§ Mr. Andrew Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures he is taking to encourage the provision of child care facilities in the workplace; and what information he has on how many firms and Government offices currently provide such facilities.
§ Mr. Nicholls
[holding answer 5 July 1989]: My right hon. Friend takes every opportunity to encourage employers to help employees combine work and family responsibilities. Workplace nurseries are one possible way of helping parents with child care although it will not necessarily be the most appropriate in all cases. Other 324W possibilities include help with child care costs in the local home area and rearrangement of working hours and holidays to fit in with school hours and terms.
My right hon. Friend does not have comprehensive information on the extent of employer assisted child care outside Government Departments but the indications are that such provision is growing. In the Civil Service 15 Departments provide holiday play schemes for the children of their staff. Two new inter-departmental schemes began in Westminster during the spring 1989 half-term. In addition, two schemes were launched by the DHSS during the Easter holidays—one at the Elephant and Castle and one, with the Department of Employment, 325W in Coventry. The Departments of Employment and Social Security have set up "care-parents" schemes and the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office are both developing nursery schemes for the under-fives.
I also take a full part in the ministerial group on women's issues which is currently considering the whole question of childcare provision and which recently issued a five-point plan designed to pave the way for the provision of child care to suit family needs.