Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 24 May 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10:03am

1.  Apologies.

Apologies were indicated as above.

Mr Mark Durkan joined the meeting at 10:05am

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10:05am

2.  Draft Minutes of Meeting 17 May 2012.      

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 17 May 2012 were agreed.

3.  Chairperson’s Business

The deputy Chairperson provided the Committee with an overview of the meeting held on 18 May 2012 with Lord Freud on Welfare Reform.

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10:05am

The Chair informed members that the Department had requested the briefing paper provided by Employers for Childcare.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward last week’s briefing paper from Employers for Childcare regarding Social Enterprise Qualification to the Department.

The Chair raised the possibility of the Committee going to Scotland to meet the Welfare Reform Committee to discuss areas of mutual interest.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to arrange a visit to Edinburgh to meet with representatives from the Welfare Reform Committee in the Scottish Parliament.

4.  June Monitoring Round – Departmental Briefing.

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10:18am:

  • Ms Heather Cousins, Deputy Secretary, Resources, Housing and Social Security Group, Department for Social Development; and
  • Mr Stephen McMurray, Director of Finance, Department for Social Development. 

 

The officials briefed the Committee on the June Monitoring Round.

Members asked how many boilers the Department expected to replace over a 3 year period and whether replacement included the option for wood pellet boilers.

Members also questioned the reclassification of £2.3m from resource to capital due to shortfall of around £4m in capital receipts.  Members asked how the shortfall of £1.7m in capital will be addressed.

The officials also explained why the Department exceeded the provisions as voted by the Assembly Spring Supplement Estimates and Budget Act (NI) in 2010/11.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Committee thanked the officials for the briefing.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting 10:32am

The representatives left the meeting at 10:34am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting 10:34am

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Committee for Finance and Personnel advising that the Committee is content that the Department have acted accordingly and evidence to this effect is provided the relevant Public Accounts Report ‘Report on Excess Votes (Northern Ireland) 2010-2011’.

5.  Welfare Reform EQIA – Departmental Briefing.

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10:35am:

  • Ms Anne McCleary, Director, Social Security Policy & Legislation,   Department for Social Development;
  • Ms Martina Campbell, Social Security Policy & Legislation, Department for Social Development; and
  • Mr Michael Pollock, Social Security Policy & Legislation, Department for Social Development. 

 

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department indicating that the Minister for Social Development has written to the Executive seeking agreement to introduce the Welfare Reform Bill.

The officials briefed the Committee on the Welfare Reform EQIA.

Members held detailed discussions with the officials which included:

  • the limitations of the Policy Simulation Model and how these will be addressed;
  • if further EQIAs would be required for each piece of secondary legislation in order to identify and address any adverse differential impacts; and
  • whether the Department fully knows the impact of the policies on the Section 75 groups.

 

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

Mr Michael Copeland rejoined the meeting at 10:39am

Ms Paula Bradley rejoined the meeting at 10:41am

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 10:47am

Mr David McClarty rejoined the meeting at 10:50am

The Committee thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10:52am.

6.  Consultation on DLA Reform and Personal Independence Payment – Briefing by Disability Action

The following representatives from Disability Action joined the meeting at 10:53am:

  • Ms Elizabeth Brisbane, Policy and Information Officer, Disability Action; and
  • Ms Karen Hall, Policy and Information Manager, Disability Action

 

The representatives briefed the Committee on the DLA Reform and PIP Payments consultation.

Members expressed concerns regarding the figure of 1000 applicants to be reassessed per week and how this will be managed

Members acknowledged Disability Action’s concerns in respect of the 4 week timeframe people will be given to make a PIP claim.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Committee thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11:26am         

Agreed:  The Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a response to the consultation.

7.  Matters Arising

The Committee agreed a draft press release for the Committee’s Report on Fuel Poverty.

The deputy Chairperson advised Members that Bryson Energy had provided the      Committee with copies of its Benefits Checks Report.  The deputy Chairperson advised Members that the Chairperson will be launching the report at an event on 30 May 2012.

The Committee considered a draft paper on Special Needs Management Allowance.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to NIFHA and the Department on issues raised in the paper.   

Agreed: The Committee agreed a draft response to the Department for Justice’s Draft Community Safety Strategy.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward this response to the Committee for Justice.           

8.     Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the following proposed Rule:

  • The Landlord Registration Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee agreed for the following proposed Rule to be made:

  • The Licensing (Requirements for Conference Centre) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

  

9.  Correspondence

The Committee noted a response from the Social Security Agency as to whether Atos employees are required to sign the Official Secrets Act.

The Committee considered a response from the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister in relation to the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward this item of correspondence to the Department for information.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to the Future of the Rates Element of Housing Benefit.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to enquire if there has been any evaluation of the potential impact of welfare reform on fuel poverty.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward this item of correspondence to the Department for comment.

The deputy Chairperson advised Members of several events which Committee Members have been invited to attend.

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.

11.  Any Other Business

A Member questioned if the recent announcement of by the Minister to suspend contracts for double glazing installations will have any impact on contracts which have been agreed but work has not yet started. 

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification if such contracts will still go ahead.

A Member highlighted the recent announcement that a Housing Association has been asked to give money back to the NIHE over concerns about the purchase of land for social housing development, yet no planning permission has been granted and no housing built.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department recommending that an   inquiry is held into this issue.

12.     Date, Time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10.00am on Thursday 31 May 2012 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings.

The meeting adjourned at 11:41am

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
31 May 2012

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