Homelessness by intimidation 'increases by 25%'

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The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) said homelessness caused by intimidation increased by 25% in the past year, on 16 May 2013.

Jennifer Hawthorne of NIHE said the figure stood at around 580 cases, 387 of which were due to paramilitary intimidation.

The Department for Social Development (DSD) and NIHE officials were briefing the Social Development Committee on the Shared Community Scheme, which is designed to address segregation in housing.

Beverley Bigger of DSD explained the range of programmes, including the screening of all new-build estates for "shared-community potential".

Ms Hawthorne said there was 90% segregation in social housing. The recent census had seen a reduction in segregation overall, but this was mainly in the private sector.

NIHE officials then took questions from the committee on maintenance contracts.

Members were interested in the events surrounding the failure of Garrivan and O'Rourke, a Warrenpoint-based building company, which had NIHE maintenance contracts in north and east Belfast and Lisburn.

The company had won the three-year contracts in August 2012 and had gone into administration in April 2013.

Gerry Flynn of NIHE said it became clear that the company was not in a position to continue the contract.

"This contract was not going to be saved," he said.

Mr Flynn explained that the three contracts had now been taken over by three separate maintenance companies.

Twenty-six people who had been employed by Garrivan and O'Rourke were now working for NIHE's direct labour organisation under the TUPE scheme.

TUPE is designed to ensure that employees are transferred to the new employer when ownership of a company changes hands.

Work was ongoing to to identify whether a number of other employees were eligible for the TUPE scheme, Mr Flynn said.

"Our intention would be to go back to our framework to appoint new contractors," he added.

Earlier, representatives of the Charity Commission NI briefed the committee about a consultation on their proposed registration and public benefit arrangements.

The commission is the new independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland.

Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said some smaller charities were concerned that there would be fewer charities and they would lose out.

"We hope there is absolutely no chance of that," said Frances McCandless from the commission.

"We are trying to make this as straightforward as possible," she added.

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