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  1. Employment Minister Stephen Farry and officials updated the Employment Committee on funding issues facing the department, including the European Social Fund.
  2. In the first of two briefing sessions, MLAs in the Health Committee heard from unions representing the healthcare sector, as part of a review of workforce planning under Transforming Your Care.
  3. Officials from the Health Department appeared before the committee to discuss supported living for older people.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

That's all for today

Join us tomorrow morning at the earlier than usual time of 09.30 for live coverage of this week's meeting of the Culture Committee.

Members will discuss the latest developments in the funding crisis at the Belfast Festival, and the safety issues holding up redevelopment of the Casement Park GAA stadium.

Committee adjourns

Maeve McLaughlin announces the details of the committee's next meeting, at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, and adjourns for today.

Shifting services?

The committee agrees to write to the Health Department seeking clarification on any proposals it has "to shift services from hospital to community settings, or whether they have done all that they intend to do".

'Hub of care'

Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews from the Health and Social Care Board (HSC) says it can be difficult to come up with a definition for supported living such is the wide "client base".

He says there are links with the TYC concept of "home being the hub of care" and that this idea is "a durable one".

Supported living

Next on the agenda is a briefing from officials on supported living for older people.


Fearghal McKinney

"How do we transform the health service?" the SDLP's Fearghal McKinney asks, given a lack or drive, or a plan.

"I suggest we begin with inequalities," Jonathan Swallow replies.

'Zero hours'

Rosie McCorley

Sinn Fein's Rosie McCorley asks about the exploitation of women in working healthcare.

Mr Swallow gives the example of the "totally gendered" homecare workforce, in the private sector.

He says many of these workers are employed on zero-hours contracts.

"They are disciplined if they go and work for somebody else when there is no work for them," he says.

Workforce counting

Claire Ronald

In reply to a question from the DUP's Paula Bradley, Claire Ronald of the Irish Council of Trade unions (ICTU) questions the reliability of workforce data in her own speciality, physiotherapy.

"We don't even do workforce counting properly," he says.

'Shambolic outworking'

Kevin McCabe

Kevin McCabe from NIPSA says there has been no real disagreement "that a shift from acute care to community care isn't a bad thing".

He adds that the "shambolic outworking of TYC has meant that transitional funding has not even been met".


Kieran McCarthy

Kieran McCarthy asks for an assessment of the Department of Health's approach to involving staff in workforce planning.

Anne Speed says it is "abysmal, completely unengaged with the majority of its workforce".

'Is TYC dead?'

Maeve McLaughlin asks if TYC is dead.

"I think it's going to a three to six month hiatus," Jonathan Swallow replies.

He says the unions see the future for the current TYC process as "very challenging".

'Leading light'

Jonathan Swallow

Jonathan Swallow of UNISON refers to day centres and the "hub and spoke" concept of TYC.

He says day centres should be the "leading light" of the community.


Anne Speed

Anne Speed of UNISON says the unions have not been treated as equal partners when it comes to workforce planning.

She says workforce planning should be based on "the needs of each service".

Trade union briefing

Union Representatives

Trade union representatives begin their briefing on workforce planning in the context of the Transforming Your Care (TYC) health reforms.

Blood ban

Blood donation
Getty Images

Ms McLaughlin also suggests that they write to the minister regarding a

new ruling from the European Court of Justice regarding a life ban on gay men donating blood.

The committee agrees to seek clarification on the implications for the ban in Northern Ireland.

'Who's in charge?'

The committee agrees to seek clarity regarding "who is in charge" at the department following the

resignation of Health Minister Jim Wells, given that his resignation does not become effective until 11 May.

In the chair

Maeve McLauglin

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin is chairing today's meeting.

Welcome back

Our coverage resumes with the Health Committee, where MLAs are hearing from healthcare unions about workforce planning issues.

Then officials from the Health Department are briefing the committee on supported living for older people.

That's it for now

Join us after lunch, from 2pm, when the Health Committee is receiving briefings on workforce planning in the context of the Transforming Your Care reforms and supported living for older people.

Meeting adjourned

With no further questions for the minister, Chairman Robin Swann adjourns the meeting.

Sufficient resources

Claire Sugden

Independent MLA Claire Sugden asks whether the application process for match funding took into account whether organisations had sufficient resources in place, adding "in my rationale, that would probably be the first thing you would look at".

Official John Noble says while it was not part of the assessment process, groups had to indicate in their application where their match funding was coming from.

He says if organisations are unable to raise the full amount required to qualify for match funding, the department can help them to "reduce their letter of offer and objectives", "so they don't lose out".


Anna Lo

Anna Lo, the minister's Alliance Party colleague, asks about match-funding under the European Social Fund.

Ms Lo wants to know what will happen if a group does not have sufficient resources to be eligible for match-funding by the June deadline.

John Noble, from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), says organisations will need to have their own funding in place before they can accept a letter of offer.

'Time limited'

Responding to Mr McCann, the minister says his department is "always willing to learn lessons in relation to communication" but were not "dissembling in terms of the reality around the funding allocations we make."

He says the department has been "clear as to the time-limited nature of the funding that's presented" but says perhaps they could be more pro-active in warning groups the funding is coming to an end.


Fra McCann

Sinn Fein's Fra McCann says "most groups deal with a cocktail of funding and if one piece of that falls, it affects the others".

He says there is need for better communication between the department and community groups, especially when it comes to explaining funding decisions.

Education maintenance allowance

Thomas Buchanan

Thomas Buchanan, the DUP committee deputy chairman, asks the minister about the impact of the EMA (education maintenance allowance) payments on training course retention rates.

Mr Farry says the retention of young people on these schemes is "integral to success" so it is "a natural incentive to be paying out some type of allowance, in that regard".

Youth Council

Mr Farry talks about the Youth Council and Bytes programme, which provides training in IT to young people not involved in education, with the aim of increasing their employment opportunities.

While, he says, some groups will no longer receive European Social Fund money, there will be "fresh funding opportunities coming up" as part of initiatives like the Economic Inactivity Strategy and United Youth Programme.


EU flag
Getty Images

In recent months, the

committee has been critical of Mr Farry's handling of the European Social Fund.

In February, the committee said it was "appalled" at the process for awarding money from the fund.

It said many experienced groups had been ruled ineligible.

At the time, the minister said his department had amended the process and created a "level playing field".


Mr Farry says the European Social Fund was oversubscribed, at a rate of 1.8 applicants for every successful claim.

For this reason, he says, there will be groups with important programmes that do not receive funding.

£110m funding announced

Stephen Farry

Employment Minister Stephen Farry begins the briefing by addressing the European Social Fund.

He says the bulk of allocations, around £110m, was announced at the end of March.

His department hopes to use the fund to help over 10,000 young people who are not in education, employment or training, along with more than 7000 people with disabilities and approximately 2300 families, particularly through the Community Family Support Programme.

The funding has been available from 1 April 2015.

In the chair

Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann is chairing the meeting.

Good morning

Hello and welcome to this morning's coverage of the Employment Committee.

Before the committee today is minister Stephen Farry, joined be officials, to discuss funding issues, including programmes such as the European Social Fund.