Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 21 March 2013

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.11am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Draft Minutes of Meetings 14 March 2013

Agreed: The minutes of the meetings held on 14 March 2013 were agreed.

3. Chairperson's Business

The Chairperson informed members that he has been invited to speak to the East Belfast Community Development Association on 11 April.

4. Matters Arising

The Chairperson reminded Members that during the clause-by-clause stage of the Welfare Reform Bill, the Committee agreed an amendment to clauses 44 and clauses 93 so that the regulation-making powers in clauses 33 and 91 would be subject to the confirmatory procedure as noted in the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.
The Chairperson advised that OLC has since contacted the Bill Office indicating that the amendments agreed by the Committee may not reflect the intention of the Examiner in that they will make every regulation stemming from clauses 33 and 91, no matter how inconsequential, subject to the confirmatory procedure.
Agreed: The Committee agreed for the clerk to liaise with the Bill Office and Department on this issue and to report back to the Committee on a proposed way forward.

5. Policy relating to the transfer of bookmakers' licence – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting 10.16am:
• Mr Liam Quinn, Head of Social Policy Unit, DSD; and
• Mr Patrick Rogers (Social Policy Unit), DSD.
The officials briefed the Committee on the policy relating to the transfer of bookmakers' licence from one office location to another. This was followed by a question and answer session.
Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10.24am
The Committee felt it was unfair that a bookmaker must surrender his or her licence in order to submit an application to relocate to new premises when there is no guarantee that a licence will be granted for the new premises.
The Committee was of the view that an amendment to the current legislation could be made in the forthcoming Betting, Gaming Lotteries and Amusements Bill to allow bookmakers to retain their licence when applying to relocate to new premises.
The Committee indicated that there is no compelling evidence to suggest that it would be wrong to make such an amendment but welcomed the opportunity for the Department to provide research from the 2005 reforms in GB.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.
This session was recorded by Hansard
The officials left the meeting at 10.38am.

6. Benefit Uptake Strategy – Briefing by the Social Security Agency (SSA)

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting 10.38am:
• Mr Brian Doherty, Director, Working Age Services; SSA; and
• Ms Sharron Carlin, Improving Benefit Uptake Lead Official, SSA
Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 10.39am
The officials briefed the Committee on the Department's 3 year plan for improving benefit uptake.
The Committee recognised the Department's focus on benefit uptake since 2005 and acknowledged the amount of additional benefit that had been generated. The Committee was of the view that the 3-year plan provided the potential to further improve benefit uptake and therefore welcomed the plan.
The Committee also welcomed the focus on inter-departmental working and highlighted the importance of this aspect of benefit uptake.
The Committee recognised the importance of working with multi-disciplinary healthcare teams and asked the Department to continue working closely with these teams to ensure a maximum number of referrals are made for benefit checks.
The Committee acknowledged the role of the community and voluntary sector in delivering the benefit uptake vision and asked that the Department invests in the independent advice sector to ensure people can access advice on benefits.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.
This session was recorded by Hansard.
The officials left the meeting at 11.25am.
Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.25am

7. Vesting Policy – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting 11.26am:
• Beverly Bigger, DSD; and
• John McCord, DSD
The officials briefed the Committee on the current vesting policy and provided an update on what the Department is doing to address issues that have been raised as a result a recent legal challenge to the vesting of property in the Village area of Belfast.
Members asked if any future changes to policy might be addressed retrospectively.
Members acknowledged that the Department had sought legal advice on how to assist those people who may be left with negative equity as a result of the vesting of property.
Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11.37am
Members also questioned whether on-going consideration of the current policy might have an impact on areas currently being regenerated and requiring the vesting of properties.
The Committee asked whether there was a projected timeframe for recommendations for the Minister and asked that the Committee is kept informed with any further developments.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.
Ms Pam Brown left the meeting at 11.38am
The officials left the meeting at 11.39am

8. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Pension Protection Fund and Occupational Pension Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
The Committee considered the above mentioned proposed subordinate legislation.
Agreed: The Committee was content for the Rule to be made.

9. Statutory Rules

9.1 SR 58/2013 The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR58 2013 The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule
9.2 SR 61/2013 The Social Security Pensions (Flat Rate Accrual Amount) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR61 2013 The Social Security Pensions (Flat Rate Accrual Amount) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule
9.3 SR 62/2013 The Social Security Revaluation of Earnings Factors Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR62 2013 The Social Security Revaluation of Earnings Factor Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule
9.4 SR 63/2013 The Social Security Pensions (Low Earnings Threshold) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR63 2013 The Social Security Pensions (Low Earnings Threshold) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule
9.5 SR 65/2013 The Guaranteed Minimum Pension Increase Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR65 2013 The Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule.
9.6 SR 67/2013The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR67 2013 The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule.
9.7 SR 69/2013 The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR69 2013 The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report, recommends that it be confirmed by the Assembly.
9.8 SR 70/2013 The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR70 2013 The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report has no objections to the Rule.
9.9 SR 72/2013 The Occupational and Stakeholder Pension Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR72 2013 The Occupational and Stakeholder Pension Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) 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 11.47am

10. Correspondence

10.1 The Committee noted a response from the Department regarding the pilot 'Pay as You Go Oil Scheme'.
10.2 The Committee considered correspondence from the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee regarding the Financial Capability Strategy for NI Consumers
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on this issue.
10.3 The Committee considered a press release from Advice NI on 'Back door' benefit changes. The Chairperson felt the press release was disingenuous towards the Committee and advised that he contacted Advice NI regarding this.
10.4 The Committee considered correspondence from the Department on its progress against Programme for Government Commitments.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on this issue.
10.5 The Committee noted a Departmental press release regarding the appointment of Dr Litchfield to carry out the fourth independent review of the Work Capability Assessment in NI.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask that arrangements be made for Dr Litchfield to visit Northern Ireland and meet with the Committee.
Members were content for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the correspondence memo.
Ms Pam Brown re-joined the meeting at 11.50am

11. Forward Work Programme

The Committee were content with the proposed Forward Work Programme.

12. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The Committee will hold a housing event on 11 April in the La Mon Hotel.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.56am.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
18 April 2013

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