09/10/2012 Stormont Today


09/10/2012

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


Similar Content

Browse content similar to 09/10/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

$:/STARTFEED. Hello. Welcome to Stormont today. In the next 30

:00:28.:00:38.
:00:38.:00:39.

minutes, the biggest shake up in You have to change fast without

:00:40.:00:44.

leaving the most vulnerable behind. We're looking for the colour of the

:00:44.:00:50.

money. Because we have not seen one of those agreed to as of yet.

:00:51.:00:54.

Health Minister announces major changes for the Health Service.

:00:54.:00:58.

During the next three to five years the current number of residential

:00:58.:01:02.

homes would be reduced by at least 50% across Northern Ireland as we

:01:02.:01:06.

support increasing numbers of people to live in non-institutional

:01:06.:01:09.

settings. And find out why our MLAs are fighting to hold onto their

:01:09.:01:18.

marbles. Let's start with the big issue of

:01:18.:01:21.

the day, welfare reform. It was trailed in advance as the biggest

:01:21.:01:25.

set piece debate for some time. In that respect it didn't disappoint.

:01:25.:01:28.

Our reporter, Chris Page, followed proceedings through the day and

:01:28.:01:32.

he's with me now. Chris, it had the feeling of being a big day today?

:01:32.:01:35.

It really did. This was one of the most important pieces of

:01:36.:01:39.

legislation this Assembly has dealt with in recent years, Welfare

:01:39.:01:42.

Reform Bill. It's been brought in by the Westminster Government for

:01:42.:01:45.

England and Wales. It will generate lots of changes to the Social

:01:45.:01:50.

Security benefits system, replacing the Disability Living Allowance

:01:50.:01:56.

with a Personal Independence Payment. It rolls six benefits into

:01:56.:02:00.

a universal credit payment. Something that affects tens of

:02:00.:02:04.

thousands of households and up to MLAs whether to bring it in here.

:02:04.:02:08.

More from you shortly. First a flavour of the debate on the floor

:02:08.:02:12.

of the House. There are people in our society who have never worked,

:02:12.:02:17.

who have no concept of what work means or requires of them. So we

:02:17.:02:22.

have to change systems, behaviours and attitudes. We have to change

:02:22.:02:28.

fast without leaving the most vulnerable behind. Breaking parity

:02:28.:02:37.

is a choice we can make. But it will have huge costs. Those costs

:02:37.:02:45.

will be met through less money for schools. Less money for hospitals,

:02:45.:02:50.

less money for the police. I believe there are four principles

:02:50.:02:56.

underpinning this legislation. To protect the vulnerable, to get

:02:56.:03:03.

people back to work, to develop a system which is fair and to

:03:03.:03:06.

encourage personal and social responsibility. This bill is far

:03:06.:03:15.

from perfect. I'm not saying what will emerge from our scrutiny will

:03:15.:03:20.

be perfect, however I do hope that as part of the scrutiny process, we

:03:20.:03:26.

will identify changes that will not have significant costs but can

:03:26.:03:32.

address some of the shortcomings of the bill. There has been discussion

:03:32.:03:42.
:03:42.:03:43.

in the media about possibly defering. The truth of the matter

:03:43.:03:49.

is we have run out of road. We have been told at all times by the

:03:49.:03:54.

British Government ministers that yes, your circumstances as a --

:03:54.:03:58.

they prevail in the Northern Ireland means we should have

:03:58.:04:01.

flexibilities in the way the system will be administered. What we're

:04:01.:04:05.

looking for is the colour of the money. Because we have not seen one

:04:05.:04:10.

of those flexibilities agreed to. We are -- have referred to issues

:04:10.:04:14.

like the monthly payment. The monthly payment under universal

:04:14.:04:20.

payment is designed to be paid to a single person in the home. We know,

:04:20.:04:24.

we know that the big fear there is that that is a regressive step.

:04:24.:04:28.

That mean that's for the most part a lot of women once again are going

:04:28.:04:32.

to be brought back to the position where they're going to be dependent

:04:32.:04:35.

on somebody for every penny they might need in their household. Is

:04:35.:04:40.

that what we want? Maybe some people do. Some of my best friends

:04:40.:04:44.

are men, but some men are not very fair when it comes to money in

:04:44.:04:48.

their pocket in their household. This legislation, the biggest

:04:48.:04:54.

reform of our Social Security system in generations, has, as has

:04:54.:04:57.

been said, the potential to encourage thousands of our people

:04:58.:05:02.

to move from welfare dependencey into employment, to make the

:05:02.:05:08.

failing system fairer and to save billions of taxpayers pounds, but

:05:08.:05:14.

it also has the potential, if implemented wrongly, to destroy

:05:14.:05:19.

lives, to take away support from people who cannot afford to lose

:05:19.:05:23.

anything else. Of course, you could forgive us for knowing why Sinn

:05:23.:05:27.

Fein may have tabled this so-called reasonable amendment. The dogs in

:05:27.:05:33.

the street have a view. They can say it. They believe it's a game of

:05:33.:05:37.

political brinksmanship. They think by getting to this stage they can

:05:38.:05:46.

send out hard hitting basis and their base will see welfare reform

:05:46.:05:52.

has been. We welcome the need for a simple more accessible benefit

:05:52.:05:57.

system, but we will not accept this bill, which as it stands, is a

:05:57.:06:02.

shameful attack on the vulnerable our society. We will not Val low

:06:02.:06:09.

the Tories peddling of cuts dressed as reform, nor the demonisation of

:06:09.:06:14.

those on benefits. We are not oblivious to the implications of

:06:14.:06:18.

breaking and the constraints of parity. We hear loudly the

:06:18.:06:21.

threatening noises from Westminster and their echoes in this chamber

:06:21.:06:27.

and over the air waves. But we cannot and we will not accept any

:06:27.:06:31.

legislation that will force thousands of our citizens into

:06:31.:06:36.

poverty. We know the place to make significant changes to the bill was

:06:37.:06:40.

in Westminster. While that leaves us in a difficult situation, we

:06:40.:06:46.

need to acknowledge our duty is to progress with the bill and make

:06:46.:06:49.

changes in our power. Delaying the process is not the answer. The

:06:49.:06:53.

costs of delay are considerable, including as the minister has

:06:53.:06:57.

already highlighted, the risk that those Northern Ireland residents

:06:57.:07:01.

who deliver Social Security services on a UK-wide basis could

:07:01.:07:04.

lose their jobs. We don't have the tax base to sustain our local

:07:04.:07:09.

system or pay for deviations from what happens in the rest of the UK.

:07:09.:07:14.

Parity works in our favour in that it enshurz a level of provision we

:07:14.:07:18.

could not otherwise afford. Alliance does not believe it's

:07:18.:07:24.

feasible we breach parity in terms of benefits and thresh hods. We can

:07:24.:07:27.

push operational matters to fit local circumstances, this is where

:07:27.:07:32.

our focus needs to be. That's a flavour of what MLAs had to say.

:07:32.:07:37.

How would you sum up the tone of the debate? In the days leading up

:07:37.:07:42.

to this debate, there had been sharp words exchanged on the air

:07:42.:07:47.

waves between MLAs. Whenever they got into the chamber, during the

:07:47.:07:49.

debate, the atmosphere was relatively calm, perhaps reflecting

:07:49.:07:53.

the fact that so many people are affected by the measures under

:07:53.:07:56.

discussion here. There were a few interinjections an the Speaker had

:07:56.:08:00.

to call them to order a few times. That's the nature of politics here.

:08:00.:08:04.

On the whole while speakers were passionate they listened to each

:08:04.:08:08.

other. Sinn Fein was unhappy with aspects of the proposed legislation.

:08:08.:08:13.

How did that play out today? Sinn Fein have reservations about

:08:13.:08:16.

aspects of the bill. They want more flexibility on payments rather than

:08:16.:08:20.

the payments being made once a month, as is the plan under the

:08:20.:08:24.

reforms, they want them made more oftden. They want payments made

:08:24.:08:28.

available to more than one member of the household. These reforms

:08:28.:08:32.

mean one member of the household is able to pick up benefits. They

:08:32.:08:35.

tabled an amendment that the bill should be deferred to allow more

:08:35.:08:38.

time for the executive to negotiate with ministers in Westminster. But

:08:38.:08:43.

they did not lay down a petition of concern, in other words demand the

:08:43.:08:48.

issue was subject to a cross- community veto in the Assembly. The

:08:48.:08:52.

DUP put the counterargument to that. Nelson McCausland there speaking

:08:52.:08:56.

about breaking parity. He said if the Assembly did not keep in step

:08:56.:09:00.

with Westminster they would lose out on millions of pounds of

:09:00.:09:05.

funding from the Treasury. As far as what happens in e. Is concerned,

:09:05.:09:07.

it's pretty obvious that the committee sage is going to be

:09:07.:09:11.

critical. What can we expect? Whenever the bill goes before the

:09:12.:09:16.

committee, MLAs will get down into the details of the bill. You can

:09:16.:09:19.

expect lots of horse trading, discussion on really very, very key

:09:19.:09:24.

points. Then the bill will go back before the Assembly and MLAs will

:09:24.:09:30.

decide at the third stage when the bill will be made law. Thanks Chris.

:09:30.:09:36.

Kevin Higgins from Advice NI also joins us. Welcome to the programme.

:09:36.:09:39.

Thanks very much for being with us tonight. We've talked a lot already

:09:39.:09:42.

on the programme about what politicians make of this debate.

:09:42.:09:47.

What do you think people at home watching this are likely to be

:09:47.:09:52.

concerned about? I think that we can't lose sight that full scrutiny

:09:52.:09:56.

of this legislation has to take place over the next two months. I

:09:56.:09:59.

believe that there is scope for subStan shale change. I think

:09:59.:10:04.

people watching this, people across Northern Ireland will believe that

:10:04.:10:10.

we Advice NI, politicians will have failed them in the legislation

:10:10.:10:13.

which gets royal assents in March is the same as introduced today,

:10:13.:10:17.

then we will have failed the people of Northern Ireland. The committee

:10:17.:10:21.

stage is critical as far as you're concerned? It's critical. We

:10:21.:10:23.

believe that the committee can influence and can change this piece

:10:24.:10:29.

of legislation. We recognise that parity is a very serious issue.

:10:29.:10:32.

We'll not be able to change the system of benefits and the amount

:10:32.:10:37.

of benefits payable. But we have seen already things like monthly

:10:37.:10:41.

payments, the inclusion of Housing Benefit can have the potential to

:10:41.:10:46.

change. We would like to see that go further, with DLA we would like

:10:46.:10:50.

a legislative process there that can examine and make sure the

:10:50.:10:54.

provider does their job properly in terms of medical examinations and

:10:54.:11:02.

also, that perhaps a statutory advice and information where people

:11:02.:11:10.

are affected Negtively. There's no question of breaking parity with

:11:10.:11:13.

Westminster, is there? Do you concede that? Absolutely. The

:11:13.:11:17.

amount of money that's involved I concede that. As I said we do think

:11:17.:11:21.

there is scope for change. In actual fact there has to be change.

:11:21.:11:25.

We've heard a lot about Northern Ireland has a set of special

:11:25.:11:29.

circumstances that there needs to be mitigation. Let's see the colour

:11:29.:11:34.

of that mitigation. If this legislation means that people who

:11:34.:11:38.

need help most get that help, if it also helps people back into work

:11:38.:11:42.

who are currently not in work, that's what the Conservatives say

:11:42.:11:46.

it's about, wouldn't those be good things? Wouldn't they be changes

:11:46.:11:51.

for the good overall? Absolutely. We support the simplification. We

:11:51.:11:55.

support changes for the good. But let's, we are also there to talk

:11:55.:12:01.

out and speak for the vulnerable. So let's say, take the example of

:12:01.:12:03.

Disability Living Allowance that's being replaced by Personal

:12:03.:12:06.

Independence Payment. We had the Treasury document in June 2010 that

:12:06.:12:11.

said that change would lead to a 20% cut in expenditure. So that

:12:11.:12:14.

would mean there's going to be people that will miss out. People

:12:14.:12:18.

won't get the benefit maybe that would have got it in the past.

:12:18.:12:23.

People will be put off it that are getting it at the moment. That can

:12:23.:12:27.

have a huge impact on household impact. What are the implications

:12:27.:12:31.

for the people who won't meet more stringent criteria when the new

:12:31.:12:33.

legislation is on the books? Clearly you think that's going to

:12:33.:12:39.

be a problem. I think it has to be a problem. If we learn the lesson

:12:39.:12:45.

of incapacity benefit reassessment where people are being reassessed

:12:45.:12:51.

onto ESA. Not everybody is making the journey successfully. We fear

:12:51.:12:57.

the same thing might happen with DLA to PIP. It underscores the idea

:12:57.:13:00.

how populations engage with the committee stage. It's very

:13:00.:13:04.

important for what happens next and what the legislation will look at

:13:04.:13:07.

in six months' time. It's worth making the point that all the

:13:07.:13:11.

parties actually involved in the debate had reservations about the

:13:11.:13:18.

bill. Even the DUP said some aspects were unpalatable. But they

:13:18.:13:20.

thought nonetheless the bill should be allowed to go to the committee

:13:20.:13:30.

stage and that's the place where detailed cfrgs should take place.

:13:30.:13:36.

- consideration should take place. Do you share the thought by Mark

:13:36.:13:41.

Durkin that this could lead to the demonisation of the people who are

:13:41.:13:45.

on benefits, is that a real dainksner We will pay careful

:13:45.:13:49.

attention to the language that is used. We don't want to see

:13:49.:13:54.

demonisation. Any of us could be made redundant, lose our jobs,

:13:54.:13:57.

suffer ill health and Social Security is something to be lauded.

:13:57.:14:02.

It is a great thing to have. We would stand up against demonising

:14:02.:14:05.

anybody that relies on the Social Security system. We'll leave it

:14:05.:14:09.

there for now. Thank you both. Now the Health Minister has told

:14:09.:14:13.

the Assembly that the number of publicly owned residential homes

:14:13.:14:17.

would be cut by half under the transforming your care health

:14:17.:14:20.

proposals. Edwin Poots was launching a public consultation

:14:20.:14:23.

which will run until January next year. Our society is changing. We

:14:24.:14:27.

have a growing and ageing population with people living

:14:27.:14:30.

longer. This is of course something to celebrate that the population is

:14:30.:14:33.

living longer, but it also means that there are more people with

:14:33.:14:38.

long-term conditions and inevitably places more demands on the health

:14:38.:14:41.

and social care services including hospitals and other resources. The

:14:41.:14:47.

treatment and care of sit zepbsz is changing. We have increasingly

:14:47.:14:53.

specialised service was technology driving improvements and how we --

:14:53.:15:03.
:15:03.:15:03.

can design and provide care. Transforming care indicated that

:15:03.:15:07.

services could rise in demand by 4%. We need to improve services but in

:15:07.:15:13.

a way that secures, improves productist and value for money.

:15:13.:15:17.

What has not chainked is a belief in the core principles of the NHS.

:15:17.:15:20.

These principles are that Health Services are generally free at the

:15:20.:15:23.

point of delivery, based on individual need not ability to pay.

:15:23.:15:29.

The new model of care is focused on ensuring that more services are

:15:29.:15:32.

provided in the community, closer to people's homes, where that's

:15:32.:15:36.

possible. During the next three to five years, the current number of

:15:36.:15:40.

statutory residential homes would be reduced by at least 50% across

:15:40.:15:43.

Northern Ireland. As we support increasing numbers of people to

:15:43.:15:48.

live in non-institutional settings. This does not necessarily mean a

:15:48.:15:51.

reduction in residential homes provided bit independent sector,

:15:51.:15:55.

where there continues to be a demand for these services, they

:15:55.:16:01.

will continue to be provided. Prot posal for mental health include six

:16:01.:16:05.

in-patient mental health units for those aged 18 and over, to reduce

:16:05.:16:11.

stigma and provide access. It is desirable to locate mental health

:16:11.:16:16.

hospitals close to acute hospital provision. We cannot ignore that

:16:16.:16:19.

significance savings would need to occur to causeway Hospital. The

:16:19.:16:23.

community in that area need quality services over the coming years.

:16:23.:16:28.

It's important we plan carefully to deliver that objective. This is not

:16:28.:16:31.

a cost-cutting exercise, but about improving service delivery and

:16:32.:16:36.

making better use of the available resources. It is also anticipated

:16:36.:16:40.

there would be reductions in our overall workforce of around 3% over

:16:40.:16:44.

the next three to five years. The change is proposed with a shift in

:16:44.:16:48.

services into the community may mean some staff working in a

:16:48.:16:52.

different way or in a different place. Some staff may choose not to

:16:52.:16:55.

make the change and they will be supported in their decisions.

:16:55.:17:01.

state in the statement about the proposal to close at least 50% of

:17:01.:17:05.

the statutory residential homes. But that doesn't necessarily mean a

:17:05.:17:10.

reduction in the private residential homes. Can you provide

:17:10.:17:14.

assurances that this doesn't represent a privatisation of

:17:14.:17:20.

elderly care through the tapbs forming your care strategy. First

:17:20.:17:25.

of all, there is a lesser demand for residential care and throughout

:17:25.:17:30.

the transforming your care process we have identified that amongst the

:17:30.:17:36.

public there is a greater desire to spend their later years or indeed

:17:36.:17:39.

younger people who become incapacitated to spend that in a

:17:39.:17:45.

real home, the home of their choice as opposed to a residential home.

:17:45.:17:49.

In that respect, we need to observe and honour the wishes of the public

:17:49.:17:54.

and seek to do that. Second aspect of it is that many of our

:17:54.:17:59.

residential care homes were built in the quite distant past. Many of

:17:59.:18:03.

them do not meet the standards in terms of room sizes, in terms of

:18:03.:18:08.

overhead hoists and so forth. That would be available in many other

:18:08.:18:13.

facilities. I can't ask members of the public to use a facility owned

:18:13.:18:18.

bit public, which is not as good as perhaps a facility available within

:18:18.:18:23.

the private sector. Therefore, if the private sector are doing their

:18:23.:18:27.

job well in that respect, they will continue to receive support to

:18:27.:18:32.

Carrie out that work. The Health Minister, Edwin Poots. Now who

:18:32.:18:38.

could forget recent scenes like this around Belfast city centre as

:18:38.:18:43.

commuters complain new bus lanes are causing traffic chaos. It's not

:18:43.:18:47.

just commuters complaining. MLAs want answers. They quizzed the

:18:47.:18:53.

relevant minister, Danny Kennedy today. Let me make it clear, there

:18:53.:18:58.

is no war on motorists and I tell the House that it is regrettable

:18:58.:19:02.

that during the bedding in period some have suffered disruption to

:19:02.:19:09.

their journeys. One of the objectives of this project is to

:19:09.:19:13.

persuade people who drive through the city centre without a

:19:13.:19:18.

destination there to travel around the city centre. This would free up

:19:18.:19:23.

street space for those people who need to drive into the city centre

:19:23.:19:27.

for shopping, work or leisure. It is designed going forward to make

:19:27.:19:32.

car and bus journeys faster and easier. I met yesterday with the

:19:32.:19:35.

Chamber of Commerce representatives and Belfast city centre management,

:19:35.:19:38.

who expressed their concern that media coverage was sending out the

:19:38.:19:44.

wrong message. Let me take this opportunity to send out the right

:19:44.:19:49.

message - Belfast is open. Belfast is accessible. It's a good place to

:19:49.:19:53.

do business. It's important that Belfast on the move is allowed to

:19:53.:19:59.

bed in, settle down and work. And the plan is and my expectation is

:19:59.:20:06.

and hope is that we can then progress to a rapid transit system

:20:06.:20:12.

for the city. I accept the rational that the minister has said out. I

:20:12.:20:16.

believe it's a legitimate one, but the experience of the ordinary

:20:16.:20:21.

commuter has been one of shambles, not Belfast on the move. Either I'm

:20:21.:20:26.

loseing my marbles or the minister has lost his marbles previously. I

:20:26.:20:29.

have to say to the minister that this needs to be rethought and

:20:29.:20:35.

rethought quickly. I do say to the member that significant

:20:35.:20:44.

consultation has taken place. Full public consultation was jointly

:20:44.:20:50.

launched by Connor Murphy and the then Lord Mayor in Belfast City

:20:50.:20:57.

Hall on 3rd September. This consultation which included Belfast

:20:57.:21:01.

chamber of trade and commerce and the city centre management showed

:21:01.:21:06.

broad support for the proposals. There is an inevitable bedding in

:21:06.:21:13.

period. We will continue to monitor and continue to work at this.

:21:13.:21:17.

Because this works in other places. There's no reason why it shouldn't

:21:17.:21:21.

work in Belfast. Can he give the House any idea of the extent of the

:21:21.:21:25.

investment needed to provide the greater Belfast area with a

:21:25.:21:28.

transport infrastructure that would be fit for purpose particularly in

:21:28.:21:33.

the light of the city centre changes? If we had �100 million we

:21:33.:21:39.

could look at a straight fly-over, which would significantly transform

:21:39.:21:45.

some of the travelling habits of our population. If we had �100

:21:45.:21:50.

million we could introduce, without delay, perhaps, a rapid transit

:21:50.:21:58.

system. That is the scale of the commitment that the executive will

:21:58.:22:04.

need to be carrying forward, if it is serious about whole-scale and

:22:04.:22:07.

wide-spread improvement to the strategic road network that will

:22:07.:22:11.

make a positive contribution and improve the flow of traffic, both

:22:11.:22:17.

in the city centre and its outer limits. Danny Kennedy. Fuel poverty

:22:17.:22:21.

was among the main topics raised during questions to the social

:22:21.:22:25.

develop minister. Nelson McCausland updated members on new energy

:22:25.:22:28.

efficiency schemes which will be used to help combat the problem.

:22:28.:22:34.

Tackling fuel poverty remains a key priority for my department.

:22:34.:22:36.

Alongside continuing to deliver mainstream schemes, such as the

:22:36.:22:42.

warm home scheme, the housing executive heating replacement

:22:42.:22:45.

scheme, and winter fuel and cold weather payments, my department is

:22:45.:22:50.

working on a number of exciting new pilots. I recently launched a

:22:50.:22:54.

boiler replacement scheme offering a grant of up to �1,000 towards the

:22:54.:22:59.

cost of replacing old boilers, if they have in the family an income

:22:59.:23:04.

of less than �40,000. The housing executive has received over 14,000

:23:04.:23:08.

expressions of interest in the scheme and they are sending out

:23:08.:23:11.

application forms. �12 million has been allocated to the scheme over

:23:11.:23:16.

the next three year with �4 million available for grants before the end

:23:16.:23:23.

of March 2013. My department is working with the university of

:23:23.:23:27.

Ulster, housing executive and a number of local councils to deliver

:23:27.:23:31.

energy efficiency improvements to homes in small concentrated areas.

:23:31.:23:35.

The university of Ulster has developed a sophisticated

:23:35.:23:39.

targetting mothodology which can identify areas of poor housing and

:23:39.:23:43.

low incomes which could indicate a high prevalence of fuel poverty and

:23:43.:23:47.

then a pay-as-you-go for oil pilot was launched this year. The results

:23:47.:23:51.

have been positive. I'm keen for this technology to be rolled out.

:23:51.:23:56.

Officials have been having discussions with kings span

:23:56.:23:59.

renewables. I have asked officials to progress this important

:23:59.:24:06.

initiative as quickly as possible as I believe inr insulation of pay-

:24:06.:24:11.

as-you-go oil systems would help households who struggle to pay.

:24:11.:24:16.

I thank the minister for his response. Particularly important in

:24:16.:24:20.

terms of the initiatives that the minister has quiets rightly

:24:20.:24:26.

outlined. Will the minister accept and implement the recognitions in

:24:26.:24:35.

the fuel poverty report? We will look at every piece of

:24:35.:24:39.

documentation, every proposal that emerges and whatever we think in

:24:39.:24:43.

there is viable and will help the situation we will consider it. If

:24:43.:24:49.

it's practical, if it works, then we'll give it good consideration.

:24:49.:24:54.

Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker and I thank the minister for his response

:24:54.:24:57.

earlier on. Has his department undertaken recent research to

:24:57.:25:00.

determine the most up to date figures of those considered to be

:25:00.:25:10.

in fuel poverty? Yes, indeed that was referred to in the initial

:25:10.:25:14.

answer where we spoke about work that is being undertaken by the

:25:14.:25:18.

university of Ulster which has a sophisticated targetting

:25:18.:25:22.

mothodology, which can identify areas of poor housing and low

:25:22.:25:26.

incomes where it would indicate there was a high prevalence of fuel

:25:26.:25:30.

poverty. We've been working with experts and indeed the work that

:25:30.:25:35.

we're doing at the university is innovative. I'm very encouraged by

:25:35.:25:38.

that. Therefore there is academic rigour, anything that we're going

:25:38.:25:41.

to do in future will be evidence based. That's the point that the

:25:41.:25:51.
:25:51.:25:51.

member is making, I think. Is the minister aware of any new

:25:51.:25:54.

technologies which will improve energy efficiency of homes?

:25:54.:25:59.

always open to new and innovative ways to improve the domestic energy

:25:59.:26:05.

efficiency of households in fuel poverty. For example, Glenn dim

:26:05.:26:11.

plex has developed a quauntum system. The project is an electric

:26:11.:26:16.

heating system using surplus renewable energy from windfarms to

:26:16.:26:20.

heat dwellings. There's a report on the performance and this report is

:26:20.:26:27.

currently being considered. Chris Page is with me again. Where

:26:27.:26:30.

we've been recording this programme our politicians are still debating

:26:30.:26:35.

the welfare bill. They're still in the chamber. The vote was supposed

:26:35.:26:39.

to have taken place at about 8.30pm. Because this is such an important

:26:39.:26:47.

issue for MLAs they're taking their time over it. Whenever a vote takes

:26:47.:26:51.

place it's pretty safe to predict the bill will be voted through. The

:26:51.:26:59.

DUP, Ulster Unionists are behind it. Sinn Fein and the SDLP have dauld

:26:59.:27:04.

for delays. It will go to committee stage I believe. Nelson McCausland

:27:04.:27:08.

has a meeting in London with one of the welfare reform ministers in

:27:08.:27:13.

Westminster. He's likely to push for more concessions to say, on the

:27:13.:27:17.

basis of this Assembly today, I'm under pressure. He may argue phoar

:27:17.:27:21.

Northern Ireland to have more flexibility on when benefits

:27:21.:27:25.

payments are made. That's something the parties are generally agreed on

:27:25.:27:29.

should happen. They might push for a Housing Benefit payment to be

:27:29.:27:33.

made to landlords and not through tenants. This is set to be one of

:27:33.:27:40.

the touch stone issues for the Assembly. BBC Radio Ulster news and

:27:40.:27:45.

our news online service will have the result of that vote when it

:27:45.:27:49.

happens. Absolutely. Keep your eyes online and on the radio this

:27:49.:27:53.

evening and tomorrow morning. was a pretty unusual sight in the

:27:53.:27:57.

Great Hall at lunch time today. Some MLAs had apparently lost their

:27:57.:28:01.

marbles, what was that all about? This events was called the great

:28:01.:28:06.

push for meantal health. It looked like something resembling curling.

:28:06.:28:14.

What it was was an event to mark World Mental Health Day. We had

:28:14.:28:19.

teams of MLAs, journalists and civil servants playing a game where

:28:19.:28:23.

they pushed marbles around obstacles. The aim was to keep all

:28:23.:28:28.

the marbles. The cones represented some of life's obstacles like debt,

:28:28.:28:37.

bereavement or illness. A good way to put it in the spotlight. Thanks

:28:37.:28:40.

very much for everything tonight. That's all for this week. Do make a

:28:40.:28:44.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers 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.