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Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007

Section 16: Contracting out

Section 16 has the effect of allowing contracted providers in the private and voluntary sectors (“providers”) to exercise functions of the Department or the Department for Employment and Learning relating to conditionality. Providers will not be permitted to exercise functions relating to “excluded decisions” which are listed in subsection (3).

Subsection (1) provides that the Department or the Department for Employment and Learning can authorise providers to undertake certain functions (sections 12, 14 and 15) relating to work-focused interviews, action plans and directions relating to work-related activity.

Subsection (2) provides for  regulations to be made that allow the Department or the Department for Employment and Learning to authorise provider organisations to undertake certain functions under regulations made under sections 11 to 15 and providers to undertake functions relating to certain conditionality decisions.

Subsection (5) makes it clear that where authorisation is given for providers to undertake a function the authorisation may only apply to part of that function.

Subsection (7)(b) provides that authorisations granted under or by virtue of section 16 can be revoked and subsection (7)(c) provides that giving authorisation to a provider does not preclude the related function from being undertaken by the Department or the Department for Employment and Learning.

Subsections (8) and (9) establish that, where a function is undertaken by a provider, that function is treated as if it had been undertaken by the Department or the Department for Employment and Learning. This will not apply for the purposes of the operation of a provider - for example a contractor would be treated as performing work-focused interviews for the purposes of being paid for them. It also establishes that responsibility lies with the provider in respect of any criminal proceedings brought because of his actions.

Subsection (10) ensures that any decision made by a provider has effect as a decision under Article 9 of the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Order 1998. This ensures that such decisions fit into the decision-making and appeals legislation.

Subsection (11) establishes that where authorisation for a function is revoked and the provider is therefore unable to perform the functions which he is contracted for, the contract can be treated as repudiated.

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