Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Social Development Committee part two

A human rights commissioner expressed concerns that people could be rendered destitute by sanctions imposed under the Welfare Reform Bill, on 30 October 2012.

John Corey of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) was also concerned that a human rights impact analysis carried out by the Department of Social Development had not been made available to the Social Development Committee.

NIHRC representatives were giving evidence to the committee as part of its consideration of the bill.

Referring to fitness for work assessments, Mr Corey said these should take into account societal factors that affect each individual's circumstances.

The assessment process should not amount to "tick boxing", he commented.

Earlier in the meeting, the committee heard from representatives of the Equality Commission.

Darren McKinstry from the commission said they had concerns around work assessments, and that "sanctions across the board is something we want to see carefully applied".

Michael Copeland of the UUP observed that, since this was was enabling legislation, it was hard to make judgements without having sight of the regulations that would follow.

Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission, agreed that it was "difficult for anyone to see the full implications".

The DUP's Sammy Douglas drew attention to the commission's preference for benefits to be paid to the primary carer in a household.

He asked if this amounted to discrimination against men.

Another commission representative, Tony O'Reilly, explained that this was intended to protect the interests of the child.

The first part of the debate can be viewed here.

Social development committee membership

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