06/02/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Welcome to Stormont Today. As the Queen looks back on 60 years on the


throne, she can rest assured that there were a kind words for most of


the house. I am convinced that everybody in


Northern Ireland will respect be significant role she has played


over such a long period of time. part of the Republican tradition


and I represent, I wish to acknowledge the role of the Queen.


Our Northern Irish firms being smart -- snubbed for wards?


All of the judges are from the public a violent -- the Republic of


Ireland. With me throughout tonight, heather


Crawford of the world carriage of speech therapists. -- and Royal


College of Speech therapists. Ian Paisley is in intensive care at


the Ulster Hospital. At the former First Minister and long-term leader


of the DUP was admitted to A&E yesterday. His wife, Baroness


Paisley, has described it as a difficult time. It has been the


talk of Stormont today. Whilst the politicians have been getting on


with the business on their diary, all of the talk has not been about


-- has been about the former First Minister. He is in intensive care,


it is said it might be a heart issue but we don't have any more


details. It is not the first time he has been ill. If you think back


to the political negotiations that led up to the power-sharing deal


between the DUP and Sinn Fein, Dr Paisley was involved in some of


those negotiations in Kent. He had a period where he disappeared from


view for a while and later he revealed that he had been, as he


put it, walking in death's shadow. Last year it was confirmed that he


had been fitted with a heart pacemaker after falling ill in the


House of Lords, where he now sits, having given up his Westminster


seat for North Antrim. Concern from well beyond the DUP today. It was


obviously mentioned in the DUP's statement and prayers were said for


the former party leader but of course over the last remarkable


five or six years he has made friendships and relationships


beyond the ranks of the DUP and other people are hoping for the


best tonight. Not wanting to say too much because they want to see


how things develop at a hospital. Our local -- are local business --


business is losing out in a local ward programme? Eileen Foster has


her suspicions, has she revealed at Question Time. Here is a question


on the sexual orientation strategy which Peter Robinson batted to his


junior minister. As I have said in previous answers, it is our


intention to publish a sexual orientation strategy during 2012.


Stakeholders and organisations from this sector will be encouraged to


contribute to the consultation process. I would like to thank the


junior minister for his answer. It is important that it will be


published this coming year. Candour junior minister advise that it will


be revised in line with the programme drafted by five bodies? -


- can the junior minister. development of that, it is obvious


the five-party matter and we are waiting for responses from some of


the parties. But everybody will have the opportunity to contribute.


Can I ask the junior minister what is their position on civil


partnerships and adoption be gay couples? Civil partnerships are the


responsibility of finance and personnel. In relation to adoption,


it is my understand and that the judicial review of the existing


adoption policy is on going. -- my understanding. Can I ask him


whether it in the sexual orientation strategy there will be


any mention of gay marriage and has any progress being made in


providing full and equal rights to gay couples? The questions in


relation to those are the subject of much discussion and have been in


the media over recent weeks. It is not an issue that is under current


consideration. On to the enterprise minister, who was in strident form.


Shoot fired a warning shot to the bank's. -- she fired. Small and


medium-sized businesses are being continually pressed in relation to


access to finance and banks and even those who have a banking


relationship and I use the term relationship very loosely, because


some of the banks at present are bearing down very heavily on some


of our companies and I think it is a matter that everybody in this


House should be very concerned about. I say to the banks that if


you put businesses that are trying to get through difficult times out


of future then in the future you will not gain finance from those


businesses and the consequent job losses that will occur and our


economy will not be able to sustain it. The banks have to work with the


rest of us to take our economy through very difficult times. Short


term measures are not going to help in the medium to longer term.


next finance minister will be Simon Hamilton and he wanted to know what


the minister thought of an All- Ireland awards scheme. Northern


Ireland does not have a monopoly on innovation. Food producers say that


there is an increasingly protectionist stance. I am hugely


disappointed that there is only one Northern Ireland company


shortlisted. As I understand it, this is not a new phenomenon. When


I looked into this matter there were only two listed last year.


There is a pattern here and I have to ask why this is the case. When I


asked about who was judging these awards, apart from a few, all of


the judges were from the Republic of Ireland. This causes me great


concern and it is something I am writing to the new chairman about.


I was astonished about the nomination, giving what I said


about the protectionist prices in relation to Northern Ireland food.


I am taking this up with the new chair and the chief Executive.


Could I thank the Minister for her answer in relation to this question.


I would also share your disappointment that there are not


more Northern Ireland firms being nominated to the short list, but


the minister is not in any way, I would think, the value of having


such competitions, particularly for innovations, which provide an


excellent basis for the development of industry, both north and south.


Would the Minister agree? Certainly a welcome any competition that


encourages and it -- innovation but surely the chair of the committee


must be concerned that only one of our companies have been put forward


into the short list for this award. I have task, why is this the case?


Is at the judging panel, is it the media partner, the Irish Times?


What is the problem in relation to getting more companies from


Northern Ireland? The previous question about the important --


importance of innovation, it is massively important for our


economic development to continue to encourage companies and they get


encouraged by short lists and all those things. The education


minister has set out his plans to help children with special needs in


schools. Heather Crawford, what is your take on the proposals he has


outlined? The proposals are actually quite confusing for us as


professionals in the field because they are wide and varied. I think


there are lot of positives include -- in them, inclusion being one,


support for children with all difficulties in schools being


another, the plan to include parents' health, that is all very


positive, but what I think we would say is lacking is confirmation that


it is going to work absolutely smoothly and effectively for the


people concerned. There is going to be a huge amount of responsibility


put into individual schools. Individual school principles will


have to look at those children with special needs in their schools,


devolve their budgets, and they have a total budget for all of the


children in the schools and a certain amount will be ring-fenced


for children with special needs. How do you prioritise to get the


priority in terms of money? We have particular concerns about hidden --


be hidden disability of speech and communication problems. I heard on


Radio Ulster this morning about visual disabilities where, if you


can see there is something wrong with somebody, that can be


addressed, but for children with difficulties with speech and


language and particularly the social use of those things, unless


you're have learnt to recognise those, you might not see them. --


unless you have learnt. It can have an impact not just on school life,


the social life, but long-term effects on behaviour and social


interaction. Thank you. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen


as ceding to the throne when her father, George VI, died in his


sleep. Members today were keen to pay their tributes, with a


representative of each party offering congratulations. Well, not


all parties. The Queen's public life has spanned that of 12 prime


ministers in the UK and 140 prime ministers in the Commonwealth rain


-- realms. It has included six prime ministers, 3 First Ministers


and 17 secretaries of state. In Northern Ireland there are


different perspectives of royalty but I am convinced that everybody


in Northern Ireland will respect the significant role played by her


Majesty the Queen a lot -- such a long period of time, will recognise


the many achievements that she has, not least her recent visit to the


Republic of Ireland and the ceiling of better relationships between our


two countries. I believe that the Queen's visit to the Republic of


Ireland last year signalled new relationships for two nations that


are so close geographically but maybe so far apart in other


circumstances. I welcome that moved and that visit. It may encourage


the Republic of Ireland to look good possibilities to rejoin the


My non-violent republican tradition aspires to and works well a


republican model of government. My political tradition understands


there are a large number of people in Northern Ireland who value the


link with Britain, the monarchy and the contribution of Queen Elizabeth


the second. We acknowledge that and respected. The Alliance Party


leader and the Davids voiced their tributes but nothing from the Green


Party or the other Green Party, Sinn Fein. The Justice Minister


David Ford promises to cut the time young people wait before their


cases come to court. Young offenders often wait as long as a


year. The minister told me what will change. Since I became


Minister we have seen work across the agencies to speed up justice,


some improvements and other things have not improved. We now need a


specific time limit to underpin the good work elsewhere and inshore


young people are in court when they can remember what they have done


and have not reoffend. What will the time limit be? I have asked the


board to look at the detail and expect a report in the near future.


The board brings together the justice agencies say they will make


a formal recommendations which I would take to the committee as we


look at what we can do. I am determined to see progress in the


next few years and the lifetime of the Assembly. What about adults,


many people are spending lengthy periods in remand. We need to look


at adults but the key issue from the reports I see is the youth


court because there is a problem with young offenders. If we can


deal with that and learn the lessons I hope we will move on to


address the issues for adults as well. What time, you have to put it


out to consultation but are you thinking of 100 days? At the moment,


I am open to see what the consultation produces. That is a


figure which applies in other jurisdictions but we need something


challenging and realistic. If the air in either direction they could


be progress. Another concern about the special educational needs has


been schools would have the money to spend but there doesn't seem to


be any compulsion expenditure on special educational needs. That is


very important and we would want to see some levels of accountability


put in place if there is a budget to schools to be spent on children


with special needs, there must be assurances the money is spent and


targeted towards those children. That will require training and


monitoring. And a collaborative approach between schools and


agencies. The consultation has taken a long period and 90% of


people were not happy with the proposals. It is a difficult


situation, you want people to comment but it appears the views


are ignored. Well, I think that we would be saying there were many


responses to the consultation, I understand from colleagues in


education they have had many responses. As we understand it, the


document lists some of the responses but not all of them have


been taken on board. Again, we are hearing that parents have concerns


about how they will be guaranteed the budget will go directly to


children. The high level of youth unemployment continues to worry


members and it was on the agenda today. A discussion on widening


access to education maintenance allowance. The words neat macro is


not the most attractive of words. It is better than the alternative


which is zeros. It is an issue that we have to deal with. The cost of


youth unemployment in Northern Ireland alone is someone in the


region of �250 million. Some young people have seen emigration as the


only option while others have disengaged from education and


training and also society. In the current economic climate where they


are so few jobs for young school leavers we must help and encourage


students to stay on and get the best education available. The


statistics show 87% of young people in full-time education are in


receipt of the allowance which proves the need for the allowance.


Our party has always argued that access to education is a right not


a privilege. It should be based on the ability to learn and develop


not the ability to pay. I did not think the government should be


looking to simply give young people checks for getting involved in


education to attend college and school. To do that is to create a


culture almost this says as long as you turn up and clock in you


receive a payment irrespective of whether you go to learn or not. It


is something to be cognisant of. Ali serious about this issue


because on the information we have gathered to date in the absence of


tracking facilities, and in the urgency that seems to have attended


any investigation of how this programme could be improved, we


seem to be demonstrating an almost horizontal attitude rather than a


proactive one. And that, I think, is a tragedy for the young people


in this country many of whom are struggling with eight morale issue


about how they are ever going to make it in society and a society


dares do what it can, it cannot spoon-feed a society but it does no


to do what it can to help young people into employment and E M A


may be working, the truth is we do not adequately know because we do


not track its implementation. support can and should be better


targeted. Any expansion of the scheme needs to be governed by


affordability. There is pressure on the existing budgets due to the


economic downturn. The forthcoming review and any additional savings


realised from this are linked to the bass lines of departmental


budgets. However, if members are prepared to be more radical in the


nature of reform then further savings can be made. I would like


to see those savings redirected into other vehicles to support from


people. How important in speech and therapy turns his early


intervention to get speech improved? Well, the earlier we can


intervene with young children with speech language and communication


problems the better because speech and language is the most important


development scale we have to learn. We do know that one in seven


children in primary school will have problems, we want to avoid


that and get into the nursery schools and pre-school places and


this report does talk about the place is in pre-school settings, we


would like to work collaboratively to develop the most effective


communicative environment the children will offer right in and


for those children who cannot understand or pay attention we need


to put in strategies to change the way we communicate to facilitate


more effective communication skills and teach them how to communicate,


lots of children learn those naturally but up to 50% in some


areas do not. Did you know how healthy the health service is?


Apparently the best in the world in many areas. That is what the


British Medical Association has been telling MLAs. It came in an


answer to the health committee. know it has exercised the committee


in the past. 10.5 million consultations a year we provide in


Northern Ireland, 30% above the average. 20 million tests, 25


million prescriptions, that is what we provide, above what everybody


else provides. I refer you to the Commonwealth report, just published,


shows the best access same day and next day access in the world is


here, 79% in the UK and we are better than the UK average. 79% of


patients get same day or next day access. The lowest percentage the


waited six days or more is 2%, these are facts. This is data. Out


of hours actress, best in the world, reviews, best in the world,


communication with patients best in the world. I will not bore you.


it fair to say you are selling it, is there a fair hearing? We had


meetings with members but there has been sufficient consultation. We


felt they should have been wider consultation. We put our views


forward. We have not had the opportunity to critique that final


report and give feedback and a professional opinion. Members of


the panel met with GPs and elements of GP fraternity and we did not


deny opportunities to meet with anyone. We responded to any request


made to us and I can say that after the clinical meetings there was


general practice involved in all the meetings which were handled and


sponsored by some of the review team. We also had specific meetings


in Belfast where we had GPS and doctors to discuss issues that were


pertinent as far as they were concerned. Then maybe some


individuals that would have liked more contact and engagement but we


can arrange for continued engagement. That is where we would


would be. Regarding... I do not agree. Some individuals, that is


dismissive. The comments came from the chair of the practitioners, it


is not about a disgruntled doctor. It was very clear... I met the


chair and he seemed entirely satisfied with the meeting I had


and it no point did he ask or request further meetings. I met


with the BMA and other representatives and they asked for


further meetings and they were arranged. Had there been asked for


further meetings I would have arranged it. You may have spotted


the crutches, she has been hobbling around for two weeks and her


committee colleagues were curious as to what happened. What happened,


I fell down the stairs. I did, a fortnight ago. I broke a leg but I


had a good pair of boots. I did not realise it was broken. So, I got


the cast. It happened in Dublin. it happened in -- at home I would


not have to drive. I got the cast on and eventually I went in


Thursday and was plastered down to the knee. There was her last


committee meeting. She has stood down. I think she will be laid up


for a few weeks. In terms of how we go forward with


the strategy and in a general sense, do we need to set targets for


schools to say you need to reach this level and to ensure children


get the help they need? I think to reassure parents, and to be a


support to teachers and principles, we need to set out what it is we


need to achieve with children within schools. That will require


collaboration between all parties and an agreed set of how we do it,


what we do, and how we know we make a difference. Does the document we


have been talking about, does that reassurance? There is lots of


examples of good practice across Northern Ireland, good


collaborative practice between health and education and we need to


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

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