Question Time: Social Development Monday 02 November 2015

John Dallat MLA asked Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey, for an update on the number of applications for disabled facilities grants during today’s Question Time. The disabled facilities grant has a significant impact on the lives of those living with a disability in the private sector, helping them make adaptations to their homes. In 2014-15, the Housing Executive approved over 1,200 grants totalling £12m in assistance. So far this year 537 applications have been received with almost 500 being approved. The Minister also acknowledged Mr Dallat’s concerns about the process used to approve grants, agreeing that they can be “somewhat protracted, particularly if you are dependent on a report from occupational therapy and are waiting for all of the particular elements to be in a row. ” Mr Storey agreed to take the concerns on board when it comes to reviewing and re-evaluating the processes used.

The Minister then provided the House with an update on his Department’s involvement in the Northside project for the regeneration of Belfast City Centre. The Department’s preferred developer for the scheme, Northside Regeneration Ltd, submitted their planning application for the project in June 2015. The next step is to consider the applications in consultation with Belfast City Council. Following this, the Department will need to be satisfied that funds are in place to go ahead and that the regeneration benefits will be met. The Minister assured that he is willing to meet anyone with an interest in the project or who may be affected by it, aware that careful consideration at every stage is required for a project that could end up costing around £1bn adding, “we want to make sure that we maximise investment to the benefit of the people in the area and of organisations.”

During Question Time the Minister also addressed the issues of social housing, the urban villages initiative, public realm schemes in North Down, Syrian refugees and antisocial behaviour.