§ Mr. Beggs
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to amend the Nurseries and Childminders Regulation Act 1948 as amended by section 60 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1960 to incorporate stricter criteria regarding the standards, training and qualifications of registered child carers.
§ Mr. Needham
The Nurseries and Childminders Regulation Act 1948, as amended by section 60 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, does not extend to Northern Ireland. However, similar provisions are contained in the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968. The Great Britain legislation has recently been modified and updated in the Children Act 1989. Consideration is being given to the relevance for Northern Ireland of various provisions in the Children Act 1989, including those relating to the registration of childminders, and revised provisions will be included in a proposal for a draft Order in Council which will replace the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968.
§ Mr. Needham
The ministerial group on women's issues, on which my noble Friend represents Northern Ireland interests, has been looking at child care needs and how best to ensure a growth in the provision of high quality day care facilities so that parents are enabled to balance their family responsibilities with employment opportunities. Consideration is given to the relevance to Northern Ireland of any initiatives endorsed by the group —for example, further encouragement to employers to use the tax reliefs available to provide child care facilities.
The Government encourage the growth of child care provision in Northern Ireland by funding women to set up 120W childminding businesses under the enterprise allowance scheme and, under the job training programme, assist females to retrain for work by providing a weekly allowance of up to £50 to meet child care costs. They would also welcome any proposal to extend certain private sector initiatives such as the child care voucher schemes to Northern Ireland.
In the public sector, day care facilities for staff already exist in some health and social services and educational facilities. The Northern Ireland Civil Service is considering with the trade unions whether day care facilities for under-fives can be provided for its staff.
Consideration is being given to the need to improve the registration and enforcement arrangements for child-minders, playgroups and day nurseries in Northern Ireland legislation, in the light of new provisions introduced for England and Wales in the Children Act 1989.