My Department is strongly committed to corporate social responsibility and has articulated how it aims to develop that in its corporate and business plans for 2009 to 2011. We are committed to being a socially and environmentally responsible organisation and an excellent employer. Therefore, my Department’s policy focuses on four key themes: community, environment, workplace and responsible procurement. My officials are in the final stages of developing a formal corporate social responsibility policy for DRD which will take into account the wide spectrum of measures that we will take now and in the future. It is my intention to launch that policy in the autumn.
We are very keen to support our staff in making a personal contribution to the community. One of the ways we hope to achieve that is through our partnership with Business in the Community. That will allow us to participate in schemes such as the Time to Read initiative, which 15 members of staff have enrolled in for the 2009-2010 academic year.
We wish to develop areas such as research development where we can, through internships and work placements, engage in partnership with undergraduates and graduates to work on research associated with promoting sustainability. In spring of this year, under the corporate social responsibility banner, I decided to launch a student bursary scheme with the aim of encouraging studies in subjects relevant to DRD objectives. The scheme offers an opportunity for students in their final year of studying for an MSc in engineering at Queen’s and those studying for a BSc in engineering or a BSc in transport at Jordanstown. There are a total of 10 £1,000 bursaries available, which will be awarded to five students from each university. I intend to present the bursaries to the successful candidates later this month, and I will continue to engage with my Department’s corporate social responsibility policy as it goes forward, to implement further new initiatives and to drive through its implementation.
Go raibh maith agat. I thank the Minister for his answer. How is his Department providing the social requirements in the procurement contracts, particularly in relation to the positive community and social benefits that will be ensured when those contracts go through?
I thank the Minister for his intervention during the week, which ensured that the trains coming into Derry will now arrive at 9.00 am. Go raibh míle maith agat. Stand up for Derry.
My Department is following guidance prepared by DFP’s Central Procurement Directorate and the Equality Commission on sustainable development and equality of opportunity in public sector procurement. In line with that guidance and at my instruction, action plans have been produced by Roads Service, NI Water and Translink.
Those will include proposals for implementing critical community impact and social objectives, such as increasing access to public sector procurement opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, encouraging the economically inactive back into the workplace and encouraging training and skills development through, for instance, apprenticeships. Roads Service’s action plan ensures that social and environmental factors are considered alongside financial factors when making procurement decisions. The plan has a package of actions to deliver the step change that is needed to ensure that Roads Service and its partners are focused on better design, low waste, higher recycle content, respect for biodiversity and delivery of its wider sustainable development goals.
I am surprised that the Member feels that promoting corporate social policy should be restricted by cost. All Departments have a duty to display a socially responsible attitude to procurement and actions taken. I will repeat one initiative that I mentioned in my previous answer: the bursary scheme. Later this month, after the successful candidates have been selected, the Department intends to award bursaries. It is designed to encourage students from here and to assist them with areas of their studies that relate to Department for Regional Development policy. Five students from Queen’s and five from Jordanstown will receive £1,000 bursaries; that is £10,000 for starters.
In the Minister’s response to the initial question, he mentioned opportunities that are available to university students. Will he confirm that such bursaries will also be available to students who attend colleges of further education? The Minister is probably aware that student numbers are greater this year then ever before. Therefore, there is an eagerness to take advantage of bursaries and job opportunities and to ensure that everyone receives an equal chance.
The Member is correct. I highlighted one scheme: in my previous answer, I said that Roads Service, NIW and Translink, in the contracts that they secure, encourage the use of apprentices and encourage the economically inactive back into work. The Department has specific proposals on scheme sizes, the number of apprentices that we expect the scheme to employ and the number of economically inactive people who return to work as a result of it. The bursary scheme is particularly directed at universities, but a range of other measures aims to bring people in through skills and offers them opportunities to be involved. Some major infrastructure and engineering schemes are ongoing here, and they provide tremendous opportunities for young people to become involved, learn skills and gain experience.