HC Deb 29 January 1996 vol 270 cc542-3W
Mrs. Ray Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what measures he is taking to improve rural child care in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [11581]

Mr. Kynoch

Provision and development of child care services are primarily matters for local service providers. The Government are mindful of the special problems for delivering these services in rural areas and have undertaken work to demonstrate how these problems can be addressed. The recently completed under-fives rural initiative demonstrated ways that the quality of child care services in rural areas can be enhanced by the use of special rural tutors.

The Government have also provided funding support of £45,000 over three years to the rural child care development programme run jointly by Children in Scotland and Rural Forum. This project is now in its third year with several long-term projects nearing completion including an employers guide, training information packs, a training needs analysis and an initial evaluation of out-of-school clubs. In North Uist, information is being provided to support a nursery project and in Ullapool a guidebook on children's services is being produced.

We have also funded research by Professor Mark Shucksmith of the Arkleton centre for rural development research. He is currently undertaking a scoping study on innovative approaches in rural service provision, which will include child care initiatives. The need for further research or demonstration projects will be considered on the basis of his findings.

Mrs. Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to expand the under-fives rural initiative; and what level of finance the scheme will receive in the next three financial years. [11582]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

This initiative was a development project aimed at demonstrating methods for improving the quality of day care by introducing educational elements. It comprised 12 schemes run by voluntary organisations using peripatetic tutors in a number of day care settings in different parts of rural Scotland.

Grants totalling £500,000 were made available under section 10 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 to support the project which ended in April 1995. There are at present no plans to extend it. We will, however, assess the lessons which can usefully be drawn for our new pre-school educational voucher initiative.

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