The Northern Ireland Assembly has been dissolved. The election will take place on Thursday 5 May 2016.

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 06 June 2013

Venue: Room 29

The Deputy Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10:12am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above

2. Chairperson’s Business

2.1 The Deputy Chairperson reminded Members that, following the Committee meeting, in the afternoon, the Committee would be holding an event on repossessions and mortgage arrears in the Stormont Hotel, in conjunction with the Housing Rights Service. He noted that there would be a wide range of stakeholders and speakers from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Free Legal Advice Centres in RoI and from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. The Deputy Chairperson provided an overview of the event programme and encouraged Members to attend.

The Deputy Chairperson drew Members’ attention to a Press Release for this afternoon’s events and asked for their approval. The Committee agreed for the Press Release to be issued.

Mr Michael Copeland MLA joined the meeting at 10:12am.

2.2 The Deputy Chairperson referred Members to a newspaper report outlining the fact that over 1300 people were unable to attend reassessments in the WCA centre at Royston House in Belfast, and that many had been sent to alternative centres, resulting in taxi fares of over £35,000 being paid out by the Department. He noted that this article was particularly timely as a Committee visit to Royston House is scheduled for 27 June.

Members commented that the Committee was originally scheduled to visit Royston House on October 2012, but that this visit had been postponed due to the issue of poor access. The Committee noted that it was clear this issue remained unresolved and expressed its disappointment.

The Committee agreed to write to the Department noting this as an ongoing issue, expressing its disappointment and asking for a detailed timeline showing when it intended that the issue would be resolved.

2.3 The Deputy Chairperson noted that the Minister would be delivering an oral statement on Housing Executive managed maintenance contracts on Monday 10 June.

3. Draft Minutes of the Meeting 30 May

Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on 30 May 2013 were agreed.

4. Matters Arising

4.1 The Deputy Chairperson drew Members’ attention to the Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) on the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, which was discussed briefly at the Committee Meeting on 30 May. The Deputy Chairperson advised that the LCM would alter the regulatory system of remote gambling in Great Britain so that remote gambling is regulated on a point of consumption basis rather than point of supply, and that a provision would be included in the Bill making it an offence for any person who is unlicensed to advertise remote gambling to Northern Ireland consumers.

The Committee agreed that it did not require a briefing on this matter, or to produce a report on the LCM and that it was content to support the motion formally.

The Deputy Chairperson read the motion:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered the draft Legislative Consent Motion on the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising Bill) and recommends that it is endorsed by the Assembly”.

 The Committee agreed to the motion.

5. Pensions Bill Legislative Consent Motion – Departmental Briefing

5.1 The following officials from the Social Security Agency joined the meeting at 10:18am

  • Gerry McCann, Social Security Policy & Legislation, DSD
  • Anne McCleary, Director, Social Security, Policy & Legislation, DSD

The officials briefed the Committee on the Legislative Consent Motion to extend an amendment to Clause 41 of the Pensions Bill to Northern Ireland. They explained that this was a technical issue rather than a policy change, serving to clarify this particular clause in the Bill. The Committee agreed not to produce a report on the LCM.

Following discussions the Deputy Chairperson read the motion

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered the draft Legislative Consent Motion on the Westminster Pensions Bill and recommends that it is endorsed by the Assembly”

The Committee agreed to the motion.

The officials left the meeting at 10.24am.

This session was recorded by Hansard 

6. Volunteering Infrastructure – Briefing by Volunteer Now

The following officials from Volunteer Now joined the meeting at 10.25am and drew Members’ attention to a letter from CO3 expressing concerns around the volunteering support infrastructure:

  • Wendy Osborne, Chief Executive, Volunteer Now
  • Joe McVey, Chairperson, Volunteer Now

The officials briefed the Committee, expressing concern over the direction of travel of the community and voluntary sector support infrastructure.

Members remarked on the officials’ written briefing referring to the need for ‘a more equitable rebalancing of resources to avoid the detrimental loss of volunteering infrastructure support services’. They asked, with funds being redirected to frontline services, if the officials could describe what a ‘better balance’ would look like. The officials remarked that they needed clarity on the figures provided by the Department. They stated that Volunteer Now believes that support for businesses is vital and that there is a danger that the infrastructure may be devalued. They expressed concern that if more organisations are added, there is a lack of clarity as to how these would be supported.

Members referred to a letter received from the Department, stating that the engagement process has commenced with volunteer organisations to determine the way forward for volunteering infrastructure and asked whether Volunteer Now had been involved in these discussions. The officials stated that they had engaged with the Department two weeks ago and that a follow up meeting was scheduled for next week.

Members asked the officials for an update on volunteering during the Olympics. The officials replied that 2012 had raised the profile of volunteering. They also stated that, with the World Police and Fire Games coming up, they were engaged in the largest volunteer training exercise they had experienced, with 5200 people registered for volunteering. 50% of this number had never volunteered before, and the officials emphasised the importance of retaining these volunteers after the Games were over.

The Members asked what MLAs could do to raise awareness of the value of volunteering. The officials stated that MLAs are generally good at promoting volunteering and that this needed to continue. They expressed concern that changes to the infrastructure would mean that Volunteer Now lose their ability to promote volunteering.

Members asked the officials’ view on the reason for the Department’s proposals – whether it was reallocation of money more effectively or change for the sake of change. The officials replied that, while supportive of the support for small grants, they are concerned that the rebalancing has gone too far and that it could damage infrastructure – that rather than providing additional resources, there was an attempt to spread existing resources out too far.

Members expressed concern over the apparent anomaly in the figure of £1.1m per annum available for volunteering infrastructure stated by the Department, when the figure stated in the Government Funding Database is £1.3m per annum. There was agreement that it was essential to get to get clarity on the actual figure and that the Committee should write to the Department on this issue.

The Members also commented that, no matter which of these figures is correct, the Department would be reducing this amount significantly and ‘rebalancing’ the funds by directing more money to small grants and innovation programmes.

The Members commented that it was important to establish whether this approach, or an approach where more money was directed towards infrastructure, would be preferable.  The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarity on their rationale for the ‘rebalancing’ and their view on how volunteer infrastructure will be delivered with a considerably reduced budget.

Members asked whether this reorganisation would result in job losses in the volunteering sector. The officials replied that they hoped to receive exact figures from the Department next week, but that Volunteer Now would certainly lose at least ten members of staff, necessitating a complete organisational structural review.

The officials left the meeting at 10.58am.

This session was recorded by Hansard

Mr Michael Copeland MLA left the meeting at 10.58am.

Mr Fra McCann MLA left the meeting at 10.59am.

7. Mesothelioma Bill Legislative Consent Motion – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10.59am:

  • Stephen Baird, DSD
  • Jane Corderoy, DSD
  • Anne McCleary, DSD

Pam Brown MLA and Mickey Brady MLA declared an interest.

The officials briefed the Committee on the Mesothelioma Bill Legislative Consent Motion, which is being considered by the Executive today. They noted that this LCM will ensure that Northern Ireland does not lose out on a beneficial scheme that will speed up the delivery of compensation payments to those diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The officials thanked the Committee for taking this briefing at an early stage, as it should expedite the LCM and keep Northern Ireland up to date with GB.

Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 11.08am.

The Committee asked whether somebody who had been receiving benefits on account of an illness and were subsequently diagnosed with Mesothelioma would have any of their lump sum payment deducted as a result of benefits already received. The officials agreed to ascertain this and provide the Committee with this information.

The Deputy Chairperson informed the Committee that, as the Minister was not seeking Executive approval for this LCM until later today, the Committee is unable to agree a motion at this stage. He asked whether the Members were content to consider a motion at next week’s meeting, pending Executive approval of the LCM. The Committee was content.

The officials left the meeting at 11.14am.

This session was recorded by Hansard

8. Proposed SL1

The Committee considered the following SL1:

The Social Security (Croatia) Amendment Regulations (NI) 2013

The Deputy Chairperson noted that Croatia will accede to the EU on 1 July 2013 and that 

the Department has advised that this Statutory Rule will establish a worker authorisation and registration scheme for workers from Croatia, creating a work-permit type scheme. He noted that the Department advised that the Regulations are expected to come into operation on 1 July 2013 and would be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

The Committee agreed that they were content for this Rule to be made.

9. Statutory Rules

9.1 The Committee noted the Statutory Rule, Commencement Order SR 2013 No 145 (C 10) Charities (2008 Act) (Commencement No. 4) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

9.2 The Committee considered the following Statutory Rule:

SR 146 The Charities Act 2008 (Consequential Provision and Savings) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

 Question put and agreed:

That the Committee has considered the Statutory Rule SR146 The Charities Act 2008 (Consequential Provision and Savings) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ report, has no objections to the Rule.

10. Correspondence

The Deputy Chairperson drew Members’ attention to correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment asking Committees for their comments on the Terms of Reference for the Review of the Consumer Council NI. He advised that if Members had any comments, that these should be lodged with Committee staff by Monday 10 June.

Members agreed action on the correspondence as per the Correspondence Memo.

11. Forward Work Programme

The Committee was content with the proposed Forward Work Programme.

12. Any Other Business

Members commented on a radio programme regarding the effects of Under Occupancy Tax in England. The Committee asked for research to be provided on the effects of Under Occupancy Tax in England.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 10.00am on Thursday 13 June 2013 in Room 29, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.22pm.

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development
13 June 2013

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