ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 15 December 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened in public session at 10.04am.

1. Apologies
Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 8 December 2011
Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 8 December 2011 were agreed.

3. Chairperson's Business
There was no Chairperson's Business

4. Matters Arising
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it received a briefing from the Department on the Homelessness Strategy on 24 November 2011 and a draft submission to the Department had been drafted.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to send the draft submission on the Homelessness Strategy to the Department.

The Committee were content with the amended submission on the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme which had been forwarded to the Department.

Members considered a proposed list of stakeholders to be contacted in relation to the consultation on the Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy. Members also considered correspondence from the Office of the First Minister and deputy Minister in respect of the Programme for Government.
Agreed: Members agreed the proposed list of stakeholders and that the Clerk should write to the stakeholders regarding the Programme for Government.

5. Welfare Reform – Briefing by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
The following representatives from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions joined the meeting at 10.10am

  • Mr Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary
  • Ms Maria Morgan, NIPSA and Northern Ireland Committee - ICTU
  • Ms Pauline Buchanan, Congress Equality Officer

The representatives briefed the Committee on Welfare Reform.
The Committee had a detailed discussion on a range of issues relating to Welfare Reform with the ICTU representatives. These included the need for full scrutiny of the legislation by the Committee according to due process in the Assembly, potential implications if parity with GB is broken and concern that the specific and different circumstances in Northern Ireland, as compared with GB, will not be addressed by the legislation leading to the most vulnerable in society being even more disadvantaged.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing and welcomed the opportunity to have an ongoing dialogue with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on this issue.

The officials left the meeting at 11.11am
Mr Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 11.12am

6. Welfare Reform – Briefing by the NI Welfare Reform Group
The following representatives from the NI Welfare Reform Group joined the meeting at 11.13am

  • Mr Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI
  • Ms Marie Cavanagh, Director, Gingerbread NI
  • Ms Zoe Anderson, Content Officer, A2B

The representatives briefed the Committee on Welfare Reform.
Again, the Committee had a detailed discussion on a range of issues relating to Welfare Reform. As well as those issues raised in the previous briefing Members expressed concern about the potential implications of the reforms on people's health, particularly those already living in areas of deprivation, if their benefits are subsequently cut as a result of the reforms.

Some Members expressed concerns that more people may take up pay day loans to subsidise the cuts made to their benefits and therefore be driven into debt.

Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 11.38am

Members raised concerns regarding the possible cut in funding to the Advice Sector given that it was likely that more people would need advice given the widespread and fundamental nature of the proposed reforms.
The Committee asked the representatives to keep it informed of any discussions between the Advice Sector and the Department in relation to proposals and/or funding to address the potential demand for advice.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.47am
Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 11.47am

The Committee acknowledged the arguments for a properly resourced Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Mr Fra McCann left the meeting at 11.58am

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing and welcomed the opportunity for further discussions with the NI Welfare Reform Group as the Bill progresses.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the OFMDFM for an update on their proposals for a Northern Ireland Childcare Strategy.

Mr Fra McCann re-joined the meeting at 12.01pm
The officials left the meeting at 12.01pm

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation
Social Security Contribution Condition for JSA & ESA Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011
The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.03pm:

  • Anne McCleary, Director Social Security, Policy and Legislation; and
  • Michael Pollock, Social Security, Policy and Legislation

The officials briefed the Committee on the proposed legislation and took questions from the Committee on potential equality implications.

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

The Jobseeker's Allowance (Work Experience) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

The officials briefed the Committee on the proposed legislation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration and invite officials from the Department of Employment and Learning to brief the Committee at its first meeting following the Christmas Recess.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.
The officials left the meeting at 12.14pm

8. Statutory Rules
The Occupational Pensions (Revaluation) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

Question put and agreed:
"That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2011/415: The Occupational Pensions (Revaluation) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules' Report has no objection to the Rule".
9. Correspondence
The Committee noted the Addendum to Appendix 4 of the Department's proposals for a Pensions Bill EQIA.
Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 12.15pm
The Chairperson brought to Members' attention a copy of Professor Harrington's report on the Work Capability Assessment which has been provided by the Department.
The Committee was content with a draft response to recommendations contained in the Executive's Review of the Financial Process in NI.
Agreed: The Committee agreed for the response to be sent to the Committee for Finance and Personnel
Agreed: The Committee agreed for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the proposed next steps in the correspondence Memo.

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

11. Welfare Reform Fraud and Error – Briefing by the Department
Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer this briefing until after the Christmas Recess.
Mr Mickey Brady left the meeting at 12.23pm

12. December Monitoring Round – Briefing by the Department

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.23pm:

  • Stephen McMurray, DSD Director of Financial Management
  • Damien Carragher, Principal Officer, Housing Finance
  • Brian Robinson, Principal Officer, Urban Group Support

The officials briefed the Committee on the December Monitoring Round and took questions from Members on the reasons for slippage across a range of projects.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.
The officials left the meeting at 12.36pm

11 Any Other Business

There was no other business

12 Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 12 January 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.37pm

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
12 January 2012

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