Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 13 October 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened in public session at 10.06am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Committee Visit to Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division

The Chairperson reminded Members of the Committee visit to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division immediately after today’s Committee meeting.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 6 October 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 6 October 2011 were agreed.

4. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members that he will be participating in a photo-call with Energy Saving Trust in advance of the launch of the MLA Information Guide during Energy Saving Week.

5. Matters Arising

Agreed: The Committee agreed to include a comment about the restrictive nature of prize competitions and free draws in Northern Ireland in comparison to GB in the Committee’s draft response to the DSD’s consultation on the Review of Gambling Legislation. The Committee also agreed to forward a copy of the final Hansard transcript with the Committee’s response.

6. Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following senior officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.12am:

Ms Anne McCleary Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD;
Mr Gerry McCann Social Security Policy and Legislation Division; and
Mr Seamus Cassidy Social Security Policy and Legislation Division.

The officials briefed the Committee on the proposed Pensions Bill for Northern Ireland and the outcome of the consultation on the Equality Impact Assessment.

Members expressed concern in respect of the following:

  • Disproportionate impact of these proposals on women;
  • That the proposals in this Bill are predicated on an individual’s ability to save although many people on low income do not earn enough to allow them to save for the future;
  • The number of claimants who will be affected by the delayed entitlement to the Winter Fuel Payment is higher than anticipated;
  • The risk that an increased number of people will die as a result of the delayed entitlement to the Winter Fuel Payment;
  • Although people are living longer, they are often suffering from poor health and as a result have a much greater need for the benefits which this Bill will delay their entitlement to;
  • The impact of this Bill not just on older people but on their families and those with caring responsibilities.
  • That the proposed delay in state pension age will have a knock-on impact on the ability of young people to secure employment in future; and
  • The difficulties that older people, particularly women, will face when trying to secure employment and need for appropriate support and training services to assist them.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek more information on:

  • The groups who may be most acutely affected by this Bill in an effort to understand whether any future transitional arrangements will go far enough to limit the impact of the measures proposed under this Bill;
  • The amount of money paid out on pensions in Northern Ireland; and
  • How the Department will address the needs of the older members of society, particularly women, who will be affected by the proposals in the Bill. In particular, would training and support services be available to assist those affected find employment.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.56am.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.56am
Mr David McClarty joined the meeting at 10.56am

Agreed: Members agreed to submit a formal Committee response to the consultation to be agreed once the information requested from the Department had been received.

7. Reform of Child Maintenance – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 10.57am:

Ms Anne McCleary – Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD;
Ms Ros Agnew - Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD.
Mr Michael Copeland rejoined the meeting at 11.02am
Mr David McClarty joined the meeting at 11.08am

The officials provided a briefing on the planned reform of Child Maintenance in Northern Ireland.

Ms Judith Copeland left the meeting at 11.12am

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11.23am.

8. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The following officials from the Department for Social Development joined the meeting at 11.24am:

Ms Anne McCleary – Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD;
Mr Michael Pollock - Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD; and
Mr Colm McLaughlin – Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD.

The officials provided a briefing on the two items to proposed subordinate legislation.

Ms Judith Copeland rejoined the meeting at 11.26am

8.1 The Social Security (Work-focused Interviews for Lone Parents and Partners) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

Some Members expressed reservations about the Regulations in particular Members were concerned about the lack of childcare provision and the impact of sanctions on claimants pending the outcome of the Independent Appeals Tribunal.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Rule to be made.

8.2 The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions for Failure to Attend) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the Regulations pending more detailed information from the Department in respect of the number of sanctions applied. The Committee also sought assurances that staff in local offices would not have targets set in respect of sanctions.

The officials left the meeting at 11.37am.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.37am
Mr Fra McCann left the meeting at 11.37am

9. Statutory Rules

9.1 SR 2011 No.338: The Housing Executive (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

Question put and Agreed:

“The Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule: SR 2011 No. 338 : The Housing Executive (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order (NI) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objection to the Rule.”

Mr Fra McCann rejoined the meeting at 11.38am

9.2 SR 2011/339 The Homeless Persons Advice and Assistance Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and Agreed:

“The Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule: SR 2011 No. 339 : The Homeless Persons Advice and Assistance Regulations (NI) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report has no objection to the Rule.”

10. Correspondence

10.1 The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment regarding DETI’s involvement in the fuel poverty arena for Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the National Fuel Poverty Coalition.

10.2 The Committee considered correspondence from the Chairperson to the All Party Working Group on Construction.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward correspondence from the Federation of Master Builders and to forward on any relevant papers from the briefing from the Green New Deal group on 10 November 2011.

10.3 The Committee noted two press releases from the Department in respect of a social housing development in Newcastle, Co. Down and the Minister’s speech at the annual conference of the NI Federation of Housing Associations.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the remaining items of correspondence.

11. Forward Work Programme

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme.

12. Any Other Business

Mr Michael Copeland rejoined the meeting at 11.41am

The Chairperson apprised Members of the format for the Committee’s Fuel Poverty event which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 16 November 2011.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 20 October 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.51am

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