Report on whether the Provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill are in Conformity with the Requirements for Equality and Observance of Human Rights
Date: 21 January 2013
Reference: NIA 92/11-15
ISBN: Only available online
Mandate Number: 2011/15
1. The Committee for Social Development began its scrutiny of the Welfare Reform Bill on 10 October 2012. During evidence sessions from a range of stakeholders, the Committee became increasingly concerned that the Bill was not fully compliant with equality and human rights considerations. The Committee therefore agreed to bring a motion to the Assembly under Standing Order 35 to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to specifically address these concerns.
2. This Ad Hoc Committee was established by the Assembly on 20 November 2012 to consider only, and to report only, on whether the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill are in conformity with the requirements for equality and observance of human rights, and to submit a report to the Assembly by 22 January 2013. The Committee for Social Development suspended its scrutiny of the Bill for this period.
3. The Ad Hoc Committee took oral evidence and accepted written submissions from a number of representative bodies, including the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Officials from the Department for Social Development briefed the Committee on two occasions and provided written responses to queries raised. The Committee invited the Equality Unit of OFMdFM to present or give evidence but no official response was received to this request.
4. The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson met with the Chairperson of the House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights to gain an insight into the approach used by that Committee in its scrutiny of Westminster legislation.
5. The Committee believed that its scrutiny had revealed a number of areas of concern and accordingly it made recommendations which it considers will promote the continued monitoring of equality and human rights considerations in the on-going introduction of Welfare Reform. The Committee, however, concluded that it cannot identify any specific breaches of equality or human rights aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill. This decision was reached by majority vote.
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