Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 02 February 2012

Venue: Room 29

The meeting opened in public session at 10.07am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.08am

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 19 January 2012     

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 26 January 2012 were agreed.

3. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members that he made opening remarks at the Department’s Welfare Reform Stakeholder event in the Long Gallery on Tuesday evening.

4. Matters Arising

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting the Committee received a briefing from senior officials on the reform of the Social Fund.  The Committee had a further discussion, based on the questions provided by the Department.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a response to the Department for the Committee’s consideration.

The Chairperson reminded Members that in last week’s correspondence the Committee noted a response from the Department regarding the Regional Infrastructure Programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this item of correspondence to the stakeholders that wrote to the Committee on this issue.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee wrote to stakeholders in December and asked to be copied on their responses to the consultation on the Programme for Government (PfG).  The Chairperson also advised that several organisations have provided the Committee with key points in relation to this.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a Committee response for next week taking these responses under consideration.

5. Welfare Reform – Responses to EQIA - Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10.14am

Ms Anne McCleary

Mr Michael Pollock

The officials briefed the Committee on the responses received to the Welfare Reform EQIA.

The Committee expressed concerns regarding the evidence available and the need for the Department to make estimates of the impacts based upon the evidence available.

The Committee asked the Department to confirm if there is a routine application of EQIA across all policies.

Members questioned if the Department were content with replying online to the EQIA given that many people, in particular the elderly, may not be online.

Members also questioned if the EQIA was NI-specific and requested a copy of the synopsis of the policy simulation model as applied to NI-specific data.

Members queried what action the Department would take if there was a negative impact from Welfare Reform to certain Section 75 categories and what this could potentially mean for changing the legislation to mitigate the effects of this.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.45am.

6. Charities Amendment Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Voluntary and Community Unit joined the meeting at 10.46am:

Mr Russell McCaughey
Mr Roy McGivern
Ms Andrea Patterson

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 10.46am

The officials briefed the Committee on the Charities Amendment Bill

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.52am.

Members were content to wait for the legislation to undertake scrutiny during the Committee Consideration Stage.

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Committee noted the following Order which is not subject to any procedure of the Assembly:

The Social Security Pensions (Flat Rate Introduction Year) Order (NI) 2012

8. Statutory Rules/Commencement Orders

The Committee noted the following Commencement Order:

Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) (2011 Act) (Commencement No.1) Order (NI) 2012

9. Correspondence

The Committee noted the DWP consultation paper on Personal Independence Payment: Assessment Thresholds and Consultation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to revisit this consultation in April as part of its consideration of Welfare Reform.

The Committee considered a letter from Betfair in relation to the recent sessions held on the review of gambling law.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Betfair and inform them that the Committee will undertake further consultation when the Minister has produced proposals on the reform of gambling legislation.

The Committee considered a letter from a member of the public expressing concerns over their treatment by CMED.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the individual and advise that it is not the role of the Committee to intervene in individual complaints and that political representation, if that is what is required, could be sought at a constituency level.

Mr Alex Easton re-joined the meeting at 10.57am

The Committee considered a letter from the Voluntary Sector Housing Policy Forum (VSHPF) regarding Welfare Reform.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the VSHPF and explain that Committee will be contacting all relevant stakeholders as part of its consultation on the Bill and would   be interested in hearing from them as part of that process.

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.

Members discussed what meeting days would be most suitable to take forward the Pensions Bill.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that next week’s meeting should start at 9.30am on Thursday to assist with the Committee’s consideration of the Pensions Bill.

11. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 11.13am
Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 11.13am

The Committee adjourned at 11.13am

The meeting opened in public session at 13.04pm.

12. Pensions Bill – Briefing by NIPSA

The following representative from NIPSA joined the meeting at 13.04pm:

Mr Bumper Graham

Mr Graham gave oral evidence on the Pensions Bill concentrating in particular on the equalisation of and the increase in pensionable age for men and women and the automatic enrolment provisions for workplace pension schemes.

Ms Pam Lewis left the meeting at 13.50pm

The Chairperson thanked Mr Graham for his oral evidence.

Mr Graham left the meeting at 13.52pm          

13. Pensions Bill – Briefing by Access to Benefits (A2B)

The following representative from A2B joined the meeting at 13.52pm

Ms Zoe Anderson

Mr Sammy Douglas joined the meeting at 13.55pm

Ms Anderson gave oral evidence on the Pensions Bill concentrating in particular on: the impact the changes to state pension age will have on Pension Credit and Winter Fuel Payment; the substantial impact on women; and concerns that the impact on people with disabilities has not been fully explored. 

The Chairperson thanked Ms Anderson for her oral evidence.

Ms Anderson left the meeting at 14.13pm

14. Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 14.15pm

Ms Anne McCleary
Mr Gerry McCann
Mr Seamus Cassidy

The officials briefed the Committee on Part 1 of the Pensions Bill.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing

The officials left the meeting at 14.44pm

12. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 9.30am on Thursday 2 February 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 14.47pm

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
9 February 2012

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