Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 08 December 2011

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened in public session at 10.02am.

1. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

Mr Mark H Durkan joined the meeting at 10.03am

 2. Pensions Bill – Accelerated Passage

The Minister and the following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.03am:

  • Anne McCleary, Social Security and Policy Legislation Division
  • Gerry McCann, Social Security and Policy Legislation Division
  • Seamus Cassidy, Social Security and Policy Legislation Division

 

Mr Gregory Campbell joined the meeting at 10.09am

The Minister briefed the Committee on his intention to seek accelerated passage of the Northern Ireland Pensions Bill

Ms Judith Cochrane joined the meeting at 10.27am

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.38am

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.42am

 3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 1 December 2011

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 1 December 2011 were agreed as amended.

 4.  Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised the Committee that he met with the Minister on Tuesday 6 December and discussed a range of issues pertinent to the Committee’s work programme.

Mr Michael Copeland re-joined the meeting at 10.49am

The Chairperson also advised Members that an article on poverty is being drafted for the Law Centre and will be circulated to Members in due course.

 5.  Matters Arising

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward its amended submission on the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme to the Department.

 6. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work Experience) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 10.51am:

  • Anne McCleary, Director Social Security, Policy and Legislation; and
  • Gerry McCann, Social Security, Policy and Legislation

 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the proposed Statutory Rule until clarification from the Department is received.

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

Agreed: The Committee was content for the Rule to be made.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.58am

7.  Work Capability Assessment – Briefing by the Law Centre

The following representative joined the meeting at 10.58am:

  • Mr Les Allamby, Director, Law Centre NI

 

The representative briefed the Committee on the Work Capability Assessment.

Members shared the Law Centre’s concerns that Northern Ireland has almost double the number of Incapacity Benefit recipients per head of working people in the UK and that the transition will be felt more greatly here than anywhere else in the UK.

Members also expressed concerns about people dropping out of the system altogether if, for example, their partner is working more than 24 hours a week or with savings of over £16,000.

Some Members agreed the need for a more effective feedback loop on why appeals are upheld.

Members recognised the Law Centre’s recommendation of an independent scrutiny group in Northern Ireland to work with Professor Harrington and help with information gathering.

Members acknowledged the Law Centre’s views that resources should be more concentrated on working with those with considerable working lives ahead of them allowing those nearer retirement to be offered a much lighter touch.

Members also agreed with the recommendations that Professor Harrington could have a more active engagement with at least an annual visit to meet claimants, relevant organisations and visit ESA centres and Jobs and Benefits Offices.

Members recognised the need to ensure that proposals relating to mental health descriptors as highlighted by Harrington should be considered by the Department.

The Chairperson thanked the representative for his briefing.

The representative left the meeting at 11.53am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department regarding Professor Harrington’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment highlighting the issues raised at this meeting. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to liaise with the Department to arrange a visit to the Incapacity Benefit Assessment in the New Year.

8.  Social Fund Reform – Departmental Briefing

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 11.54am:

  • Tommy O’Reilly, Chief Executive of the Social Security Agency
  • Brian Doherty, Director of Working Age Services, Social Security Agency                             

The officials briefed the Committee on the Social Fund Reform.

Agreed: Members agreed to meet with the Oversight Board when the Ecorys research report becomes available.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 12.12pm.                     

9. Personal Independence Payment – Departmental Briefing

The following Departmental officials joined the meeting at 12.12pm:

  • Anne McCleray, Director of Social Security and Policy Legislation Division
  • John McKervill, Director of Pensions, Disability and Corporate Services
  • Sam Dempster, Social Security and Policy Legislation Division

 

Mr David McClarty left the meeting at 12.17pm
Mr Gregory Campbell left the meeting at 12.19am

The officials briefed the Committee on the Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

The Committee questioned if children would be re-assessed at 16 years old.

Some Members discussed the different profile of people in Northern receiving DLA. Members recognised that there is a much younger client base here.

Some Members questioned if the pension age increases, will claimants at pension age,  who may be in receipt of attendance allowance, have to be transferred back to PIP.

Some Members expressed concerns that people in medical need will be cut off from the system altogether.

Some Members also expressed concerns around a private company or organisation being involved in assessing claims. 

Mr Alex Easton left the meeting at 12.39pm

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 12.49pm.                     

9. Correspondence

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        

There was no other business

12. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 15 December 2011 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.  

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.50pm

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

Find Your MLA

tools-map.png

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

tools-media.png

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

tools-social.png

Keep up to date with what’s happening at the Assem

Find out more

Contact information

tools-newsletter.png

Contact us for further information about our work.

Contact us