Minister writes to all people in residential homes

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The health minister said he had corresponded on an individual basis with every person living in a statutory residential home to tell them that "the proposals to close the residential homes had been discontinued" and a new process would be put in place, on 17 June 2013.

Edwin Poots was replying to a question from Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly about the recent "debacle" when a number of health trusts proposed to close all of their residential homes.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew asked about proposals to fluoridate the water supply and whether the minister accepted that this could be carried out only "by community consent".

Mr Poots questioned the value of information about fluoride provided by the internet.

He said some children as young as two were having most of their teeth removed due to decay.

The minister said he would follow expert scientific advice on the matter.

"I will not be guided by the internet on it," he added.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland was asked about new build social housing.

He said that just two housing associations had undertaken 80% of new builds in the previous two years.

The minister said that "if housing associations wouldn't step up to the mark" there was "always the question of another provider".

Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan asked the minister for an "assessment of the service provided by ATOS which has resulted in a large number of people losing their entitlement to incapacity benefit".

He wanted to know what percentage of claimants who had lost their entitlements had subsequently won their cases on appeal.

Mr Poots said that, between June 2011 and April 2013, 120,000 claimants completed a work-capability assessment, of those 34% of claimants were disallowed and 66% allowed.

He said he did not have the figure Mr Sheehan was requesting but that it was important that "all of the relevant medical information is made available at the earliest point in the process because generally when appeals are upheld it's because information is provided at a late stage".

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