Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Monday, 29 October 2012

Venue: Room 29

The meeting opened in public session at 10:06am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2. Welfare Reform Bill – Briefing by the Churches

The following representatives from the Churches joined the meeting at 10.07am

  • Rev Dr Roy Patton, Presbyterian Church in Ireland;
  • Rev Donald Ker, Methodist Church;
  • Fr. Tim Bartlett, Catholic Church; and
  • Rev Adrian Dorrian, Church of Ireland.

Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.09am

The representatives briefed the Committee on the impact the Welfare Reform Bill will have on their members and the wider community. 

This was followed by a question and answer session which covered a number of issues in relation to the Bill including; the anxiety already created amongst claimants before the Bill has been introduced; lone parents having to return to work and the impact that will have on child care; the lack of appropriate child care provision in Northern Ireland; carers of the elderly, disabled or a sibling having to come off benefit to return to work; the need for the reassessment process of claimants to be tailored to Northern Ireland; and the inadequate amount of housing stock in Northern Ireland to deal with those seeking single accommodation as a result of under-occupancy.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.04am

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.04am

The Committee considered a number of proposed recommendations from the Churches and agreed to consider these going forward.

This session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for their attendance.

Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 11.17am

The representatives left the meeting 11.19am.

The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 11.21am.

The Committee reconvened at 11.23am.

3. Welfare Reform Bill – Briefing by Trade Union Representatives

The following representatives joined the meeting at 11.25am:

Ms Alison Millar, NIPSA;
Ms Maria Morgan, NIPSA/ICTU;
Ms Pauline Buchanan, ICTU; and
Mr Derek Thompson, PCS

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.27am

The Chairperson drew attention to a comment in NIPSA’s paper which stated that the paper was prepared within the unacceptable constraints imposed by the Social Development Committee.  

The Chairperson put on record that the Committee did not accept that statement.

The Chairperson gave assurance that the committee will give line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill and that is why the Committee asked stakeholders, where possible, to focus on the clauses in the Bill rather than make general comment in their submissions.

The Chairperson highlighted that the Committee had received approximately 40 written submissions and it will have taken oral evidence from over 20 organisations by the time this stage of its consideration is over.

The Chairperson also highlighted that the Committee has had 8 pre-legislative briefings from the department over the last year on this Bill and has consulted with a wide range of key stakeholders, including the trade union movement.

The representatives briefed the Committee on the Welfare Reform Bill.  A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues including; concerns that the Universal Credit application is an online application and how this might impact those with learning difficulties and those who are disabled or not IT literate; the need for the Bill to accommodate the large amount of people in Northern Ireland who claim DLA as a result of the post-conflict situation and segregated housing; how the benefit cap will impact families with multiple roles i.e., carers, parents and those with disabilities; how families will be impacted by the under-occupancy proposals; and concerns relating to Conditionality and Sanctions given the current economic climate and the high unemployment and low vacancies rate. 

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 12.24pm

The Chairperson left the meeting at 12.32pm

The Deputy Chairperson replaced the Chairperson at 12.32pm

The Chairperson re-joined the meeting at 12.35pm

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 12.38pm

The Committee considered a number of proposed recommendations from the trade unions and agreed to consider these going forward.

At 13.29pm Mr Fra McCann declared an interest as a Member of SIPTU

This session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairperson thanked the representatives for their attendance.

The representatives left the meeting 13.42pm

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask the following:

  • confirmation of potential job losses contained in the outline Business Case for Universal Credit;
  • confirmation and details of a communication plan/strategy; and
  • confirmation on whether Work Capability Assessment decision makers’ guidelines set out targets.

4. Any Other Business

There was no other business

5. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10:00am on Tuesday 30 October 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 13.50pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
8 November 2012

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