Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 17 January 2013

Venue: Room 29

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.06am.

1. Apologies
Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 10 January 2013
Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on 10 January 2012 were agreed.

3. Chairperson's Business
The Chairperson advised Members that he was scheduled to speak at a Fuel Poverty Event organised by the 7 Councils of Causeway Coast and Glens and Mid and East Antrim after the meeting.
The Chairperson also advised Members that he had arranged to meet with the Chief Executive of Volunteer Now and he will brief the Committee at next week's meeting.

4. Urban Policy Framework – Departmental Briefing
The following Departmental officials joined the meeting 10.10am

  • Jenny Pyper, Deputy Secretary, Urban Regeneration and Community Policy Group;
  • Tony McKibben Urban Policy Branch; and
  • Damian McCoy, Urban Policy Branch.

The officials briefed the Committee on the findings of the Urban Policy Framework consultation. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Ms Pam Brown joined the meeting at 10.11am
Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.13am
Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 10.18am

Members sought clarification on some of the statistics relating to the responses from the consultation. Members questioned whether the Department was content that the definitions used in the consultation would have been fully understood by the recipients.
Members expressed concern that there is a need for a continuous engagement programme with the Voluntary and Community Sector and asked the officials what assurances Members could give to the Sector that they will be directly engaged. Members questioned what direct engagement does the Department intend to have with the communities that this policy will directly impact on.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.35am
Ms Judith Cochrane left the meeting at 10.50am

The Committee welcomed the opportunity for the Department to provide the Committee with an update on the Belfast City Council pilot project once it has completed.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.

The officials left the meeting at 10.54am.

The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 10.55am

The Committee reconvened at 10.58am

Ms Paula Bradley joined the meeting at 10.58am
Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 10.58am

5. Fundamental Review of the NI Housing Executive – Ministerial Briefing

Minister McCausland and the following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.59am:

  • Heather Cousins (Deputy Secretary, Resources and Social Policy Group);
  • Jim Wilkinson (Director, Housing Division); and
  • Deirdre Ward (Deputy Director, Housing Division).

The Chairperson highlighted the concern among members of the Committee that the Minister didn't announce the changes to the Assembly in an oral statement, but that he welcomed the Minister's wish to brief the Committee personally and he noted his intention to make an oral statement to the Assembly once the design of the proposed new structures has advanced.

Ms Judith Cochrane re-joined the meeting at 11.10am

The Minister briefed the Committee on the fundamental Review of the NIHE and the proposed new structures. He specifically highlighted the fact that these were not fully agreed detailed proposals, but rather they presented a high level vision and strategic direction of travel. He emphasized that he intended to consult widely with stakeholders to develop these proposals and that he is committed to working collaboratively on this process in order to explore all options for the delivery of sustainable social housing for both tenants and taxpayers.
This was followed by detailed discussion which covered a number issues.

Ms Judith Cochrane left the meeting at 11.23am

Members expressed concerns regarding the potential impact the proposed new structures might have on Housing Executive staff. Members asked the Minister if he could indicate whether the current amount of employees will remain the same or whether there will be a reduction in staff.
Members also expressed concern in relation to the amount of different rent levels and asked the Minister to consider equalising rent levels or rent freezes.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and officials for their attendance at the meeting.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Minister and the officials left the meeting at 11.57am.
Ms Paula Bradley and Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.57am

6. Implementation of Child Maintenance Scheme 2012 – Departmental Briefing

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting 11.59am

  • Heather Cousins (Deputy Secretary, Resources and Social Policy Group);
  • Bernie Rooney ( Director of CMED); and
  • Adrian Gallagher (Senior Operations Manager).

The officials provided the Committee with an update on the implementation of the Child Maintenance Scheme 2012.

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 12.09pm

Members welcomed that errors are being identified at an early stage and sought assurance that no families had been disadvantaged as a result of those errors.
Members sought clarification of the different categories of errors and asked for the Department to provide a list of the current errors.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting today.

The officials left the meeting at 12.06pm.

7. Specification of hinges used by the NIHE – Briefing by representatives of the double glazing industry.

The following representatives of the double glazing industry joined the meeting at 12.06pm:

  • Mr Brian Northcott – MILA Window and Door Maintenance
  • Mr Stanley Graham – McIlhatton & Co
  • Mr Ken Taylor – Superseal Windows
  • Mr Brendan Mulgrew – MW Advocate

The officials briefed the Committee on the specification of hinges used by the NIHE. This was followed by a detailed discussion.
Members sought clarification on whether the Department had ever raised the issue or discussed the capacity to deliver on their contracts with the representatives. Members also sought clarification on the amount of jobs that could potentially be at risk if the specification is changed.

The Committee expressed serious concerns regarding the rationale for changing the specification and was of the view that the cost savings might not be realised.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for their attendance at the meeting.

The representatives left the meeting at 12.37pm.

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 12.37pm

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request that it reviews the evidence for changing the specification as a matter of urgency given the aim of the Department to proceed with the tendering exercise for the new specification in the near future. .

8. Statutory Rules

The Child Support (Management of Payments and Arrears) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.37pm:

  • Jane Corderoy, SSPLD; and
  • Paul McKenna, SSPLD

The officials briefed the Committee on the Child Support (Management of Arrears) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered the statutory rule SR439/2012 The Child Support (Management of Payments and Arrears) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and recommends that it be confirmed by the Assembly.

The Child Support (Meaning of a Child and New Calculation) (Consequential and New Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

The officials also briefed the Committee on an issue raised by the Examiner of Statutory Rules in relation to the Child Support (Meaning of a Child and New Calculation) (Consequential and New Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012. The Committee were content that the Department will amend the existing legislation at its earliest opportunity.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.

The officials left the meeting at 12.48pm.

The Employment and Support Allowance (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013

Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR2 2013 The Employment and Support Allowance (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule.

Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 12.52pm.

9. Correspondence

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

10. Welfare Reform Bill

The Committee considered the option of requesting a two week extension to the Committee Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill.
Question put and agreed:
That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) in relation to the Committee Stage of NIA Bill 13/11-15 Welfare Reform Bill is extended to 19 February 2013.

11. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the Forward Work Programme.

12. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10:00am on Thursday 24 January 2013 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.53pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
24 January 2013

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