Question Time: Social Development 19 November 2013

First up for the Minister of Social Development, Nelson McCausland, was a question put by Chirs Hazzard to outline the pilot schemes his Department has introduced since May 2011.

The Minister stated that his Department has introduced the following pilot schemes since May 2011:
  • the boiler replacement scheme;
  • the affordable warmth scheme;
  • the pay-as-you-go pilot; 
  • the empty homes pilot; 
  • the FirstBuyNI scheme; 
  • the affordable home loans fund; 
  • six Building Successful Communities pilots; 
  • the Resurgam social enterprise pilot project; 
  • the Tyrone/Donegal partnership virtual incubation and software training academy (VISTA); 
  • the Development Trusts Northern Ireland community asset transfer;
  • & two signature projects through the OFMDFM Delivering Social Change programme, namely nurture units and social enterprise incubation units.
In response to David Hilditch, the Minister explained that his Department received £19 million of loan funding from the Treasury over 2012-13 and funding at that level could provide up to 620 new homes, including bringing up to 150 empty homes back into use as affordable homes.

Tom Elliot asked the Minister to explain the delay in issuing Housing Executive Maintenance Contracts.
In May 2013, the chairman of the Housing Executive advised me that an internal investigation had indicated that an estimated £18 million had been overpaid to planned maintenance contractors.  In June 2013, following evidence of substantial overcharging, the board of the Housing Executive commissioned an external independent review of how the organisation had been dealing with planned maintenance contracts over the past five years.  It advised that until the issue was satisfactorily resolved, the four planned maintenance contractors would not receive any new contracts from the Housing Executive.
The Housing Executive's board has asked for three things to be in place before moving forward to make appointments:  an agreement to repay any overpayments found to have been made; an agreement on what additional sample inspections are to be done; and an agreement on how the sample inspection results will be applied to allow a robust estimate of the financial position to be reached.
The first agreement is in place, and the Housing Executive is waiting for a response from the contractors on the proposals made on points 2 and 3.  If agreement is reached over the next two weeks, the Housing Executive's board will be in a position to appoint contractors to the framework at its November meeting.
In a response to a question put by Sydney Anderson, the Minister stated:
The Housing Executive has advised me that it does not routinely provide assistance with garden maintenance for its tenants.  That is in line with the tenancy agreement, which advises that the tenant is responsible for the: “Care and upkeep of gardens and hedges”.
During topical questions the Minister highlighted the importance the Housing Rights Service plays in helping those who face the prospect of their house being repossessed. The Minister also tackled questions regarding energy costs, the Welfare Reform Bill and public realm funding for Newtownards.
You can view the full transcript from Question Time on our website.

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