Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 14 January 2014
Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings
Apologies are noted above.
Declaration of interests
No members declared an interest in relation to the agenda items.
2. Adoption of Previous Minutes
Minutes of the Meeting held 12 November 2013
Agreed: The minutes of the above meeting were agreed.
3. Matters Arising
The Chair welcomed two new Group Members, Anna Lo, MLA as a permanent replacement for Chris Lyttle MLA and Dr Fran Barlet from the Community Foundation NI, as a permanent replacement for Avila Kilmurray.
The Chair acknowledged the support and contribution provided to the Group by Chris Lyttle and Avila Kilmurray.
Action Point – Letter of thanks to be issued to Chris Lyttle and Avila Kilmurray for their contribution to ACC.
4. ACC “Get Involved” Upper Bann Feedback
The Chair referred the group to the feedback from the Upper Bann Get Involved event which took place on Friday 8th November 2013. He noted the fact that, overall, the feedback from the participants was excellent with:
100% of the participants stating that, as a result of attending the event, they had improved their knowledge and understanding of the Assembly; and
100% of the participants stating that, as a result of attending the event, they were more likely to engage with the Assembly and its Members in the future.
5. ACC Training Events
a) ACC Forward Work Programme
The Chair referred the group to forthcoming events scheduled in the 2014 Forward Work Programme, highlighting the following:
Pensioners’ Parliament – Tuesday 21st January 2014
Louise Close provided an overview of the event noting that:
In co-operation with the Age Sector Platform and on behalf of the 300,000 pensioners living in Northern Ireland, 90 individuals from across the province would be gathering in the Senate Chamber for a debate centred on three motions which emerged from last year’s Pensioners Parliament;
The event, which would be presided over by the Speaker and involve four Ministers, would provide an excellent opportunity to encourage older people to learn about the procedures of plenary, to participate in the process and to have their voice heard by key decision makers; and
Assistance and expertise is being provided from the Business Office and it was hoped that the event would encourage more robust engagement by older people with the legislative processes of the NI Assembly.
Action Point - Postmaster to issue to all MLAs advising of the details in relation to the Pensioners’ Parliament.
“Get Involved” Lagan Valley – Friday 28th February 2014
The Chair advised that the arrangements for this event were now well under way and that he was delighted to note that:
A full complement of MLAs had confirmed their availability to attend the event with support from Jonathan Craig, Paul Givan, Brenda Hale, Dolores Kelly, Trevor Lunn, Jennifer McCann and Basil McCrea all committed to attend the event; and
That a very positive response had been reflected in the fact that, to date already, 44 delegates from a wide cross section of community and voluntary organisations had registered to attend.
International Women’s Day 10th March 2014
The Chair noted that this event would be discussed later in the meeting.
Ethnic Minorities Parliament 29th April 2014
The Chair noted that:
In order to provide a forum for the increased participation of ethnic minority communities in the political life of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Centre for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) had proposed the establishment of a Black and Minorities Ethnic (BME) Parliament;
The Speaker had been very supportive of this initiative regarding it as a strong example of participative democracy and agreed to host an Ethnic Minorities Parliament on 29th April; and
It was hoped that this event would increase the confidence of BME community members to speak up, to improve their knowledge of rights and entitlements and to develop their awareness of, and familiarity with, the political institutions and processes in Northern Ireland.
The Chair reminded the group that they were always encouraged to, where possible, attend these community based events.
b.) Outreach Attendance at External Events
The Chair referred the group to a table which reflected the attendance figures at Community Outreach external bespoke events. He was content to note that Assembly Community Connect staff continued to receive regular requests from external organisation for support with training and education on parliamentary issues.
The Balmoral Show 2014
The Chair asked the group if they had any comments or suggestions to make in relation to future ACC events.
Dr Barlet asked if the Assembly would be participating in the 2014 Balmoral Show. Susie Brown confirmed that, mindful of both the current economic climate and the timing of the European elections, she was conducting a feasibility study in order to determine whether participation in this year’s Balmoral Show would be recommended.
Action Point – Feasibility study to be undertaken in respect of Assembly participation in the 2014 Balmoral Show.
c.) ACC Events Attendance Statistics
The Chair referred the group to a table which reflected the attendance figures at Assembly Community Connect training sessions and exhibition involvement. He noted that, since April 2013, over 7000 people had either engaged with Secretariat staff at an ACC event or participated in an ACC training programme.
[5.47pm Alban Maginness joined the meeting]
d.) The Corrymeela Group
The Chair advised the group that the Assembly had recently formed a partnership with Corrymeela Community Group and invited Susie Brown to provide an overview of this connection.
Susie advised the group that Corrymeela had recently received funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Dublin for a programme called “Stop Peace Unravelling”, the objective of which was to promote anti-sectarianism by supporting participants in the advancement of tolerance, cultural diversity and the construction of a shared sense of identity.
As an integral part of this programme, and in association with Corrymeela, the NI Assembly would be delivering 13 workshops to participants from 5 target groups and that the feedback from these sessions would be channelled back to the funder. The groups identified would be:
Young people (16 – 25)
Community/ women’s groups
She noted that the Assembly was delighted to play a role in facilitating such an important piece of work and the timings of this programme perfectly complemented the scheduled 2014 ACC training sessions.
Action Point – Group to be kept updated on the progress of the Corrymeela training sessions
a.) Business in the Community
The Chair noted that, in order to assist MLAs to gain an insight into and a better understanding of how community and voluntary groups deliver their programmes, the Assembly Community Connect Fellowship Programme had been developed.
The aim of this programme was to provide opportunities for MLAs to spend time experiencing the full range of activities and services that the organisation provided, to meet with the policy and decision makers and to discuss how best to engage with the Assembly.
In respect of the same, he highlighted the fact that Sandra Overend had been invited to spend time with Business in the Community (BITC). He confirmed that a visit had been arranged for 31st January, the details of which would be shared with the group at a later date.
b.) Northern Ireland Environment Link
The Chair advised the group that the Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) had now also submitted a programme in respect of a Fellowship visit and that while he himself would be attending, he also wished for the invite to be extended to all MLAs.
Ms Lo noted that the organisation had just appointed a new CEO whom she was due to meet. She added that she too would check her diary and confirm if a Fellowship visit could be arranged.
Action Point – An invite to engage in the NIEL Fellowship Programme to be extended to all MLAs.
Action Point – Miss Lo to confirm her availability in respect of participating in the NIEL Fellowship.
7. Options to Increase Engagement with ACC
The Chair reminded the group that they had agreed to focus on engaging with the following three categories throughout 2014:
In relation to the same, the group reviewed a paper that Susie Brown, Group Secretary, had drafted in order to look at ways most conducive to engaging with, supporting, encouraging and enhancing the work of these sectors.
There followed a discussion relating to the recommendations in relation to increasing the membership of these target groups within Assembly Community Connect via specific marketing strategies and developing links via partnerships, training and events.
Chinese New Year
Anna Lo highlighted the fact that the 2014 Chinese New Year celebrations had been scheduled to commence on 31st January and proposed that ACC should, if possible, participate in this event.
Louise Close noted that, whilst an event in respect of the same was currently being organised through the Speaker's Office, ACC would also be check the feasibility of hosting an exhibition stand at the City Hall celebrations.
Action Point – Anna Lo to forward the details relating to the 2014 Chinese New Year events.
Research and Information Services Paper
Electoral Registration Statistics and Voting Patterns
The Chair referred the group to a comprehensive research paper drafted by Dr Raymond Russell, NIA Research and Information Services.
Susie Brown guided the group through the information provided in this paper, noting that, reflective in the Turnout by Constituency statistics, there appeared to be a correlation between voting patterns and attendance at Outreach constituency Get Involved events.
Dr Barlet highlighted the fact that members of the Romanian and Bulgarian communities would be eligible to vote at the next elections in 2016.
Action Point – Research Paper - Appendix I – Countries whose Citizens are eligible to vote in Northern Ireland - Details to be clarified as requested by Anna Lo.
8. Connecting Women with the Assembly
The Chair reminded the group that at previous meetings they had discussed the challenge of engaging women with politics and invited Susie Brown to present a paper she had drafted in respect of the provision of proposals to address this issue.
Susie highlighted the following:
That the objective of ACC strategy on this matter was to formulate plans which would specifically encourage more women from the community sector to become involved in the political spectrum without duplicating the work of other organisations.
That the Houses of Parliament Outreach staff had launched a “Women in Parliament” outreach programme designed to support women's engagement with Parliament and were currently seeking partners to help deliver a range of activities and resources in respect of the same.
That, on 9th December ACC staff had attended a “Women in Parliament session at Greenway Women's Centre to investigate if there were any elements of the programme that could be adopted for use by ACC.
That ACC subsequently hosted a focus group involving local women's group and Westminster outreach staff to discuss options of adapting this programme to meet the needs of this sector in Northern Ireland.
The conclusion reached at the focus group was that, whilst the positive work of “Women in Parliament” was highly commendable, similar work was already being delivered by organisations in Northern Ireland and that, rather than develop a reflective policy, it was considered more valuable that ACC should instead provide support to the work already being conducted here.
A representative from Politics Plus attended the meeting in order to assess the main barriers perceived by women as preventing them from entering the political arena.
It was requested that women's groups should be afforded greater access to engage with MLAs, an area of work which ACC would aim to progress.
The outcome of these discussions led to the following recommendations:
a) participation in International Women's Day – 10 March 2014
b) ACC to target specific women's groups and to develop channels of support most conducive to facilitating the work they currently undertake.
c) ACC to support the educational element of the Political Pop-Up Academy.
d) In conjunction with Politics Plus ACC to investigate the possibility of developing mentoring opportunities between MLAs and women in the community.
Agreed: Group agreed to implement proposed recommendations.
Kate Clifford raised the following points:
That, as many local women, ethnic minority and disability groups were funded by the Department of Social Development (DSD), it would be helpful to liaise with this department.
Action point – ACC to liaise with Department of Social Development in respect of three key groups identified for support in 2014.
That, although under DSD there is a contract for the women's sector, women in rural areas were often lacking in support and, as a consequence, felt much more removed from parliament from their inner city counterparts.
Susie asked if she could help identify such groups for attention and support.
Action Point – Kate Clifford to source rural women's community groups and organisations for incorporation into ACC work.
9. Any Other Business
Susie Brown proposed the time of the ACC Group meetings be brought forward to 4.00pm as a more suitable time for attendees.
Agreed: Group agreed to reschedule future meeting for 4.00pm
10. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The date and time of the next meeting was agreed as:
4.00pm on Tuesday 18th March 2014