Search

2 December 2016

International Day of Persons with Disability

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Robin Newton MLA pictured with representatives from the Cedar Foundation, the Assembly Charity of the Year 2016
The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Robin Newton MLA pictured with representatives from the Cedar Foundation, the Assembly Charity of the Year 2016   

The Northern Ireland Assembly held an event in Parliament Buildings on Friday 2 December, with the Cedar Foundation to mark the International Day of Persons with Disability. The Assembly is committed to promoting positive attitudes towards people with disabilities and encouraging participation by people with disabilities in public life. 

Friday’s event included a presentation on ‘How the Assembly Works’ and marked the beginning of a joint work programme between the Assembly and the Cedar Foundation. The programme will aim to encourage people with learning disabilities to engage more with the Assembly. The programme will be formally launched during Assembly Week, 20 – 24 March 2017. 

The Cedar Foundation works to provide opportunities, choice and inclusion for those living with disabilities and is the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Charity of the Year 2016. 

Today’s event is part of the Assembly Commission’s wider work on disability. One of the Commission’s priorities is to ensure that Parliament Buildings is a welcoming space for everyone; visitors, staff and MLAs alike. 

Parliament Buildings was built in 1932, so, of course, over the years many adjustments have had to be made to make it more accessible.  As it is a listed building, staff work closely with the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities when making any physical changes. In recent years, to provide wheelchair access at the front of the building, an external ramp was also installed at the entrance, and further work is currently under way to improve accessibility at this entrance, including the provision of ramped internal access. 

The construction of Parliament Buildings 1928 - 1932
The construction of Parliament Buildings 1928 - 1932

As well as these physical changes, the Commission has also worked with many disability organisations to improve facilities for visitors with disabilities.  In 2011, the Northern Ireland Assembly became the first legislature in the UK to be awarded the Action on Hearing Loss ‘Louder than Words’ best practice charter mark.  Hearing loops have been installed in locations throughout the Building. 

We also have a Changing Places toilet facility, and a Quiet Room, which provides an autism-friendly space for visitors.  For visitors taking tours, a Braille tour guide is available as well as a signed tour, and visitors can contact staff in advance to request a hearing interpreter for their tour.  In addition, eleven members of staff are trained autism champions, so people can contact them ahead of, or during, their visit. 

Our Education Service has also worked with young people with disabilities through its work with Assembly Committees and the Northern Ireland Youth Congress.  You can read their article on the International Day of Persons with Disability here.

We have policies and guidance in place to ensure that people with disabilities can participate in the work of the Assembly.  At the moment, we’re currently working on sign language guidance, and we’ve also recently signed up to the Equality Commission’s ‘Every Customer Counts’ initiative and its Mental Health Charter.  

Our Disability Action Plan 2016-21 sets out what the Assembly Commission plans to do over the next five years to meet its duties under disability legislation. 

You might also be interested in the Research Matters blog from the Assembly Research and Information Service (RaISe) which discusses some of the resources produced by RaISe in this mandate and the previous one in support of the Assembly's scrutiny of disability policy and legislation.  

We are aware that more can always be done, so we will continue to work with individuals and disability organisations to identify opportunities for the future.  

18 November 2016

Education Committee and Local School Children ‘Lend a Hand’ to Support Anti-Bullying week 2016


This week the Committee for Education, in partnership with the Assembly Education Service, launched a special interactive art initiative as part of a range of Committee activities to highlight Anti-Bullying Week 2016.

MLAs and school groups visiting Parliament Buildings this week were asked to contribute to the artwork by cutting around a signed outline of their hand and attaching it to a canvas to quite literally ‘Lend a Hand’ to support Anti-Bullying Week 2016. 

Pupils from Maine Integrated Primary School were the first to lend their support, with Jamie Woodward (aged 8 yrs) and Freya Brady (aged 7 yrs) becoming the stars of the week as they helped the Committee Chairperson, Barry McElduff, and Deputy Chairperson, Chris Lyttle, to promote this important initiative. 



As the week went on, MLAs and visiting school groups came out in force, and the Great Hall in Parliament Buildings became a sea of colourful hands, with even the Minister of Education stopping by to offer his support. 




By Wednesday, we were almost running out of space (next year we’ll get two boards), but it was amazing to see so many of our students and MLAs come together to support this very important cause. 

On Friday, pupils from Cairnshill and Holy Child Primary Schools were the
final groups to 'Lend their hands' to the artwork.

Pupils from Holy Child Primary School  

Pupils from Cairnshill Primary School



The Committee also visited Ashfield Boys' High School in Belfast this week, where they heard evidence from the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum and met with students who have been active in championing anti-bullying initiatives in their school. 

Pictured are (l-r) Sam Kelly, Year 14, Head Boy, Celine McStravick, Chair of Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF); Committee for Education Chair, Mr Barry McElduff; Rosanna Jack, Regional Co-ordinator, NIABF;  and Rhys Jenkins, Year 9, Ashfield Boys’ High School Belfast.



The Committee wrote individual pledges to highlight what they intend to do to help stop bullying.


The Committee Chairperson, Barry McElduff, and Committee Member Rosemary Barton were also briefed on the ‘Stronger Together’ eBook, written and illustrated by students at St Ita’s Primary School in Carryduff. The P5 class devised the storyline through a series of workshops based on anti-bullying and emotional well-being and had many discussions on how they wanted the story to unfold and to be seen by children and young people all over Northern Ireland.  



All in all, a very busy and successful week. The Committee for Education and the Assembly Education Service would like to take this opportunity to thank all the MLAs and school groups who got involved this week. 



17 November 2016

Assembly Charity of the Year Celebrates 75th Anniversary

The Cedar Foundation’s calendar this year has definitely been a busy one!  Becoming the Northern Ireland Assembly staff charity of the year back in October, the charity has also been spending the past 10 months celebrating its 75th anniversary.  To celebrate this special milestone, and to raise awareness of the charity, Parliament Buildings has been lit blue for the past two evenings.  Special lighting effects on the building have transformed the iconic white Portland stone into the corporate colours of the Cedar Foundation.



The Cedar Foundation develops and delivers a range of services throughout Northern Ireland to enable people with disabilities to get the most out of life and be fully included in their communities.  The charity’s services are designed around individual needs of each person, supporting children and adults with disabilities to participate in all aspects of community life.

Assembly staff are organising a range of activities over the next year to raise money for Cedar, and to increase awareness of the issues affecting those with disabilities.

The services delivered by Cedar could not continue without the invaluable support from local organisations and the general public.  To find out more about the charity, including ways to make a donation, or how to volunteer, please visit: http://www.cedar-foundation.org/support-cedar/





8 November 2016

The Committee for Education - What does it do and how does it work?

What is the purpose of the Committee?

The Committee for Education was established to advise and assist the Minister for Education on a range of matters within his/her responsibility. These matters include but are not limited to: curriculum and learning, raising standards and improving schools, school admissions policy and the development of transfer policy and child protection and safeguarding.  

An important element of the Committee’s work is to undertake a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Education. It also plays a key part in the consideration and development of legislation.

How does it work?

At the beginning of each new Assembly session, the Committee meets to discuss and develop a forward work programme. This is an opportunity for Members to examine some of the Department’s key areas of responsibility, and to research matters that are of particular interest to Members or that they believe may require further scrutiny. 

Once the Committee has established its work programme, it will look at how it will approach each issue. This could involve consulting with relevant stakeholders, establishing their concerns and determining how best these issues should be tackled and resolved. The Committee will also examine all legislation brought forward by the Department of Education and advise on what it believes is necessary to ensure that all laws are robust and fit for purpose. Throughout the year, the Committee will also examine and monitor Departmental policy, conduct inquiries and produce reports into areas of interest.

A further important component of the Committee’s work is to analyse the Department’s budget and proposed spending. The Committee does this through what are known as ‘Quarterly Monitoring Rounds’, when the Department will prepare and produce reports in June, October and January, outlining its expenditure. The reports detail how the Department of Education has spent its monies to date, if there is any unused money that could be reallocated to the overall Executive budget, if it intends to make any spending changes or if it needs to bid for additional funding.

The Committee invites the Minister and Departmental Officials to attend meetings on a regular basis to update and inform Committee Members on the implementation of current and future policies. This is also an important opportunity for Committee Members to directly question the Minister and Departmental Officials on their work. 

Who sits on the Committee?

There are 11 MLAs on the Committee for Education

  • Committee Chairperson: Mr Barry McElduff (Sinn Fein) West Tyrone
  • Deputy Chairperson: Mr Chris Lyttle (Alliance Party) East Belfast
  • Mrs Rosemary Barton (Ulster Unionist Party) Fermanagh and South Tyrone
  • Mr David Hilditch (Democratic Unionist Party) East Antrim
  • Ms Carla Lockhart (Democratic Unionist Party) Upper Bann
  • Mr Philip Logan (Democratic Unionist Party) North Antrim
  • Lord Morrow (Democratic Unionist Party) Fermanagh and South Tyrone
  • Ms Jennifer McCann (Sinn Fein) West Belfast
  • Mr Colin McGrath (Social Democratic and Labour Party) South Down
  • Mrs Sandra Overend (Ulster Unionist Party) Mid Ulster
  • Ms Catherine Seeley (Sinn Fein) Upper Bann   

How can I get involved with the work of the Committee?

There are lots of ways you can get keep up to date with the work of the Committee:

Attend
The Committee for Education meets each Wednesday when the Assembly is in session. Check the Business Diary to get the time, location and agenda for each meeting.

Watch/listen live
You can watch the Committee’s meetings live via our TV website, or if you missed it, the video/audio file will be available for viewing by the next working day.

Subscribe to the Committee’s newsletter 
Subscribe
Subscribe to the Committee’s newsletter and get a weekly update on the work of the Committee, direct to your inbox.

Give evidence
Committees carry out inquiries into specific areas of interest. You can contribute to any of the Committee’s Inquiries by providing evidence during the consultation period.  Information on how and when to do this will be advertised in newspapers, via the Committee’s twitter page, in the weekly Committee newsletter and on the Committee’s webpage.

Follow
You can follow the Committee on Twitter ‎@NIACfEd

Contact

Write to the Committee Clerk:         

Peter McCallion
Room 428 Parliament Buildings, 
Ballymiscaw, Stormont, 
Belfast, BT4 3XX  



You can also contact any of the Committee Members directly. 

1 November 2016

The Committee on Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs - What does it do and how does it work?

What is the purpose of the Committee?

The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is a new Committee, established just after the 2016 elections. As well as having responsibility for farming and rural issues; the environment and environmental policy is now part of the new Committee’s overall remit. The Committee is further tasked with advising and assisting the Minister on all matters within their responsibility.

An important element of the Committee’s work is to undertake a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. It also plays a key part in the consideration and development of legislation.

How does it work?

At the beginning of each new Assembly session, the Committee meets to discuss and develop a forward work programme. This is an opportunity for Members to examine some of the Department’s key areas of responsibility, and to research matters that are of particular interest to Members or that they believe may require further scrutiny.

Once the Committee has established its work programme, it will look at how it will approach each issue. This could involve consulting with relevant stakeholders, establishing their concerns and determining how best these issues should be tackled and resolved. The Committee will also examine all legislation brought forward by the Department and advise on what it believes is necessary to ensure that all laws are robust and fit for purpose. Throughout the year, the Committee will also examine and monitor Departmental policy, conduct inquiries and produce reports into areas of interest.

A further important component of the Committee’s work is to analyse the Department’s budget and proposed spending. The Committee does this through what are known as ‘Quarterly Monitoring Rounds’, when the Department will prepare and produce reports in June, October and January, outlining its expenditure. The reports detail how the Department has spent its monies to date, if there is any unused money that could be reallocated to the overall Executive budget, if it intends to make any spending changes or if it needs to bid for additional funding.

The Committee invites the Minister and Departmental Officials to attend meetings on a regular basis to update and inform Committee Members on the implementation of current and future policies. This is also an important opportunity for Committee Members to directly question the Minister and Departmental Officials on their work.


Who sits on the Committee?

There are 10 MLAs on the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Committee. The Membership is currently:

Committee Chairperson: Ms Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Féin) East Londonderry
Deputy Chairperson: Mr Oliver McMullan (Sinn Féin) East Antrim
Mr Sydney Anderson (Democratic Unionist Party) Upper Bann
Mr Maurice Bradley (Social Democratic and Labour Party) East Londonderry
Mr David Ford (Alliance Party) South Antrim
Mr William Irwin (Democratic Unionist Party) Newry and Armagh
Mr Edwin Poots (Democratic Unionist Party) Lagan Valley
Mr Patsy MGlone (Social Democratic and Labour Party) Mid Ulster
Mr Harold McKee (Ulster Unionist Party) South Down
Mr Robin Swann (Ulster Unionist Party) North Antrim

How can I get involved with the work of the Committee?

There are lots of ways you can get keep up to date with the work of the Committee.

Attend

The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs meets each Thursday at 10.00am, when the Assembly is in session.

Watch/listen live

You can watch the Committee’s meetings live via our website, or if you missed it, the video/audio file will be available for viewing by the next working day.

Subscribe to the Committee’s newsfeed

Subscribe

Subscribe to the Committee’s newsfeed and get a weekly update on the work of the Committee, direct to your inbox.

Give evidence

Committees carry out inquiries into specific areas of interest. You can contribute to any of the Committee’s Inquiries by providing evidence during the consultation period.  Information on how and when to do this will be advertised in newspapers, via the Committee’s twitter page, in the weekly Committee newsletter and on the Committee’s webpage.

Follow

You can follow the Committee on Twitter ‎@NIAAgriEnvRA

Contact

Write to the Committee Clerk:

Stella McArdle
Room243, Parliament Buildings,
Ballymiscaw, Stormont,
Belfast, BT4 3XX

Tel: (028) 90 521475

Email: Committee.AgriEnvRural@niassembly.gov.uk  

You can also contact any of the Committee Members.