Citizens’ Assembly urges an end to compulsory zero hours contracts in NI social care system

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Members of the Citizens’ Assembly and organisers from the UK charity Involve at the Europa Hotel, Belfast

By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

The first ever Citizens’ Assembly in Northern Ireland has called for an end to compulsory zero hour contracts in the social care system.

The call for an end to zero hours contracts was one of 27 recommendations agreed by those who took part in the event which was held over two separate weekends in the Europa Hotel, Belfast. Those who took part discussed the adult social care system in Northern Ireland.

The Citizens’ Assembly consisted of approximately 75 citizens selected at random to represent the Northern Ireland population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, regional spread, community background, and socio-economic status. It has no legislative or statutory decision-making powers.

It met in Belfast on 26-28 October and 16-18 November.

The Citizens’ Assembly was led by the UK charity Involve and funded by Building Change TrustOpen Society FoundationsCommunity Foundation for Northern Ireland and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Other recommendations included:

• To make caring a more attractive profession by improving working conditions: including the identification of clear career pathways, providing emotional support for staff, paying for travel time and mileage and expenses in addition to salary.

• To demonstrate the value society places on unpaid carers by significantly increasing the Carers’ Allowance.

 • To adopt policy and provision which promotes the integration of older people with the wider community.

Members also called for an Older Person’s Charter, as well as a Junior Minister within the Department for Health to focus on social care, when an Executive is restored.

An official launch of the report from the Citizens’ Assembly including all 27 recommendations and three over-arching resolutions will be made in January 2019.

Tim Hughes from Involve said: “The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland will be taken to the Department of Health, We are delighted that the Department has been so welcoming of this process.  The recommendations from a representative group of citizens deserve to be taken seriously.

“This model of deliberative democracy could, in the future, be used to resolve other complex and contested issues and help point the way to a more productive democratic system when the NI Assembly is back up and running.”

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