ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 15 September 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began at 10.04am in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 8 September 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 8 September 2011 were agreed.

3. Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing DWP Consultation – Departmental Briefing

The following senior Departmental official joined the meeting at 10.07am:

Mr Michael Pollock – Deputy Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation

The official provided a briefing on the Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing DWP Consultation. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to take the views of the Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum before considering any response to the consultation. The Committee also agreed to write to the Department to seek the following:

  • the comparable Housing Benefit expenditure figures for Northern Ireland compared to UK figures over the past 10 years;
  • how does the expenditure in Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland compare with the rest of the UK in pro-rata terms;
  • the cost of delivery/administration of Housing Benefit in Northern compared to GB; and
  • clarification on the 2009/10 expenditure of Housing Benefit for private sector claims

The Chairperson thanked the official for the briefing.

The official left the meeting at 10.41am.

4. The Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing DWP Consultation – Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum Briefing

The following representatives from the Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum provided a briefing on the Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing DWP Consultation. This was followed by a question and answer session.

  • Ricky Rowledge – Director, Council for the Homeless (NI)
  • Kevin Wright – Chief Executive, First Housing Aid and Support Services; and
  • Dr Jennifer Donald – Policy and Public Affairs Officer.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

Agreed : The Committee agreed to draft a response to the consultation for the Committee’s consideration at its meeting of 22 September 2011 which would question how relevant the DWP consultation is to Northern Ireland and propose that a specific consultation be developed and issued for Northern Ireland.

5. Statutory Rules
5.1 SR 2011 No.293 The Housing Benefit (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee received a briefing from the following representatives from the Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum on The Housing Benefit (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Ricky Rowledge – Director, Council for the Homeless (NI);

Kevin Wright – Chief Executive, First Housing Aid and Support Services; and

Dr Jennifer Donald – Policy and Public Affairs Officer.

Mr Fra McCann left the meeting at 11.24am

Mr Fra McCann re-joined the meeting at 11.26am

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

The representatives left the meeting at 11.35am

The following senior Departmental official joined the meeting at 11.36am:

Mr Michael Pollock – Deputy Director, Social Security Policy and Legislation

The official provided a briefing on The Housing Benefit (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Some Members of the Committee again expressed serious reservations regarding the Regulations’ potential impact in terms of significantly increasing homelessness. Some Members expressed concerns about the availability of Discretionary Housing Payments and whether the payments were a genuine safety net. Some Members also raised the issue of what the overall cost would be for Northern Ireland if the Assembly decided to annul these Regulations and breach parity. Finally some Members also expressed concerns regarding the equality issues surrounding these Regulations.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of this Statutory Rule until the 22 September 2011. The Committee also agreed to write to the Department on some of the issues/concerns raised by the Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum, including in particular the following:

  • the definition of a hostel; and
  • the need for the impact of the Regulations, and other forthcoming Housing Benefit changes, to be monitored and evaluated by a cross-sector working group which could suggest actions to mitigate negative impacts.
5.2 SR 2011/298 Social Security (Electronic Communications) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2011/298: The Social Security (Electronic Communications) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule.”

5.3 SR 2011/296 Social Security (Exemption for Claiming Retirement Pension) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2011/296: The Social Security (Exemption for Claiming Retirement Pension) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule.”

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 11.51am

6. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

6.1 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Homeless Persons Advice and Assistance Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

Mr Alex Easton re-joined the meeting at 11.53am

6.2 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Housing Executive (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the Department to make the Statutory Rule.

7. Social Housing Development Programme – Strategic Guidelines – Housing Executive Briefing

The following officials from the Housing Executive joined the meeting at 11.55am:

Mrs Esther Christie, Assistant Director, Corporate Planning;

Mr Keery Irvine, Strategic Development Manager; and

Mr Tony Steed, Principal Officer, Equality Monitoring.

The officials provided a briefing on the Social Housing Development Programme Strategic Guidelines. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 12.08pm.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department and request confirmation of the last 2 years figures for relets. The Committee also agreed to request information on the cost per square foot for a new build and an ‘Existing Satisfactory Purchase’.

The officials left the meeting at 12.23pm.

Mr Michael Copleland left the meeting at 12.23pm

8. Correspondence

8.1 The Committee considered a draft response to P McNabb and Co and a memo DHSSPS Committee, regarding concern over the banning of the sale of tobacco products from vending machines.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the draft Committee response to be forwarded to P McNabb and Co and with the memo to the DHSSPS Committee.

8.2 The Committee considered correspondence from Advice NI regarding the Welfare Reform Bill. The Committee was content to note this item of correspondence.

Agreed: To invite the NI Welfare Reform Group - which includes Advice NI - to brief the Committee, following a briefing from the Department on the proposed Welfare Reform Bill on 13 October 2011.

8.3 The Committee considered an invitation from the Construction of Employers Federation (CEF) to its Awards Gala Dinner on 6 October 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Deputy Chairperson to attend.

8.4 The Committee considered the Department’s response to the Participation and the Practice of Rights Project (PPR) letter of 15 June 2011 regarding The Seven Towers.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the Department’s response to PPR.

8.5 The Committee was content to note the remaining items of correspondence.

9. Forward Work Programme

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme for September – November 2011.

10. Any Other Business

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek more information on the Child Care Fund and in particular, the current position for new applicants.

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 22 September 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.30pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
15 September 2011

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