ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 02 June 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began at 10.05am in open session.

Mr Gregory Campbell joined the meeting at 10.06am

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson briefed the Committee on a recent meeting that he had held with the senior officials from DSD’s Resources, Housing and Social Security group and advised that a meeting with senior officials from the Urban Regeneration and Community Development group has been scheduled for 3 June 2011.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 26 May 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 26 May 2011 were agreed.

4. Understanding Parity – Briefing by the Law Centre NI

The following representative from the Law Centre NI joined the meeting at 10.08am.

Mr Les Allamby – Director, Law Centre NI

The representative provided a briefing on the principle of parity in social security in Northern Ireland. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.14am

The Chairperson thanked the representative for the briefing.

The representative left the meeting 10.52 am.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.52am

5. 2011-12 to 2014-15 Spending and Savings Plans & 2011/12 June Monitoring Round – Departmental Briefing

The following senior Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.53am.

Ms Heather Cousins- Deputy Secretary, Resources, Housing and Social Security Group; and
Mr Stephen McMurray – Director, Financial Management.

The officials provided a briefing on DSD’s 2011-12 to 2014-15 Spending Plans and the 2011/12 June Monitoring Round. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.01am

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting 11.14am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department to request the following:

  • A copy of the Department’s Savings Delivery Plan;
  • Further information on the proposed Mortgage Rescue Scheme;
  • Information on plans by the Department to review the efficiency of the Appeals Service Process;
  • Further information on the Green New Deal scheme and proposed pilots;
  • A copy of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Efficiency Plan;
  • Further clarification of the Housing Executive’s budget in respect of the reduction of loan charges and its impact on the expenditure budgets over the 4 year period; and
  • Clarification on which areas of the Housing Executive’s work will be most affected by any potential staff cuts.

Agreed: The Committee agreed not to submit a response to the Department’s June Monitoring Round submission.

6. Correspondence

6.1 The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister for Social Development in relation to a consultation on the European Commission’s Green Paper on online gambling in the Internal Market.

Agreed: The Committee was content with the Minister’s proposed line to respond to the Commission’s consultation.

6.2 The Committee noted the Strategic Investment Board’s Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report in relation to DSD.

6.3 The Committee considered correspondence from the Northern Ireland Big Lottery Fund, the Community Development Networks Forum, and the Northern Ireland Fuel Poverty Coalition.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the above organisations to an informal Committee stakeholder event to be held after the summer recess.

6.4 The Committee noted an invitation from the Law Centre NI to attend at half-day conference on judicial independence in the 21 st Century.

6.5 The Committee agreed to accept invitations to events organised by the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations and the Chairperson from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

A Member noted that the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson were from the same political party and requested that the Committee dealt with invitations on an inclusive basis to ensure a range of Members are represented.

Another Member reminded the Committee that this had not been an issue during the last mandate.

Agreed: The Chairperson declared his intention to ensure that while the Committee would be represented as appropriate through the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, he would ensure that the Committee would act in an inclusive manner, and where appropriate the Committee may be represented by another member. The Committee were content with this approach.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chair or Deputy Chair should attend the above events, diaries permitting.

6.6 The Committee noted an invitation from Housing Rights Service to the Development of a Landlord Registration Scheme for Northern Ireland event.

6.7 The Committee noted an invitation from Advice NI to a two day training course and a copy of its newsletter.

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

7.1 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Registered Rents (Increase) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department to seek clarification on the method for calculating the average registered rent as set out in the SL1 of the proposed Regulations.

7.2 The Committee considered the proposed Statutory Rule: The Employment and Support Allowance (Work-Related Activity) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department to seek information on the level of training on mental health issues provided to the staff that are responsible for carrying out the work-focused interviews.

8. Statutory Rules

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11.34am:

Anne McCleary Social Security Policy and Legislation Division, DSD;
Michael Pollock Social Security Policy and Legislation Division, DSD; and
Janis Creane Social Security Policy and Legislation Division, DSD.

The officials provided further clarification on the following Statutory Rules:

8.1 SR 136/2011 The Housing Benefit (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2011/136: The Housing Benefit (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and has no objection to the Rule.”

All Members expressed concerns about the impact of these Regulations and the lack of transitional arrangements in place to protect the claimants affected.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairperson would write to the Minister to express the Committee’s dissatisfaction at being placed in the unenviable position of being asked to consider a Rule which had already come into effect and which the Committee had very little choice other than to agree to the Rule owing to the high cost implications should the Assembly annul the Rule.

Agreed:The Committee agreed that it would write to the Department to seek details on the increased funding which will be available under Discretionary Housing Payments. The Committee also sought information on the Housing Executive’s Discretionary Housing Payments budget distribution across local offices and the level of discretion available to local managers.

8.2 SR 135/2011 The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2011/135: The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and has no objection to the Rule.”

8.3 SR 130/2011 The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011

Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 11.55am

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule 2011/130: The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and has no objection to the Rule.”

Noted: Some Members expressed concerns in respect of the upper age limit of the other existing children in a family and the abolition of the Sure Start Maternity Grants.

The Chairperson thanked the officials.

The officials left the meeting 11.56am.

Agreed: Members agreed to discuss the principle of social security parity with their parties and have a substantive discussion on the subject at a later date.

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 12 noon.

9. Forward Work Programme

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the forward work programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to a possible Committee visit to a supported housing project on 30 June 2011.

10. Any Other Business

The Chairperson reminded Members to submit their outstanding contact forms for delivery of Committee papers to the Committee Office as soon as possible.

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 9 June 2011 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings at 10.00am.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.04pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
9 June 2011

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