Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 07 June 2012
Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings
The meeting opened in public session at 09:33am.
Apologies were as indicated above.
2. Draft Minutes of Meeting 31 May 2012
Agreed: The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 31 May 2012 were agreed as amended.
3. Chairperson’s Business
The Chairperson reminded Members that he would be chairing a panel discussion organised by the National House Building Council on the forthcoming Housing Strategy and that Judith Cochrane and Michael Copeland were also taking part.
The Chairperson reminded Members that he would be giving out certificates on behalf of Action Mental Health at their Volunteer Recognition event in their Downpatrick unit later that afternoon.
The Chairperson advised Members that the Committee had received further contact from organisations in the double-glazing industry expressing concerns about the recently announced review. The Chairperson also advised Members that he had arranged a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive to establish the arrangements for and details of the review. The Chairperson will report back next week.
The Chairperson advised Members that the Committee has been invited to visit the area of Ballyhackamore to see what can be achieved in areas like this when the proposed Business Improvements District Legislation is agreed.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to incorporate this visit, and possibly others in relation to BIDS, into the committee’s formal consideration of the legislation in September.
The Chairperson advised Members that the Social Security Agency invited the Committee to visit the Incapacity Benefit office (Castle Court) and the Medical Examination Centre at Royston House this month.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to postpone and reconsider the visits as part of the Committee’s scrutiny of Welfare Reform in the autumn.
4. Urban Regeneration and Community Framework – Departmental Briefing
The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 9:37am:
- Ms Jenny Pyper, Deputy Secretary, Urban Regeneration and Community Development Group;
- Mr Michael Daly, Director, Urban Regeneration Strategy Directorate;
- Ms Mary McCartan, Deputy Director, Belfast Regeneration Office; and
- Mr Tony McKibben, Urban Regeneration.
The officials briefed the Committee on the Urban Regeneration and Community Framework.
Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 9:48am
Mr Alex Easton joined the meeting at 10:03am
A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues including the potential impact Welfare Reform will have on deprivation in Northern Ireland and how this might impact Voluntary and Community Groups; how the Voluntary and Community Sector are to be brought into the centre of policy development and policy delivery; concerns that the Voluntary and Community Groups who help contribute to the delivery of community development have not been consulted at an early stage when drafting the Framework; and what changes can be made to funding if groups are to be encouraged to work collaboratively to tackle the needs that have been identified.
Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 10:29am
Ms Paula Bradley left the meeting at 10:30am
The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.
The officials left the meeting at 10:33am.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a further briefing from officials once the consultation has closed, before it makes a formal response.
5. Homelessness Strategy – Departmental Briefing
The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 10:33am
- Ms Heather Cousins, Deputy Secretary DSD;
- Mr Gerry Flynn, Director of Housing & Regeneration, NIHE;
- Ms Dolores Ferran, Assistant Director Housing Policy & Services, NIHE; and
- Mr Michael Graham, Principal Officer Housing Policy and Services
Ms Paula Bradley re-joined the meeting at 10:41am
The officials briefed the Committee on the Homelessness Strategy and answered questions on a range of issues including the Committee’s concerns in respect of the growing amount of ‘hidden homeless’ people and what mechanisms are in place to track these people; the amount of resources that might be required to cope with the impact of welfare reform; what resources are currently available in terms of hostels and bed spaces; and the services and support provided in response to domestic violence.
Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 11:00am
Mr David McClarty re-joined the meeting at 11:11am
The Committee welcomed the Homelessness Strategy and acknowledged the work carried out by groups to help people deal with their difficulties and issues.
The Committee requested that it is kept updated with the action plan.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing.
The officials left the meeting at 11:36am.
Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 11:36am
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Department on the draft action plan. The Committee also agreed to arrange a briefing from stakeholders once the action plan is available and to arrange a visit to a homeless shelter/hostel at a later date.
The Committee considered correspondence from the Department in response to the Committee’s request for an update on the action currently being taken to address the issue of suicide and self-harm.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this response to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
The Committee considered a response from the Social Security Agency regarding concerns amongst stakeholders as to the limited consultation on the development of the new Employment Programme for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this response to NICVA.
The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to the on-going monitoring of Post Project Evaluations.
The Committee noted a discussion paper from the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to Maximising the Assembly’s Contribution to the NI Budget Process.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to return to this issue next week.
Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 11:39am
The Committee considered correspondence from NIFHA in relation to a number of points that were raised at the meeting of the 19 April and to ask that the Committee supports NIFHA’s request for an independent review of housing management services provided in the 34 homes in receipt of SNMA.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to wait on clarification from the Department on the continued provision of care in each of the homes should SNMA be withdrawn before responding to NIFHA.
The Committee noted the proposed statutory rule ‘The Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007 (Disclosure of Social Security Information) Regulations (NI) 2012’ which was forwarded by the Finance and Personnel Committee.
Agreed: The Committee agreed for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the Correspondence Memo.
7. Forward Work Programme
Agreed: The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme.
8. Any Other Business
A Member raised the issue of the boiler replacement scheme and questioned if there is a difference in the qualifying income level for applicants in Northern Ireland vis à vis other parts of the UK.
The Member also questioned how much it would cost to bring Northern Ireland in-line with the rest of the UK if there is a difference in the qualifying income level.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask for clarification on this issue.
9. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will take place at 10.00am on Thursday 14 June 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11:44am