Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 16 October 2012
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The meeting began in public session at 10:05am.
Apologies were indicated as above.
2. Chairperson’s Business
The Chairperson advised Members that the meeting will be an extended meeting.
The Chairperson asked Members to consider a list of potential groups to give oral evidence on the Welfare Reform Bill and a draft schedule.
Agreed: The Committee agreed the list of groups and the draft schedule.
The Chairperson expressed concern about potential misrepresentation in the media regarding the Committee’s work programme in relation to Welfare Reform and reiterated that the Committee had dedicated three meetings per week to scrutinising the Bill.
Mr Fra McCann joined the meeting at 10.12
A Member asked for the Committee to consider rescheduling the meeting on Thursday 1 November to Monday 29 October.
3. Welfare Reform Bill – Departmental Briefing
The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10.14am
Ms Anne McCleary;
Mr Michael Pollock;
Ms Martina Campbell; and
Ms Margaret Stitt.
Ms Paula Bradley joined the meeting at 10.14am
Mr Gregory Campbell joined the meeting at 10.19am
Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 10.27am
The officials briefed the Committee on Clauses 31 - 63 of the Bill.
Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 11.47am.
Ms Margaret Stitt left the meeting 11.57am.
The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 11.57am.
The Committee reconvened at 13.11pm.
DSD official, Ms Jane Corderoy joined the meeting at 13.11pm.
The Clerk provided an overview of the morning’s discussions.
The officials briefed the Committee on Clauses 64 - 120 of the Bill.
Ms Paula Bradley joined the meeting at 13.35am.
Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 13.35am.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer Clauses 107 – 115.
The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 14.29pm.
The Committee reconvened at 14.59pm.
Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 15.23pm.
Mr Michael Copeland left meeting at 16.25pm
Agreed: The Committee agreed for the Department to respond to the following questions at later date:
Clarification on how income from occupational pensions will be treated in Universal Credit (UC).
Confirmation on whether claimants will be asked if they receive income from specific compensation scheme e.g. a diagnosis of variant Creuzfeldt-Jacob disease, Japanese POW’s.
The Department are asked to provide an example of UC being awarded without a claimant applying.
Clarification on whether the wording ‘and/or’ will appear in Clause 38 in respect of a physical or mental health condition.
Clarification on the definition of a couple including what will be provided in legislation and will it appear in guidance.
The Department are asked to share with the Committee the interim learning reports on DWP pilot schemes when they become available
Details on the rules/guidance governing travel to interviews and what may be considered excessive including details on expenses and support available to claimants.
Confirmation on whether reasonable travelling time to work includes cross border travel.
Confirmation on whether permitted work will continue in the new benefits regime.
Clarification on the training that will be provided to staff dealing with claimants with a disability, in particular Personal Advisers.
Confirmation on whether work experience placements will be permitted in the political sector as they are not permitted in the Steps Ahead Programme.
Clarification on whether priority will be given to benefit claimants when allocating places at nursery schools.
Clarification on how specific bereavement benefit will be in relation to death caused by an industrial accident.
Clarification on whether someone who is in receipt of bereavement benefit and later proves death was caused by an industrial injury, will the difference in money be made up.
Clarification on whether a claimant can still claim historically for an industrial accident if the accident declaration is to be abolished.
Clarification on whether a landlord who creates a downstairs bedroom in a house and as a result an upstairs bedroom is no longer used, will this be treated as under-occupancy.
Confirmation on whether the funding for Discretionary Housing Benefit will be match need.
Clarification on the maximum amount of arrears the Department will permit if a claimant experiences difficulty in moving to a smaller property due to lack of alternative properties and accrues arrears in rent.
The Department are asked to provide the number of claimants that will be affected by the reduction in Housing Benefit.
Clarification of ‘executive determination’ at Clause 69 (3) (5).
The Department are asked to calculate the reduction in benefit people are likely to receive.
Confirmation on whether outstanding Business Loan debt held by an individual claimant will be considered when a claim for further support is received from the claimant when they form part of a couple.
Clarification on the support for carers e.g. a disabled claimant and one member of the household is under state pension qualifying age and one over the qualifying age. How will the entitlement be determined?
Confirmation on whether there is there a right to appeal against a decision by the Department to assume a capital value for a property.
Clarification on whether the Benefit Cap discriminates against large families due to the inclusion of Child Benefit in the calculation.
The Department are asked to provide a list of benefits that will exempt a claimant for application of the Benefit Cap.
Clarification of the amount of claimants out of the estimated 620 in NI who will be affected by the Benefit Cap will be in work on low income.
The Department are asked to provide further clarification in the explanatory note on the circumstances when a split payment would be considered.
Confirmation on whether a there will be a cap on the amount that can be recovered from regular benefit payments to recover outstanding debt.
Confirmation on whether the Department will be advocating the use of mobile phones when dealing with benefit claims. Concerns were expressed regarding the charges for using the internet on pay-as-you-go mobile phone tariffs.
Confirmation on whether provision will be given to ignore more than one bedroom when determining under-occupancy when a claimant requires overnight care.
The briefings were recorded by Hansard.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance.
The officials left the meeting at 16.50pm.
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 Wednesday 17 October 2012 in Room 144 Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 16:52pm.
Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
25 October 2012