In response to a question from Alex Attwood the Minister stated that the review panel had started its work and gave "assurance that this will be a proper and thorough process and that the panel will have full access to all of the over 100 submissions that came in from a range of organisations and individuals."
There were a number of questions regarding the Steps 2 Success programme (AQO 5308/11-15, AQO 5309/11-15, AQO 5313/11-15, AQO 5320/11-15). The Minister advised that procurement for the Steps 2 Success employment programme is underway and stage 1 has been completed with stage 2 due to launch in February. When challenged to provide assurances that there will be no misuese of public funds the Minister stated:
"I can assure him that we are taking the issue of combating fraud and the issue of quality extremely seriously. That applies both to the issue of the nature of organisations that will, in the future, deliver contracts on our behalf and to the nature of their interaction with individuals."On the issues of Youth Unemployment, the Minister stated that (in his view) "my Department is meeting the youth guarantee through its programmes and policies."
During topical questions, the Minister tackled questions regarding skills gaps, Magee Campus, the proposed merger of Stranmillis/QUB, Agency Workers Directive, Software Testers' Academy.
You can read the full transcript on our website.