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9 Dec 2003 : Column 412Wcontinued
Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many police officers in Northern Ireland have had their homes purchased under the scheme to Purchase Evacuated Dwellings as a result of terrorist threats in each year since the scheme was established. 
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people were registered homeless in Northern Ireland in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the measures he is taking to address homelessness in Northern Ireland. 
|Financial year||Number accepted as homeless|
The Government are fully committed towards helping those unfortunate enough to become homeless and while the figures show an annual increase, last year the Northern Ireland Housing Executive re-housed half of all homeless households within three months and 94 per cent. within 12 months. This year the Government plan to fund the provision of 213 new units in Northern Ireland, specifically for homeless families and single people, at a total cost of around £13.5 million. It is also overseeing the implementation of new arrangements for providing housing support services which include provision to help sustain and improve the existing support services provided to homeless people. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has published the Northern Ireland Homeless Strategy and is working in partnership with all of those who have a part to play in tackling the problem of homelessness. In addition, an inter-departmental, cross sectoral Promoting Social Inclusion Review Group has been set up to consider how to ensure, firstly, that the risk of homelessness is reduced and secondly, that the full range of appropriate services is available to homeless people.
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Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, how many (a) part-time and (b) full-time midwives were serving in Northern Ireland in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the recruitment of midwives in Northern Ireland. 
(28) Whole Time Equivalent
Human Resource Management System
The Department currently commissions 40 places per annum on an 18 month shortened pre-registration midwifery training programme for registered nurses and the current group of students will complete their course in March 2004. A further group of 40 students commenced training in November 2003. In addition the DHSSPS as a new initiative has commissioned 15 places on a three year direct entry pre-registration midwifery programme in September 2003.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether allegations of activities by the Provisional IRA and members of Sinn Fein in (a) Colombia and (b) Florida can be investigated by the International Monitoring Commission. 
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what percentage of plastic baton rounds ordered by the outgoing Northern Ireland Police Authority in November 2001 have (a) been delivered and (b) passed their active shelf life. 
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Angela Smith: The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, together with the Health Boards and the Central Services Agency, has been making considerable efforts to reduce losses through patient exemption fraud.
The introduction for pharmacists of point of dispensing/treatment checks to confirm exemption from charges;
The introduction of a Fixed Penalty Charge Scheme for those who make false claims for free prescriptions. There have been some 500 charges imposed this year.
Renewed publicity early in the new year regarding the Fixed Penalty Charge Scheme and the various categories of exemption that apply across the Family Health Services.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to introduce changes in home-to-school transport in Northern Ireland in line with proposals in the School Transport Bill in Great Britain. 
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether a lone parent in receipt of income support who receives a lump sum payment of arrears of child maintenance owing to delays in processing by the Child Support Agency will be able to carry forward unused amounts of child maintenance premium to set against the maintenance received. 
Mr. Pond: Under the new child support scheme child maintenance premium is attributed to the same period as the payment of maintenance. Thus, if a non-resident parent pays £120 in child support, representing six weeks' liability of £20 per week, the child maintenance premium will be £60 (£10 x 6).
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Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received from the Health and Safety Commission about whether public sector sickness and absence should be a priority area; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Browne: The Department has received representations from the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) on rolling out a programme of work addressed at improving health and safety performance in the public sector. We have agreed with them that this will become one of HSC's priority programmes.
A major element of HSC's "Government Setting an Example" programme will be supporting public sector organisations to reduce work related sickness absence through the development and dissemination of exemplary good practice in managing risks to occupational health, in particular musculo-skeletal disorders and stress.
The most recent analysis of sickness absence in the Civil Service for 2002 reports that mental illness and musculo-skeletal disorders are a major contributor to absence. HSE's stress management standards pilot includes organisations in the public sector. The pilot will end in Autumn 2003 and evaluation will continue until 2004.
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in addressing the health and safety needs of small and medium sized enterprises in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the funding of further measures. 
Mr. Browne: During the last year, the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has taken a number of extra steps. This year the Commission reappointed a Commissioner specifically to represent small businesses.
It also piloted a grant scheme, providing matched funding for training and mentoring for micro businesses. The scheme finishes in December 2003, with an evaluation report expected early in 2004. HSC will evaluate the results of this scheme, comparing it with other initiatives, before making any recommendations about extending initiatives in the future.
The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) promoted new ways to promote positive models of health and safety through the use of new technology with well-tried methods, eg a CD Rom containing case studies and an electronic benchmark questionnaire. Both are supported by a managed visit programme whereby small businesses can learn and experience good practice.
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