ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 26 April 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10:03am                   

1. Apologies.

Apologies were indicated as above.

Mr Mickey Brady declared an interest as a non-executive member of the Committee of the Confederation of Community Groups, Newry.

2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 19 March 2012.   

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 19 March 2012 were agreed.

3. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members that after today’s meeting he will be co-hosting, as Chairperson of the Committee, a Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children & Young People’s event.  The event is drawing attention to the impact Welfare Reform will have on children and young people and will see the launch of two reports from the Commissioner’s office.

Ms Paula Bradley joined the meeting at 10:05am

The Chairperson also advised Members that the Women’s ad-hoc Advisory Group has requested the opportunity to brief the Committee on the impact Welfare Reform will have on women.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing by the Women’s ad-hoc Advisory Group.

The Chairperson reminded Members that next week’s meeting will be held at the new MAC in Belfast followed by a visit to the Cathedral Quarter and hosted by the Steering Group.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10:10am

The Chairperson highlighted to Members that the planned public sector strike occurs on the Committee’s meeting day on 10 May 2012 and asked Members to consider postponing this meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to return to this issue at the end of the meeting and subsequently agreed to reschedule the meeting.

4. Matters Arising.

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting, the Committee agreed to provide a response to the Department for Justice’s Draft Community Safety Strategy.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward any comments on this strategy to the Clerk.

The Chairperson mentioned to Members that there has been no further information on when the NI Welfare Reform Bill will be introduced to the Assembly.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department for further details on the current timetable for this Bill. 

Agreed:  The Committee also agreed for the Clerk to write to the OFMdFM Committee and ask for details on the Welfare Reform Advisory Group.

5. Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) Review and Housing Market Report – Briefing by the NIHE.

The following officials from the NIHE joined the meeting at 10:13am:

Dr John McPeake, Chief Executive;

Mr Stewart Cuddy, Director, Housing and Regeneration; and

Mr Gerry Flynn, Director, Housing and Regeneration

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 10:14am

The officials briefed the Committee on the NIHE Review.  This was followed by a question and answer session.

Ms Pam Brown joined the meeting at 10:28am

Members had a detailed discussion with the officials regarding the NIHE Review.   Some of the issues discussed included:

  • PwC’s proposals in the Fundamental Review  to set up a new housing regulator to protect the interests of tenants and householders and to provide value for money to taxpayers;
  • proposals for a Strategic Housing Authority (SHA); and
  • proposals for a new Social Enterprise Landlord by moving landlord functions and Housing Executive stock into a social enterprise model.

The officials also briefed the Committee on the NIHE Housing Market Review and Perspectives 2012 – 2015.

Members had further discussions with the officials on issues which included:

  • the impact the current economic climate is having on NI’s housing market;
  • the trends in the market relating to owner-occupation and the private rented sector;
  • the deterioration of housing conditions and the rise in unfitness; and
  • the demand for social housing.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

Mr Fra McCann left the meeting at 11.17am

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.17am

The officials left the meeting at 11:18am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11:18am

6. Community and Voluntary Services – Briefing by the Services Industrial Professional Technical Union (SIPTU)

The following representatives from SIPTU joined the meeting at 11:19am:

Mr Sean McMonagle, Program Manager

Ms Catherine Pollock, Development Worker

Ms Deirdre McMahon, Youth Worker

Ms Jennifer Cornell, Community Activist

The representatives briefed the Committee on difficulties faced by workers in the Community and Voluntary sector.  This was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Fra McCann re-joined the meeting at 11:24am

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11:25am

The Committee acknowledged the dedication of community sector workers and the contribution they make to society.

Mr Fra McCann and Mr Mickey Bradey declared an interest as Members of SIPTU.

Members had a detailed discussion on a range of issues.  These included:

  • the working conditions of community sector workers in comparison to public sector workers;
  • SIPTU’s proposal for a “minimum standards” or “threshold of decency” social clause; and
  • SIPTU’s proposal for a tripartite forum with the funders, the employer organisations and trade unions representing workers in the sector.

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11:34am

Mr Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 11:48am

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for the briefing.

The representatives left the meeting at 11:57am

Mr Mark H Durkan re-joined the meeting at 11:57am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11:57am

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to SIPTU to ask for a copy of the analysis on rates of pay, access to a funded pension scheme, and sick pay and maternity entitlements between the two sectors.

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11:58am to brief the Committee on the above mentioned proposed Statutory Rule:

Ms Anne McCleary; and

Mr Michael Pollock

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 12:09pm

Some Members expressed concerns that sanctions might be applied unfairly.  The Committee divided on the following motion:

“That this Committee is content for the proposed Statutory Rule: The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 to be made”.

Ayes 5

Noes 4

Motion supported.

8.       Statutory Rules

The Housing Benefit (Executive Determinations) (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) 2012

The following Departmental officials briefed the Committee on the above mentioned Statutory Rule:

Ms Anne McCleary; and

Mr Michael Pollock

Members sought assurances from the Department that the impact of this Rule is monitored.

The officials left the meeting at 12:36pm.

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR157/2012 The Housing Benefit (Executive Determinations) (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the Rule”.

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 12:36pm

Mr Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 12:37pm

Registered Rents (Increase) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12:37pm to brief the Committee on the above mentioned Statutory Rule:

Mr Stephen Johnston; and

Ms Avril Hiles

The officials left the meeting at 12:40pm.

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR139/2012 Registered Rents (Increase) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the Rule”.

The Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR163/2012 The Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules Report has no objection to the Rule”.

9.       Correspondence     

The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister regarding the new three year Social Housing Development Programme for the period 2012/13 to 2014/15.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department which provided an update on progress in relation to the development of a statutory licensing scheme for pavement cafes.

The Committee noted a response from the SSA regarding the time taken to process cases for the uptake of benefits by pensioners.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to follow up on the full evaluation report on the Benefit     Uptake Programme which will be available in the autumn.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister in relation to the Social          Security           Advisory Committee’s review of Passported Benefits.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the Minister’s response and the report to the Education, Health, Justice and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee’s.  The Committee also agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on Passported   Benefits.

Ms Pam Brown left the meeting at 12:41pm

The Committee noted a response from the SSA regarding the Committee’s request for further information following a briefing on Incapacity Benefit Reassessment.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice which    requested a copy of the evidence given by the Community Rescue Service and Lagan Rescue Service at the meeting of 22 March 2012.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the evidence to the Department for Justice.

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 postpone the meeting on 10 May 2012 and          reschedule the presentations.      

Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme. 

11. Any Other Business

A Member questioned why employees at ATOS are being asked to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department seeking clarity on this issue.     

12.  Date, Time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10.00am on Thursday 3 May 2012 in the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast.

Mr Mark H Durkan re-joined the meeting at 12:45pm

The meeting adjourned at 12:45pm

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

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