Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 13 June 2013
Venue: Room 29
The Deputy Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.11.
Apologies were as indicated above
2. Draft Minutes of the Meeting 6 June
Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on 6 June 2013 were agreed.
3. Chairperson’s Business
The Chairperson informed the Committee that, following the Ministerial statement on Monday 10 June regarding the Housing Executives mishandling of maintenance contracts, that he had prepared a letter to send to the Chairperson of the Housing Executive, expressing his serious concern over the matter. The Committee agreed that it was content for the letter to be issued to the Chair of the NI Housing Executive, and copied to the Minister.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Chair of the Housing Executive would attend the Committee meeting in Coleraine on Thursday 20 June and that this was an opportunity for the Committee to address issues raised in the Minister’s statement..
4. Matters Arising
4.1 The Chairperson referred Members to the Legislative Consent Memorandum Mesothelioma Bill, which was agreed by the Executive on 6 June 2013. The following officials joined the Committee at 10.16am:
- Jane Corderoy, DSD
- Anne McCleary, DSD
Members acknowledged that the Mesothelioma Bill offered positive benefits to those diagnosed with mesothelioma particularly in relation to the issuing of faster compensation payments following diagnosis. However, Members voiced serious concerns that benefits paid to those diagnosed with mesothelioma would be recouped directly from the compensation payment.
The officials left the meeting at 10.25am.
The Chair read the following:
“That the Committee for Social Development has considered the draft Legislative Consent Motion on the Mesothelioma Bill and recommends that it is endorsed by the Assembly”.
The Committee agreed the motion.
The Chair informed the Committee that there will be a briefing from the Association of British Insurers regarding the Mesothelioma Bill in the Senate Chamber on Monday 24 June.
4.2 The Chairperson reminded Members that next week’s Committee meeting will be held in Coleraine Borough Council buildings and that an itinerary has been arranged for the afternoon that will involve a visit to West Bann Community Association and a tour of the Waterside revitalization project.
The Chairperson emphasised the importance of Members attending these visits and advised that a bus would be available from Parliament Buildings to take Members to Coleraine.
4.3 The Chairperson advised Members that they had all received a copy of the Draft code of practice No. 5 and No. 6 regarding the late payment of contributions to occupational pension schemes and the late payment of contributions to personal pension schemes respectively. He advised that these had been approved by the Department and laid before the Assembly and Members were content to note this.
5. Street Trading – Outcome of consultation – Departmental Briefing
5.1 The following officials from the Social Security Agency joined the meeting at 10.28am:
- Caroline Hobson, Social Policy Unit, DSD
- Liam Quinn, Head of Social Policy Unit, DSD
Paula Bradley MLA declared an interest in the briefing as a local council member.
The officials briefed the Committee on the outcome of the consultation on amendments to the street trading act to ensure its compliance with the EU Directive– a joint consultation with the UK and Scotland.
Members enquired whether selling of the Big Issue publication was deemed street trading and whether stalls in shopping centres were governed by the act. The officials noted that Big Issue was exempt from the Act and that stalls within supermarkets were managed by the supermarkets themselves.
Members asked for clarity about the issuing of indefinite licences for street trading, expressing concern that this could be detrimental to young entrepreneurs by limiting the potential for new applicants. The officials advised that there was a provision for the revocation of licences and that those who wanted to test the market could apply for a temporary licence. Members queried whether there was likely to be much uptake on the temporary licence if the application process was similar to that of an indefinite license. Officials acknowledged that there were concerns over this issue, which were raised in the consultation, and that there would be an onus on councils to monitor and revoke licences, but that this was a necessary to bring the Act in line with the EU Directive.
Members queried how anyone would know if a licence was not being used. Officials confirmed that the onus was on councils to monitor this and acknowledged that this would be a difficult task.
Pam Brown MLA joined the meeting at 10.45
Members asked for clarification as to whether the definition of a pedlar extended to those going door to door advertising restaurants and other services. The officials confirmed that to be defined as a pedlar, the person would have to be carrying the actual goods they were selling.
Pam Brown MLA declared an interest in the briefing as a local council member.
The Committee sought clarification over the proposed amendment to section 9 (1) to prevent a council from revoking a temporary trader’s licence on the ground if a trader is not availing of his licence to a reasonable extent. The officials clarified that they felt they could not justify keeping this provision in for temporary traders, but that they could justify using it for established traders.
The Committee noted concerns that the proposed deregulation of street traders could lead to a rise in illegal street trading and asked what checks and balances are contained in the new proposals to address this. The officials acknowledged that there was some fear over pedlars not being regulated once the Act is repealed and that they have been looking at alternative options to ensure there is protection against illegal trading.
The Committee asked for a time frame for the Act. The officials stated that the proposals would be made over the summer and that they would hope to present to the Committee again in the autumn. The Chair noted that Members would want to consult with their colleagues over the proposals.
The officials left the meeting at 10.54.
This session was recorded by Hansard.
6. Pavement Cafés Bill – Departmental Briefing
The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10.55:
- Gary McAlorum, Urban Regeneration Strategy Directorate, DSD
- Liam Quinn, Head of Social Policy Unit, DSD
The officials briefed the Committee on the Bill that the Executive has agreed to introduce, noting that well managed cafés complement regeneration.
Mark Durkan MLA joined the meeting at 10.58am.
The Committee asked whether liaison with district councils had already begun. The officials replied that they had been in touch with councils to inform them that the Bill was forthcoming.
The Committee asked whether the revocation of a licence could indefinitely prevent a person from getting a licence again. The officials responded that this would be at the discretion of the relevant council and that a case for appeal was built in.
Members expressed concerns of the potential impact of pavement café furniture on the ability of disabled people to move freely, specifically noting that representatives from RNIB had spoken to Committee Members informally and had noted that chairs and tables on pavements often presented a problem. The Committee sought assurance that relevant representative groups would be consulted. The officials stated that it was up to individual councils to determine which groups they consulted.
Members asked if it will also be up to individual councils to decide on appropriate markings and delineation for pavement cafés. Officials confirmed that the Department would provide guidance and recommendations on this, but that ultimately it would be up to the councils.
Members also expressed concern over the provision that allowed for the charging of a ‘reasonable fee’ for a licence, citing that this was subjective and might see multi-national companies being able to afford a licence and smaller businesses losing out. The officials clarified that councils would only be permitted to charge to offset costs and that they would be obliged to justify the cost.
Judith Cochrane MLA joined the meeting at 11.10am.
Members asked whether pavement café licences would be restricted to the frontage of the premises applying for the licence, whether any thought had been given to insurance liability and whether there would be any issue with HMRC regarding VAT on hot food. The officials replied that it would be up to councils to consult with owners of the premises to determine the extent of the area outside the café to be used. The legislation would allow for the applicant to take public liability insurance.
The officials agreed to investigate the VAT issue and respond to the Committee.
Members queried whether the Bill should progress before the Review of Public Administration was complete. Officials acknowledged that this could create a vacuum in terms of responsibility, but that the Bill should be ready only months before responsibility for planning passed to local councils.
The officials left the meeting at 11.19am.
Mr Michael Copeland MLA left the meeting at 11.19am.
7. Inclusion of social clause in public procurement contracts – Briefing by SIPTU
The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 11.20:
- Sean McMonagle, SIPTU
- Catherine Pollock, SIPTU
Pam Brown MLA left the meeting at 11.20am.
Mickey Brady MLA declared an interest in the briefing as a member of SIPTU.
The officials briefed the Committee on the potential benefit on the inclusion of a social clause in public procurement contracts, as outlined in the Programme for Government.
Committee Members acknowledged that there was an issue in so far as third sector projects are funding led, and funded on the basis of projects rather than posts.
Members asked whether SIPTU had carried out consultation regarding the implication of the social clause across Northern Ireland. The officials confirmed that they had meetings at ‘hubs’ and that there was widespread support for this proposal.
Members stated that it was important to look at creating best practice and protection in the sector and queried how this could be achieved. They also asked about the potential impact on funding if the clause was incorporated into public procurement contracts.
The officials recognised that that there was constant pressure on the Third Sector in respect of funding but that the status quo reflected an inherent unfairness in relation to pay and terms and conditions for community workers that needed to be addressed.
The Committee asked whether there had been any discussion with Departments and with organisations such as NICVA regarding the social clause.
Martin O’Rourke, SIPTU, joined the meeting at 11.45am.
The officials replied that they were approaching OFMDFM and that they had talked to NICVA, who were content with SIPTU’s evaluation of the social clause.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would be sympathetic to the need for fair terms and conditions of employment within the Third Sector, but advised that the approach to be taken would have to be established at a separate meeting. The Committee agreed to discuss this matter further and to get back to SIPTU representatives.
The officials left the meeting at 11.49am.
8. Approved Home Childcare Service – Briefing by Employers for Childcare
The following officials from Employers for Childcare joined the meeting at 11.50am:
- Rachel Dennison, Research Officer, Employers for Childcare
- Marie Martin, CEO, Employers for Childcare
The officials briefed the Committee on developments to their Approved Home Childcare Service
Members noted that checks to allow people to work with children and vulnerable adults were not transferable between different facilities geographically and asked whether this affected the mobility of carers. The officials confirmed that these checks were still location specific and that this does present a problem, but that the Department for Health is currently reviewing this system. They stated that with the Approved Home Childcare Service, as Employers for Childcare are the employers, their employees can move from location to location more freely than ‘self-employed’ carers.
In response to questioning from Committee Members, the officials confirmed that they paid employees £6.85 as a starting rate, with a premium rate for those working outside traditional hours, and also that they encouraged unionisation. Members asked whether the service was particularly targeted at children with disabilities. The officials stated that it was not targeted specifically, but the service could be particularly useful in cases where the child was disabled and required care to be provided in their own house.
Members queried whether the length of the approval process had got any better. The officials stated that work on this was ongoing, but that it had got better and that the verification process had been done away with.
Committee Members commended the officials on the creation of over one hundred jobs but asked whether there was any opportunity for career / salary progression. The officials responded that there was not and that they acknowledged that this was not necessarily a ‘job forever’. Rather, they stated that this was an excellent opportunity for graduates, for example, in teaching and social work to bolster their CV through flexible employment.
The Committee asked whether Employers for Childcare had had input into the childcare strategy. The officials confirmed that they had.
Members asked whether there was a good geographic spread of carers. The officials stated that Belfast, Bangor and Lisburn were well catered for, but that they are currently attempting to expand the geographic spread.
The officials left the meeting at 12.22pm.
9.1 The Chairperson drew Members’ attention to an invitation to a ‘Let’s Talk’ event on youth volunteering taking place on 19 June and suggested that Members may find it an interesting and worthwhile event to attend.
9.2 The Chairperson drew Members’ attention to a letter from the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety seeking an opportunity for the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland to visit the Committee to discuss the impact of alcohol misuse on society.
The Committee agreed for this meeting to be scheduled.
9.3 The Chairperson noted that correspondence has been received from the Department of Finance Personnel in relation to Post Project Evaluations (PPEs). He noted that DSD has accrued ten additional PPEs since the last report and recommended that the Committee write to the Department to seek clarification on the reason for this increase.
The Committee agreed to write to the Department on this matter.
9.4 The Chairperson noted that an invitation to an event hosted by Rockcorps would take place in the Long Gallery today and that Members are invited to attend.
9.5 Members agreed action on the correspondence as per the Correspondence Memo.
10. Forward Work Programme
The Committee was content with the proposed Forward Work Programme.
11. Any Other Business
There was no other business.
12. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will take place at 9.30am on Thursday 20 June 2013 in Coleraine Borough Council Offices, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.28.
Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development
20 June 2013