Positive and innovative prison rehabilitation projects can have real and meaningful benefits for the local community, Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.
The Minister was speaking as she joined Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage for the delivery of ‘mud-kitchens’ built by prisoners for children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties at Tor Bank School in Dundonald.
The wooden, weather resistant playground workbenches, which encourage sensory development in children, were designed and constructed by the prisoners under the tutelage of Prison Officers.
Naomi Long said: “I am always impressed by the innovative rehabilitation ideas of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. In recent years I know many projects completed by prisoners have benefitted numerous charities, schools and community groups. The contribution of staff and prisoners at Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood during the Pandemic has been inspirational.”
Focusing on this particular project Minister Long added:
“By participating in this project, the prisoners in Maghaberry have developed personal skills but also made a lasting and positive impression in the local community. It is an absolute delight to see how this simple idea brings so much joy to the children of Tor Bank School.”
Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage said: “We’ve always insisted Maghaberry Prison is part of the community and not apart from it. Rehabilitation is at the heart of all that we do, supporting the men in our care to address their offending behaviour and preparing them for their return to the community.
“This latest project for Tor Bank School was enthusiastically received by prisoners who recognised it was also an opportunity to do something good for the community.”
Tor Bank School Principal Claire Breen said: “I can’t thank Maghaberry Prison enough for reaching out into the community to provide us with unique mud kitchens. Tor Bank caters for children aged 3 to19 with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties and I know this will make a huge difference to the lives of all our children and young people.”
The Planned Return of Full Vehicle Testing Services
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced that the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is planning to resume full vehicle testing services from 26 July.
In light of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, which has enabled a number of close contact services to resume including driving tests, the DVA has carried out a review of its current vehicle testing processes in order to return to its normal 20 minute test slot for cars and light goods vehicles. Currently, vehicle testing templates are configured for 25 minutes in line with the control measures that were introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
To manage the transition to full service delivery, Temporary Exemption Certificates (TECs) for all qualifying vehicles will be extended by one further month. New TECs or extensions to existing TECs will be applied automatically to enable vehicles to be taxed and kept on the road.
Minister Mallon said: “Over recent months the DVA has worked hard to increase its vehicle testing capacity but has been working at a reduced capacity due to the safety measures it introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
“The DVA is taking steps to reinstate its normal vehicle test times from 26 July, which will allow all vehicles to be brought forward for a test. This will be kept under ongoing review depending on the course of the epidemic.
“The DVA is in the process of revising its risk assessments, which will include appropriate mitigation measures, and will engage on them with staff and Trade Union representatives.
“Existing TECs applied to eligible private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years will be extended by a further month from the date the existing exemption ends. Four year old cars and motorcycles and three year old light goods vehicles due a first time test will have a five month TEC applied from the date their first MOT is due.”
Continuing the Minister said: “Road safety remains a significant priority. I would like to remind owners and drivers of all vehicles that they are responsible under the law for the roadworthiness of their vehicle at all times. The expectation from the Department, the PSNI and the Association of British Insurers is that motorists continue to service their vehicle and carry out basic checks such as looking out for brake wear, ensuring that all lights are working and regularly checking their tyre pressure and tread depth.
“As before, extensions to TECs will be added to the DVA system, not issued in hard copy. For all vehicles with TECs applied, the DVA will issue a reminder notice to the registered keeper of the vehicle before the TEC period ends, with instructions on how to book a test.”
£17million for Roads Recovery Fund in 2021/22
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced £17million for a Roads Recovery Fund from her 2021/22 capital budget.
Earlier this month the Minister announced her high level budget commitments for the new financial year which included investment of £223.1m in our roads’ network. The £17m funding for the Roads Recovery Fund will be used to address areas of immediate concern across the road network.
Minister Mallon said: “Since taking office last year, I have been clear that my priorities include addressing regional imbalance and better connecting communities. This is particularly important when considering the infrastructure associated with rural development. Our rural areas, including our towns and villages, have a key role to play in supporting economic growth and enhanced rural living. Connectivity is a key issue for these areas and I recognise the important role that the rural road network plays.
“There has been historical under-investment in the maintenance of our road network for a significant number of years and many rural roads in particular are in need of repairs. In response, I allocated £12 million of my 2020-21 Capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £10 million was specifically directed towards rural roads.
“Following the success of last year’s fund, I am setting up an enhanced fund in 2021-22 and therefore I have allocated £17 million of my capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £15 million is specifically directed towards rural roads.
“Rural roads will therefore benefit from a 50% increase in funding in this initiative, reflecting my commitment to continue this important work to benefit rural communities.
“My Department is committed to delivering the best possible services with the funds available. Details of our works programmes will be provided in the reports presented by Divisional Roads Managers to the various District Councils at the forthcoming round of spring meetings.”