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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:15 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP 5:15 pm, 19th January 2016

I thank the Member very much. I think that she was mind reading as to what I was going to come on to next. For me and for many of us, that is an extremely important issue. I will just finish on the issue of homelessness.

The Committee for Social Development has had various briefings about homelessness and the issue of wet and dry hostels, with there being no bed availability. That happens on most occasions and on most evenings across all our hostels in Northern Ireland. That is another issue under Supporting People and housing.

I thank the Member across the way, Mrs Kelly, for bringing up the women's centre childcare fund. I know that the Minister looked at that very seriously when he was the Social Development Minister and applied to the Finance Minister for funding for that.

I know that this was emergency funding, established in 2008. Really, at this stage, we should not be looking at emergency funding, as more concrete funding should be put in place. We know that the absence of this funding will result in the loss of 88,000 two-hour childcare places and the loss of 33 full-time and 29 part-time jobs in the women's sector.

That is really hard to comprehend if you look at the Assembly and Executive Review Committee report that we did on women in public life and trying to encourage women to get involved in politics. We need to look at trying to encourage women to get involved in getting back into the workplace and training for the workplace. It is a little hypocritical of us to try to encourage women to come in and be part of this arena without looking at the needs of grass-roots women, so I make this comment again to the Minister: "Do not forget where you have come from on that one, because it is vital".

To finish, I want to look at neighbourhood renewal, which is another issue that addresses the most disadvantaged in our community. I heard Mr Nesbitt mention something about empowerment. I see the Committee for Social Development very much as being the Committee of empowerment. It has empowered so many people in our community to go out to find jobs. That is all part of the welfare reform mantra. I very much think that we need to put that money back into investment to empower our people to have a better life and to empower our economy as well.