ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 07 March 2013

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in closed session at 10.05am

1. Licensing Legislation – Briefing by Legal Services

The Committee received a briefing by Legal Services on issues relating to Licensing Legislation.

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.15am.

Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10.15am

2. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

3. Draft Minutes of Meetings 28 February 2013

Agreed: The minutes of the meetings held on 28 February 2013 were agreed.

4. Chairperson's Business

4.1 The Chairperson advised Members that the 6 or 13 June were 2 possible dates for the Committee to visit a Work Capability Assessment in Belfast.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to arrange a visit on one of these dates.

4.2 The Chairperson advised Members that training on scrutiny of legislation is available to the Committee on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 April.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to training on 18 April and reschedule its briefing on a visit to a Shared Community Scheme.

4.3 The Chairperson drew Members attention to correspondence and a draft press release regarding the Pensions Automatic Enrolment advertising campaign.

5. Matters Arising

5.1 The Chairperson advised Members that the Committee had scheduled an oral briefing from the Department on the Social Fund Reform consultation. Due to the limited responses received, a written briefing had been provided by the Department.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward any comments on the consultation to the Clerk. The Committee also agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department once the consultation period had completed.

5.2 The Chairperson advised Members that the Clerk had received a response from one Member of the Committee on the Department's Housing Strategy consultation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department stating that, whilst the Committee broadly agrees with the direction of the Housing Strategy, it will be undertaking a number of stakeholder events to assist the Department in going forward with proposals.

5.3 The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee had agreed to hold an event on housing on 11 April. The Chairperson proposed that the Committee should reschedule its Committee meeting scheduled for that day.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to reschedule its meeting on the 11 April and hold the housing event on the morning of 11 April. The Committee also agreed a list of stakeholders to invite and a draft invitation letter.

6. Special Needs Management Allowance – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting 10.25am:

Ms Eilish O'Neil, DSD; and
Ms Deirdre Ward, DSD.
The officials briefed the Committee on the Department's proposals for future payment of Special Needs Management Allowance.

Members acknowledged the importance of keeping vulnerable people in their community and providing care in their own home. Members questioned what discussions had taken place with the Health Department on these issues and what interaction is being carried out at ground level.

Members also questioned the Department's definition of 'minimum disruption to service users' as 'minimum disruption' might have a larger impact on a vulnerable person.

The Committee expressed concerns that it is still not clear about the impact on the level of care people will receive in the 34 schemes once SNMA is withdrawn and sought assurances on this.

Members also expressed concerns about the potential increase in fees for those people who fund their own private care as SNMA is reduced and ultimately withdrawn.

The Committee noted conflicting opinions on the robustness of the fundamental review of the payment of Special Needs Management Allowance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask for the following:

the Department's definition of 'minimum' when referring to 'minimum disruption to service users';
details of the analysis undertaken for the Department to arrive at an initial reduction of 10% of SNMA for 2013/2014;
assurance that those people who will be affected by the withdrawal of SNMA will continue to be able to live in their communities and have access to the facilities that they currently have; and
clarification on whether the process of assessment addressed the 'housing management functions' referred to in NIFHA's submission.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.

The officials left the meeting at 11.09am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to arrange a joint informal meeting with a delegation from the Committee for Social Development and the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

7.1 The Social Security Pensions (Flat Rate Accrual Amount) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.

Agreed: The Committee were content for the Rule to be made.

7.2 The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.

Agreed: The Committee were content for the Rule to be made.

7.3 The Occupational and Stakeholder Pension Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.

Agreed: The Committee were content for the Rule to be made.

7.4 The Social Security Pensions (Low Earnings Threshold) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.

Agreed: The Committee were content for the Rule to be made.

8. Correspondence

8.1 The Committee noted correspondence from the Department on its joint consultation with the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety on a review of housing adaptions services.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on this consultation.

8.2 The Committee considered correspondence from the European Parliament on the Social Investment Package initiative.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the item of correspondence to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister for comment. The Committee also agreed to forward the item of correspondence to the Department for Social Development for comment on what it is doing to address Child Poverty in conjunction with other Departments.

8.3 The Committee noted two invitations to events on tackling fuel poverty.

8.4 The Committee noted a Departmental press release on the opening of the new community building in Derrybeg, Newry. The Committee commended all those involved in setting up the community asset.

Members were content for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the correspondence memo.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee were content with the proposed Forward Work Programme.

10. Any Other Business

The Committee discussed the issue regarding Licensing Legislation and Drumbo Park Dog Racing Track and reflected on the advice provided by Legal Services.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to recommend that article 42 of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 be amended so public entertainment other than theatres should be permitted to sell alcohol on a Sunday.

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10:00am on Thursday 14 March 2013 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.20pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
14 March 2013

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