Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 21 February 2013

Venue: Room 29

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.03am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) Briefing

The following Members of the Social Security Advisory Committee joined the meeting at 10.04am:

  • Mr Paul Gray (Chairperson);
  • Mr Les Allamby and;
  • Mr Colin Godbold

Mr David McClarty joined the meeting at 10.05am

Mr Fra McCann joined the meeting at 10.06am

Mr Gregory Campbell joined the meeting at 10.07am

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.20am

Members of the SSAC provided the Committee with an overview of the role of the SSAC and its recent programme of work in respect of the Welfare Reform and associated regulations. This was followed by a detailed question and answer session which covered a number issues including; the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland that should be considered when bringing forward regulations; the potential impact to claimants in respect of under-occupancy regulations and the lack of one bedroom housing stock; the issue of segregated housing in Northern Ireland; and the unforeseen circumstances resulting from the Welfare Reform Bill.

Ms Judith Cochrane left the meeting at 10.34am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.05am

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

The Members left the meeting at 11.11am

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.11am

3. Draft Minutes of Meetings 12 & 14 February 2013

Agreed: The minutes of the meetings held on 12 and 14 February 2013 were agreed.

4. Chairperson's Business

4.1 The Chairperson advised Members that the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure has proposed that the co-ordinated Committee visit to Derry/Londonderry to mark the UK City of Culture should take place on 3 October 2013.

Agreed: The Committee were content with the proposed date of 3 October 2013.

4.2 The Chairperson advised Members that the Minister will be making an oral statement in the Assembly on 26 February relating to his proposals for the reform of social housing.

4.3 The Chairperson advised Members that a proposed date for the Committee to hold an external meeting and visit in Ballymena is 23 May 2013.

Agreed: The Committee were content with the proposed date of 23 May 2013.

5. Matters Arising

5.1 The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister regarding the specification of hinges used by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Members questioned some of the figures provided by the Minister in respect of the potential savings. In particular Members questioned the indication of savings as a result of widening the procurement exercise. The Chairperson proposed that the Committee should request a briefing from NIHE officials on this issue at its next meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request that any procurement of new contracts is delayed until the Committee has received a briefing from the NIHE officials who are responsible for the approval of the change to the specification. The Committee agreed to invite the NIHE officials to its next meeting.

5.2 The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee had previously considered several areas of EU activity that it might wish to focus on. The Chairperson drew Members attention to a press release on the European Commission's plan to establish a fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.18am

Agreed: To write to the Department to get its view on this fund and what action it is taking to influence the Coalition Government to agree this at a European Level.

Agreed: To notify the OFMdFM Committee of its priorities in respect of EU activity.

6. Review of the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) – Briefing by NIPSA

The following representatives of NIPSA joined the meeting 11.24am:

  • Alison Millar, Deputy General Secretary, NIPSA;
  • John Morrison, Chair NIPSA's NIHE Panel;
  • John McCaffrey, Trade Union Side Secretary; and
  • Susan McDonald, Assistant Trade Union Side Secretary.

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11.34am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.45am

The representatives briefed the Committee on their concerns regarding the Minister's high-level proposals for reform of the NIHE. A detailed discussion followed which covered a number of important issues including; the concerns of NIHE employees about job security; concerns about the potential privatisation of the social housing stock; the reduction of the social housing stock as a result of the Right to Buy scheme; and the difference in rental levels between Housing Associations and the NIHE.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 12.17pm

Mr David McClarty and Fra McCann left the meeting at 12.22pm

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

The representatives left the meeting at 12.27pm

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.

Agreed: The Committee were content for the Rule to be made.

8. Correspondence

8.1 The Chairperson drew Members attention to correspondence from MV McCartan Bookmakers regarding an on-going issue in respect of an apparent anomaly with the current Gambling Legislation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek legal advice on the relevant legislation to which Mr McCartan refers.

8.2 The Committee noted correspondence from the Department regarding the Fuel Poverty Working Groups.

8.3 The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister regarding the review of high streets in Northern Ireland which was carried out by a Departmental Taskforce.

8.4 The Committee noted correspondence from the Social Security Agency advising the Committee that it intends to close three community Benefit Offices from April 2013.

8.5 The Committee considered correspondence from Mr Jim Wells MLA asking if the Committee would agree to meet a delegation of representatives of the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind to discuss the probable impact of welfare reform on the blind and visually impaired.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Mr Wells to inform him that Members of the Committee are content to meet with a delegation of the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee were content with the proposed Forward Work Programme.

10. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10:00am on Thursday 28 February 2013 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.30pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
28 February 2013

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