ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 09 February 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened in public session at 9.36am.

1.     Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

2.    Draft Minutes of Meeting 2 February 2012 

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 2 February 2012 were agreed.

3.    Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson reminded Members of the recent publication of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report ‘Creating Effective Partnerships between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector’.  The Chairperson advised Members that he thought it would be beneficial to ask NICVA to provide a briefing to the Committee on the findings of the PAC report that are also relevant to this Committee.

Mr Michael Copeland declared membership of the Public Accounts Committee at 9.39am

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Clerk to liaise with the Clerk of the PAC to ensure this is in accordance with the established protocol.  If so, then the Committee will arrange that briefing to be held at next week’s meeting.

4.   Matters Arising

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting the Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a response to the OFMDFM Committee around the responses received from stakeholders regarding the PfG.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response as amended to the OFMDFM Committee.

Mr Gregory Campbell joined the meeting at 9.53am

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting the Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a response on the reform of the Social Fund. 

Ms Pam Lewis joined the meeting at 10.02am

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the response as amended to the Department.

The Chairperson reminded Members that at last week’s meeting the Committee agreed for the Clerk to draft a response to the Welfare Reform EQIA.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the response as amended to the Department.  The Committee also agreed to schedule a briefing from the Equality Commission on the EQIA.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.18am

The Chairperson brought to Members attention a letter regarding the advantages of wood pellet boilers vis à vis other forms of heat production.

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

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 10.21am

5.    Accounting for the Effects of Cancer Treatments Consultation – Briefing by Macmillan Cancer Support

The following representatives from Macmillan Cancer Support joined the meeting at 10.21am

Ms Heather Monteverde, General Manager

Mr Thomas Cottam, Policy Analyst

The representatives briefed the Committee on Macmillan’s views of the DWP proposals contained in the consultation.

Mr Alex Easton re-joined the meeting at 10.26am

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 10.27am

Members acknowledged the range of work that Macmillan does on behalf of cancer patients and their families.

The Committee were deeply concerned to learn that cancer patients in the UK, who currently receive ESA and who may want to return to Northern Ireland for treatment, lose their automatic entitlement to ESA.  The patients would therefore have to be reassessed for ESA in Northern Ireland. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister to express that this issue must be dealt with the utmost urgency and resolved to the benefit of those cancer patients wishing to return home for treatment.

The Committee agreed that that people with cancer should be exempt from going through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and instead be automatically placed in the Support Group as per the recommendations by Macmillan.

Members shared the concerns of Macmillan that changes to Welfare Reform will have a significant impact on people with cancer and good implementation could alleviate some of the potential hardship.  The Committee acknowledged that benefits advice services need to be in place for people across Northern Ireland in general and for people with long term conditions including cancer, particularly in hospitals.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to initiate early discussions with the DSD and DHSSPS regarding the wider issues that were raised by Macmillan.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.46am.

6.    Development of a Housing Strategy – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10.47am: 

Mr Jim Wilkinson, Director of Housing

Mr Michael Sands, Deputy Director of Housing

Mr Stephen Martin, Housing

Mr Stephen Johnston, Housing

The officials briefed the Committee on the development of a Housing Strategy.

The Committee welcomed that the Minister intends to bring forward a Housing Strategy early in the spring.

Members highlighted the potential impact of Welfare Reform on housing issues and questioned if the Department was taking this into consideration as it developed the Housing Strategy.

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 11.07am

Members referred to the number of empty homes here and asked how/if these could be integrated into the Housing Strategy.

Members questioned if further pressure can be placed on the banks and Government to help make it easier for buyers to borrow for a mortgage.

Members recognised that high rents contribute to homes being left empty and questioned if the Strategy should look into ways of advising private landlords on appropriate rental rates for different properties in different areas.

Members also expressed concerns about tenants of private landlords getting into debt in order to pay their rent.

The Committee agreed to return to this issue when the Minister brings forward a Housing Strategy early in the spring.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.38am

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11.39am.

7.       Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Committee noted the following Commencement Order which is not subject to any        procedure of the Assembly:

The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (NI) 2011

8.       Statutory Rules

The Committee noted corrections to the following Regulations:

The Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

9.       Correspondence

The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the draft European Priorities 2012-13.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for Members to bring any issues they would like to raise regarding the European Priorities to the meeting next week.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.41am

The Committee noted correspondence from Ilex inviting Members to attend a reception to mark the opening of the City’s new shared space in Ebrington.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for Members to contact the Committee office if they would like to attend this event.

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     

There was no other business.

Mr Mark H Durkan left the meeting at 11.42am          

Ms Pam Lewis left the meeting at 11.42am

The Committee adjourned at 11.42am     

The meeting opened in public session at 12.05pm.     

Mr David McClarty re-joined the meeting at 12.05pm

12.     Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 12.05pm

Mr Gerry McCann

Mr Seamus Cassidy

Ms Doreen Roy

The officials briefed the Committee on Parts 2-5 of the Pensions Bill.

Mr Mark H Durkan re-joined the meeting at 12.13pm

Ms Pam Lewis re-joined the meeting at 12.22pm

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing

The officials left the meeting at 12.56pm

13.     Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 9.30am on Thursday 16 February 2012 in NICVA offices, Belfast.  .  

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.58pm

Mr Alex MaskeyChairperson, Committee for Social Development.
16 February 2012

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