TSN Action plans

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 24th January 2000.

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Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 24th January 2000

asked the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister what efforts will be made to ensure that the new TSN action plans address inequality and deprivation and if they will make a statement.

2. (AQO 75/99)

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

The new TSN, as developed by the direct-rule Administration, aims to tackle social need and social exclusion. Draft plans were developed to address inequality and deprivation by refocussing resources within existing programmes towards those with the greatest social needs. The poorest people, groups and areas are identified using objective measures of need such as benefit dependancy or area-based measures of deprivation.

Following the current consultation on these draft plans, Ministers will consider them and the consultation responses. The Executive Committee will then consider the new TSN policy, including the implementation and monitoring of the action plans.

Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank my ministerial Friend for his answer. Will he take into consideration the fact that the new targeting social needs document does not contain plans that are any different from those which existed to address social deprivation in isolated wards in particular council areas?

Will the Minister undertake a review of that situation? Under the Robson indicators, the continuation of that policy will simply mean, for instance, that enhanced financial facilities for inward investors will not be available in those socially deprived areas.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his question. As he knows, the draft plans are out for consultation. All views received during the consultation period will be considered carefully and analysed, and they will include the concerns he has expressed.

The Robson indicators were developed to identify areas which are subject to multiple deprivation. They take into account pockets of deprivation, and they are more sensitive to local factors than some of the previous indicators.

I readily accept that the Robson indicators are based on figures from the 1991 census. However, statisticians have identified ways in which they can be used in conjunction with other measures to take account of the changes since then. Also, consideration has already been given to future measures of multiple deprivation based on the 2001 census data.

Increasing use has also been made of administrative data in particular fields which can provide highly accurate local information.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Further to what Mr McGrady has said, does the Deputy First Minister agree that TSN areas should be defined to ensure that pockets of deprivation within otherwise affluent wards should not be disadvantaged in the review?

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I agree absolutely. I believe that this is one of the problems of the very nature of TSN. It is a matter with which we have to grapple, but we must ensure that whatever measures we use, they will be adequate to identify specific areas of need in areas that are generally more affluent.

It is there that the effects of targeting social need are most beneficial and, indeed, most needed.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I had some difficulty hearing the Deputy First Minister’s reply to Mr McGrady. I had intended to pursue the question of the Robson indices further. If one must wait until the year 2001 for the census, one needs some system to analyse deprivation now as opposed to waiting until then to draw up plans on the basis of the census figures, since current figures are already obsolete.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

It is obvious that we must wait until 2001 for the new census and those figures. However, I feel that there are sufficient indicators from the previous census, from other sources of statistical information and, indeed, from the experiences of the various Government Departments. The Departments have put forward their proposals in the draft action plans. They are based on experience as well as statistical information. The combination of the three — the present method, the method which will be in use after 2001 and, indeed, the good sense and judgement of each Department — when taken together, will contribute to addressing the problems in this area properly.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

I have heard that in the allocation of additional milk quota, preference will be given to TSN areas, many of which are in upland regions unsuitable for efficient dairy farming. Does the Deputy First Minister agree that this would be foolish?

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I did not fully hear the question. I am faced with a similar problem. It is not my desire to stray into matters agricultural, as it is not my brief. However, if I have misunderstood the thrust of the Member’s question, he may correct me. It seems to be that simply because of the predominance of disadvantage in urban areas, we sometimes forget that there is also substantial disadvantage in rural areas. As someone from a rural area, I will certainly not succumb to the temptation to ignore areas of deprivation in rural areas, irrespective of what height they are above sea level.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I would like to repeat my plea that Members make their supplementary questions audible. This is particularly apposite in the case of the next speaker, Mr Paisley Jnr.