairperson advised Members that Save the Children has requested an opportunity to brief the Committee regarding its concerns about the disproportionate impact of Welfare Reform proposals on low income children and their parents.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to contact Save the Children as part of the formal consultation on the Bill as they have already had briefings from NICCY and the Woman’s Policy Group on this issue.

5. Matters Arising

5.1 The Committee considered a draft response to the Department’s consultation on the outcome of the Irresponsible Drinks Promotions.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward this response to the Department.

5.2 The Chairperson advised Members that the Department intends to issue a consultation on liquor licensing over the summer recess and that the Department intends to brief the Committee once it has collated the responses. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on this issue in the autumn.

5.3 The Chairperson advised Members that the Minister has written to the Committee on the Charities Bill and that the Bill was introduced in the Assembly on 2 July 2012. The Chairperson suggested that even though the Bill has not yet reached Committee stage, the Committee should proceed with a call for evidence on this Bill over the summer recess period.

Agreed: Members agreed to proceed with a call for evidence and approved a draft public notice.

5.4 The Chairperson advised Members that the Department has forwarded a copy of the Legislative Consent Memorandum on Small Charitable Donations Bill

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule briefings from the Department and other interested parties on the Legislative Consent Motion after the summer recess.

5.5 The Chairperson advised Members that the Minister has forwarded to the Committee a copy of a written statement to the Assembly in relation to the 2012 Annual Report on the Concordat between the Voluntary and Community Sector and the Northern Ireland Government.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing on this report after summer recess.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 10:34am

6. Girdwood Masterplan – Departmental Briefing

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10:35am:

Mr Jackie Johnston, Belfast City Regeneration, DSD;
Mr Danny Byrne, Belfast City Centre Regeneration, DSD; and
Mr David Malcolm, Housing Division, DSD.

The Chairperson began by raising some of the issues received by the Committee regarding the Girdwood site including: the demand for social housing in North Belfast; shared housing and the allocation of housing on the site.

The officials briefed the Committee on the Girdwood Masterplan. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Members asked questions regarding the number of applicants on the waiting list for housing in North Belfast and whether an application constitutes one person or a family. Members also questioned whether there is a legal obligation for the proposals to be equality screened.

Members expressed concerns regarding the potential impact welfare reform could have on the housing need in North Belfast.

Members queried the number of social houses which will be made available on the site and how these houses will be allocated.

Members discussed proposals for the Community Hub and questioned whether finance would be made available for this.

The officials left the meeting at 11:04am.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11:06am.

Agreed: Members agreed to schedule another briefing on the Girdwood Masterplan as the proposals were developed further.

7. Customer First Initiative – Briefing by the Social Security Agency (SSA)

The following officials from the SSA joined the meeting at 11:06am:

Mr Tommy O’Reilly, Chief Executive, SSA; and
Mr Brian Doherty, Director of Working Age Services, SSA

The officials briefed the Committee on the Customer First initiative.  This was followed      by a question and answer session.

Members held discussions with the officials covering a number of issues in particular, how staff might be affected by the future roll-out of the Customer First initiative and what steps the Department is taking to engage with these people to accommodate them. Members also asked the officials to further explain if the SSA prefers the operational choice to relocate rather retrain.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11:13am

The officials left the meeting at 11:18am

9. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

9.1 The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

Agreed: The Committee was content for the rules to be made.

9.2 The Occupational Pension Schemes (Disclosure of Information) (Amendment_ Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Agreed: The Committee was content for this rule to be made.

10. Statutory Rules

10.1 (Commencement No.9) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012.

10.2 Pensions (2012 Act) (Commencement No.2) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee were content to note the above mentioned commencement orders.

10.3 The Hybrid Schemes Quality Requirements Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee noted the above mentioned Statutory Rule as there is no requirement for this Rule to be laid before the Assembly.

10.4 The Licensing (Requirements for Conference Centre) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR249/2012 The Licensing (Requirements for Conference Centre) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objections to the rule.

10.5 The Pension Protection Fund (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 270/2012 The Pension Protection Fund (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objections to the rule.

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11:26am

10.6 The Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) (Amendment No 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR264/2012 The Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) (Amendment No 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objection to the rule.

10.7 Automatic Enrolment (Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Chairperson drew Members’ attention to this statutory rule to highlight that it was laid in breach of the 21-day rule. The Examiner of Statutory Rules had stated that the Department’s explanation of parity considerations appears to be reasonable and that they had no other course to open to it as regards the timing of the Order.

Members were content to note this.

11. Universal Credit – Briefing by the Social Security Agency

The following official from the Social Security Agency (SSA) joined the meeting at 11:28am:

Mr Tommy O’Reilly, Chief Executive, SSA.

Mr O’Reilly offered his apologies and due to unforeseen circumstances asked the Committee if it would consider re-scheduling this briefing.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to reschedule this briefing after the summer recess.

The official left the meeting at 11:29am

12. Correspondence

12.1 The Committee noted a copy of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council’s Annual Report 2011-2012.

12.2 The Committee noted a response from the Department regarding the Discretionary Support Policy consultation.

12.3 The Committee noted a response from the Department regarding the Committee’s request for further information on the Housing Executive’s double glazing programme.

Agreed: Members agreed to write to the Department requesting further information on the technical specification of the hinges being used in the double glazing programme.

12.4 The considered correspondence from the Department regarding its intention to publish the Glen Road Development Framework and the related Equality Impact Assessment for public consultation on 2 July 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department once all responses to the consultation have been received and analysed.

12.5 The Committee considered the Department’s response to the Committee in relation to concerns expressed by a member of the public regarding the proposed changes to disability benefits and, in particular, the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the Department’s response to the member of public who raised the issue.

12.6 The Committee considered correspondence from the Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) requesting the opportunity to brief the Committee on the Computer Assisted Self Interview survey on the views and experiences of children living in care in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from Voice of Young People in Care after the summer recess.

12.7 The Committee noted a minute relating to the Department transferring the SS Nomadic to the Nomadic Charitable Trust.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the proposed next steps in the correspondence memo.

13. Forward Work Programme

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Clerk to work with the Department to develop a new forward work programme for autumn 2012. The new forward work programme will be considered by the Committee at the first meeting in the new session.

14. Any Other Business

The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee could potentially receive a large amount of correspondence over the summer recess period.  The Chairperson suggested that the Committee officials email items of correspondence to Members in one or two files over this period.        

Agreed: Members agreed to receive items of correspondence over the summer recess period.  Members also agreed to raise any items they would like addressed at the first meeting in September.

15. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10:00am on Thursday 6 September 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.  

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11:38am

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
6 September 2012

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