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28 April 2015

Question Time: Social Development - Monday 27 April 2015


Mike Nesbitt asked Mervyn Storey, Minister for Social Development, on what dates, since 23 December 2014, did he or his officials meet with representatives of Sinn Fein to discuss welfare reform or any associated element relating to the Stormont House Agreement.The Minister stated " In the weeks immediately following the Stormont Castle agreement on welfare reform on 19 December 2014, the focus of my work and that of my officials was on the development of an Executive paper which set out the main terms of the agreement and the associated costs. Sinn Féin representatives were consulted on the content of the draft Executive paper as part of the normal consultation process. That paper was subsequently agreed at the Executive meeting on 22 January 2015". and Minister also confirmed that discussions continued during April but the level of engagement between the Minister and his officials and Sinn Féin representatives has reduced significantly.

The Minister was also asked what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues to ensure there is a strategic focus on how departmental cuts are impacting on services provided by the voluntary and community sector during Oral Question time. The Minister revealed, "my Department is required to implement efficiencies in 2015-16, including in services provided by the voluntary and community sector. I undertook a series of formal and informal discussions with ministerial colleagues and MLAs on the proposed allocations to particular funding streams. A transparent, robust approach was undertaken aimed at maximising the delivery of high-quality services to the most disadvantaged and to ensure that available funding was prioritised against the highest-quality projects, where successful outcomes could make a difference to people's lives".

During Topicals Questions the Minister answered questions on, Empty Homes Stategy, Urban Regeneration Cuts in Mid Ulster, whether his Department plans, again this year, to provide a grant to Belfast Pride and how much the benefit uptake programme generated last year.