HC Deb 24 May 1976 vol 912 cc67-70W
Mr. Bradford

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland precisely which of the recommendations of the Finer Report have been implemented in Northern Ireland, and what is the pre cise nature of those which he hopes to implement in the near future.

Mr. Concannon,

pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 30th April 1976; Vol. 910, c. 211], gave the following answer:

Following is the information:

  1. 5 (Part)—The Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland has abandoned the policy of encouraging women to take maintenance proceedings in favour of a policy of explanation.
  2. 56—Statistical data relating to one-parent families receiving supplementary benefit will be published in the 1975 Report of the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland.
  3. 119—Lone parents under 18 receiving supplementary benefit in their own right who are not householders now receive automatically the full adult non-householder scale rate.
  4. 121—Supplementary benefit disregards were increased from 17th November 1975 and the part-time earnings disregard for one-parent families is to be increased again, from £4 to £6, as soon as possible.
  5. 122—Lone fathers who have sole care of dependent children under 16 living with them and who are receiving supplementary benefit are no longer required to register for work.
  6. 123—While not accepting the terms of this recommendation the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland has had regard to it and proposes a number of changes in policy and procedure which are designed to ease the operation of the "cohabitation rule".
  7. 157—When considering the amount of rent which can be accepted as reasonable the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland gives special consideration to the difficulties of one-parent families in finding accommodation.
  8. 158–161—Rent is paid direct to the landlord more readily when the householder is receiving supplementary benefit and is experiencing difficulty in paying the rent.
  9. 170—The Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland takes the initiative in advising claimants with mortgage liabilities that the building society might verify payment of interest only.
  10. 174—When claims for exceptional needs payments are being considered, the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland takes account of the special difficulties of one-parent families in finding a home.
  11. 178—A Draft Industrial Relations (NI) Order, laid before Parliament on 11th May 1976, provides, among other things, that people working for at least 16 hours a week with one employer and people employed continuously at least eight hours a week for five years or more by the same employer will he protected by the contracts of employment, redundancy payments and 69 unfair dismissals legislation. It is the intention that the position of part-time workers in Northern Ireland will be on a par with the position of part-time workers in Great Britain.
  12. 180—It is the Government's intention to bring forward shortly proposals to provide, among other things, that there should be statutory minimum paid maternity leave and reinstatement in the same or a similar job. Such provisions would match those enacted for Great Britain by the Employment Protection Act 1975.
  13. 181—In Great Britain a publication—"Women at Work, A Statistical Survey"—was produced in 1974. The Northern Ireland Department of Manpower Services is currently investigating the demand for a similar booklet in Northern Ireland.
  14. 182—In Northern Ireland the Employment Service already has a number of officers, distributed throughout the Employment Service network, who specialise in women's employment needs. Employment advisory officers are being specifically trained to cope with the special needs of various groups in the community, including women who have to combine care of children with employment. An essential part of the development of the Employment Service is an extension of its contact with other relevant supporting agencies including social services departments.
  15. 185—Employers who are able to show that they are satisfactorily providing for their own training needs are able to secure remission of the levy payable to their industrial training board. It will be for employers to demonstrate to the boards that they have indeed satisfactorily identified the training needs of their women employees no less than those of men and make proper provision for them.
  16. 186–187—Under the training schemes of the Department of Manpower Services in Northern Ireland provision is made for training women. These training opportunities are widely publicised in the Press and by leaflets. Where necessary, arrangements are made to enable trainees to cope with family responsibilities.
  17. 188–230—These recommendations on the personal social services are generally in line with the Government thinking for Northern Ireland, and progress in their implementation, which is largely the responsibility of the health and social services, the education and library boards and voluntary organisations, is being made within available manpower and financial resources and having regard to other priorities. On specific recommendations the following information is relevant:
  18. 194—Article 15 of the Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972 already covers this point.
  19. 195—There are existing liaison arrangements which should ensure that the division of responsibility between the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland 70 and the social services Departments of health and social services boards is clear.
  20. 205—The Northern Ireland legislation governing private fostering does not need to be amended as this point is already covered in Section I of the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1968.
  21. 225—Mother and baby units cannot be provided at present in Armagh prison—which is the only prison for females in Northern Ireland—but the provision of such units has been taken into account in the planning of the proposed new female prison at Maghaberry.
  22. 228–230—These comments are in line with Government thinking on family planning and close contact will be. maintained on any follow-up action to be taken in Great Britain.
  23. Of the housing recommendations—132–170—in the report, the following, which are relevant to Northern Ireland and suitable for action by either the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, are or will be accepted:
  24. 132—Demographic changes should be taken into account in assessing housing needs.
  25. 133—Links between social services departments and housing departments should be established or maintained.
  26. 140—Housing advice should be given by properly trained staff.
  27. 142—Homeless families should be kept together.
  28. 144—Authorities should be alert to prospective homelessness.
  29. 148–149—There should be no discrimination against one parent families.
  30. 153—In matrimonial breakdown the tenancy should normally go to the party with custody of the children.
  31. 164—When a marriage breaks down pressure should not be put on the person to whom the tenancy has been transferred to pay off debts for arrears of rent incurred by the former tenant.

Many of the recommendations are not appropriate to Northern Ireland because of different laws and administrative structures for housing and social services. Other recommendations will be considered in the preparation of new housing legislation for the private rented sector.