Intimidation Points System

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:45 pm, 7th December 2020

1. Mrs D Kelly asked the Minister for Communities when her Department will publish alternative proposals to replace the intimidation points system, as outlined in her statement of 3 November 2020. (AQO 1272/17-22)

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

10. Ms Dillon asked the Minister for Communities whether the revised system of housing allocation points will include intimidation points for the victims of domestic violence. (AQO 1281/17-22)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

Mr Principal Deputy Speaker, with your permission, I will group questions 1 and 10.

I will publish a consultation outcome report on the fundamental review of social housing allocations next week. That will include a preliminary time frame for the implementation of the proposals. I have publicly stated that I will not proceed with the removal of intimidation points. I want to retain those points for those who really need them. There is a strong perception that the intimidation points system is being abused, and I want to see alternative mechanisms implemented to strengthen the verification process and put an end to that abuse.

That may require the establishment of an independent body, once options have been developed.

It is unacceptable that victims of domestic violence are not currently treated with the same priority as those who receive intimidation points. I want that to change as soon as possible.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

Minister, many people in my constituency have 130 points and more, such is the housing shortage and crisis for many families, even without intimidation points. I am sure that you are well aware of that in your constituency. I welcome the particular regard that you paid to victims of domestic violence in your answer. Will you put in place a process or framework to ensure that domestic violence victims are not disadvantaged in any way by any review?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question and supplementary. As she knows, in my constituency, some people are sitting on 240 points without intimidation, with no prospect of going anywhere. I think that there was a broad assumption that people who were subject to domestic abuse and violence were allocated intimidation points. That is not the case. The issue did not come up in the consultation as strongly as I felt that it would, but it certainly came up once people realised that that was not the case. After I publish the consultation report next week, I will move straight to options with officials, and, hopefully, I will have something in the coming months. It is really important that that is changed.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

My question has been answered by what the Minister has just outlined. I was well aware that, unfortunately, domestic abuse points are not included in intimidation points. I think that you, Minister, have just given a time frame, but, to clarify, when might we expect those points to be in place? It has been an outstanding issue, certainly in my constituency, for a long time.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question. As she will be aware, as part of the recent statement that I made here about the overall housing transformation, the case of the fundamental review was certainly highlighted. The changes outlined in that statement need to be made within this mandate, and I am, with others, progressing work in that regard. I hope that, in the coming months, we will have a completely different system for the allocation of points, which will include intimidation points for victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

Thank you very much, Minister, for indicating your strong priority for victims of domestic violence in the future. Do you agree that there were disgraceful scenes in the House earlier today, when the Chair of the Justice Committee attempted to derail important domestic violence legislation, and that that will exacerbate the situation that you find yourself in?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I will take the Member's last point first. I did not see it, so I will look at it. The start of his question was about why people have waited for so long. Going by his and others' responses, I think Members will agree that it is quite appropriate that intimidation points are kept for people who have been subject to domestic abuse and violence.