Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 01 December 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened in public session at 10.07am.

Ms Pam Lewis joined the meeting at 10.08am
Mr Fra McCann joined the meeting at 10.08am
Mr Michael Copeland joined the meeting at 10.08am
Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10.08am

1.    Apologies

None

Mr Mickey Brady left the meeting at 10.09am

2.    Draft Minutes of Meeting 24 November 2011    

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 24 November 2011 were agreed.

3.    Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members that the he attended and spoke at the Chartered Institute of Housing event on Monday.

4.    Matters Arising

The Committee noted the display stand phrases that aim to encapsulate the work of the Committee.


The Chairperson reminded Members that the Clerk raised the issue of consultation on the PfG at last week’s meeting.  The Chairperson further reminded Members that the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister aims to collate views from statutory committees on the PfG and Investment Strategy.  These views will be incorporated into a composite report and aired in a Take Note debate in the second week in February.  The Chairperson indicated to Members that it is the role of the Executive to formally consult with stakeholders on these documents


Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to stakeholders asking to be copied on their submissions to the formal consultation on these documents.  

5.    Proposed Subordinate Legislation

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work Experience) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011
The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.13am:

        Anne McCleary, Director Social Security, Policy and Legislation; and
        Colm McLaughlin, Deputy Principal, Social Security, Policy and Legislation.

The officials briefed the Committee on the proposed legislation.


Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the proposed Statutory Rule.  Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification on if the Assembly is to receive any of the £1bn announced by the Chancellor to offer people minimum wage while undertaking employment training and could the Social Development Department use any of this to offer the young people minimum wage while on the work experience programme.


Agreed: Members agreed to write to the DEL Committee to ask if the Work Experience Programme will link in with Step Ahead Programme.

The Occupational Pension (Revaluation) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011


Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the proposed Statutory Rule.  Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification on the impact the proposed Order would have on someone who has an occupational pension and entitled to claim at some point in next 12 months.  If they were in employment that might be frozen, reduced or increased by 1% and took the choice to take retirement, would they be faced with the anomalous situation that the pension they would be entitled to over the next 12 months would increase by over 5% whereas their salary at that moment might be frozen.

Social Security Contribution Condition for JSA and ESA Regulations (NI) 2011


Agreed: The Committee agreed defer consideration of the proposed Statutory Rule.


Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification regarding the equality impact assessment.  Although the Department concluded that the proposals do not have significant implication for equality of opportunity, Members queried what implications there are and who they might affect.  

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.40am

6.    Regional Infrastructure Support Programme – Departmental Briefing

The following representatives joined the meeting at 10.41am:

        Bob Stronge, Chief Executive, Advice NI
        Majella McCloskey, Chief Executive CO3
        Una McKernan, Deputy Chief Executive NICVA

The representatives briefed the Committee on the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11.03am.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11.08am.

Ms Pam Lewis declared an interest as a board member of Antrim CAB.

The following representatives joined the meeting at 11.08am:

        John McMullan, Chief Executive, Bryson Charitable group;
        Niamh Goggin, Northern Ireland Regional Manager, Charity Bank; and
        Olwen Lyner, Chief Executive, NIACRO

The representatives briefed the Committee on the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11.14am
Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 11.24

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.
The officials left the meeting at 11.34am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to draft a submission to the Minister on the basis of the briefings and discussions on the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme.

7.    Universal Credit – Departmental Briefing

    The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11.35am:

            Dr Colm Sullivan, Director for Universal Credit
            Anne McCleary, Director of Social Security Policy and Legislation Division                

The officials briefed the Committee on Universal Credit.

Although Members recognised in principle the advantages of streamlining benefits through the introduction of Universal Credit some Members expressed concerns on the impact of the £500 million cut to Social Security payments each year.  Some Members also expressed concern with the potential impact on communities with the abolition of the Social Fund.
Members also queried how these changes will help people back into work if ultimately there are few jobs available.

Members also queried how customers will acquire the life-skills required for the world of work.

Ms Judith Cochrane left the meeting at 11.52am

Ms Judith Cochrane re-joined the meeting at 11.54am

Mr Fra McCann left the meeting at 11.57am

Mr Fra McCann re-joined the meeting at 11.59am

Ms Pam Lewis left the meeting 12.00pm

Members expressed concerns around the payments to customers including who in the household will receive the payment of a lump sum and how can the Department be sure that the payment will be distributed to the rest of the household.

Mr Sammy Douglas left the meeting at 12.03pm

Members requested that the Department consider how families or individuals in real need can be assisted in coming up with a deposit for a private landlord or assistance for when a landlord does not fully refund a deposit at the end of a tenancy.

Some Members welcomed the provisions regarding childcare but questioned if we had the capacity to resource the childcare provision here.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 12.06pm.        

8.    Work Capability Assessment

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.06pm:

        Brian Doherty, Director of Working Age Services
        Margaret Boyle, Assistant Director of Working Age Services

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 12.07pm

The officials briefed the Committee on the Work Capability Assessment

Members questioned whether Atos provided employees with the appropriate level of training in medical issues necessary for assessing customers.

Members questioned if the rate of appeals is putting a strain on Departmental resources.

Mr Sammy Douglas re-joined the meeting at 12.12pm

Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 12.15pm

Mr Alex Easton re-joined the meeting at 12.18pm

Members also expressed concerns regarding customers who are initially given no points     but on appeal are placed in a work group.

Some Members asked for assurances that consideration be given to customers with fluctuating severity of illness when an assessment is being undertaken.

The Committee requested that it is kept informed once resources have been identified and when implementation of the recommendations will be implemented.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department and seek details of those cases which are disallowed but subsequently go to appeal and are upheld in the Department’s favour. The Committee also agreed to write to the Department to seek clarification on whether ‘HCP’ referred to a Health Care Practitioner or a Health Care Professional.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department and seek copies of its response to the Harrington Independent Review and the outcome of the Research when they become available.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a further briefing from the Department on the 17+ touch points of the Work Capability Assessment including the Atos assessment. Members also agreed that the Department should brief the Committee on how the appeals process is working once more information is available.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 12.43pm.        

9    Correspondence

The Committee considered Departmental correspondence regarding Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO).  


Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department and seek further information regarding the review of the regulation and registration of houses in multiple occupation including the impact of the shared room allowance and the effectiveness of a registration scheme.  The Committee also agreed to receive a briefing from the Department on HMOs early in the New Year.

The Committee considered Departmental correspondence regarding the Boiler Replacement.  
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this correspondence to the Environment Committee.  

The Committee also agreed that the Clerk should discuss with other Clerks how to reduce duplication of requests for information from Departments on the same subject.

The Chairperson indicated a problem with contractors who have issues with the building control fees.


Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department and recommend that discussions take place between DSD, DOE and NILGA regarding this issue as a matter of urgency.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed it was content with the proposed way forward for the remaining items of correspondence sent to the Committee as outlined in the Clerk’s briefing note.  

10     Forward Work Programme

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

11    Any Other Business
    
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department for an update on the     Comprehensive Spending Review and to seek confirmation if the Committee will have     an input on any funds made available.

12    Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 8 December 2011 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.50pm

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
8 December 2011

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