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23 Feb 2004 : Column 160Wcontinued
Angela Smith: Children living in the greatest deprivation have four times more tooth decay than the most affluent. My Department's Investing for Health Strategy sets a target to increase the levels of 5-year-old children with no dental decay to 55 per cent. and to reduce the gap between the best and worse decayed/missing/filled scores by 20 per cent. by 2010.
My Department's policy is to prevent oral disease. In the absence of fluoridation of water supplies, Health and Social Services Boards are taking forward and monitoring other methods of oral disease prevention. These include the provision of toothbrushes and toothpaste to young children in socially deprived areas, schemes to encourage registration from birth with a dentist and sealing permanent teeth with a protective resin to prevent decay. There are also schemes to promote the use of sugar free medicines and offer dietary advice to young mothers.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will estimate the (a) financial cost of treating depression in Northern Ireland and (b) the cost to the economy in terms of lost working hours in 2003. 
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many projects in Northern Ireland received funding to promote participation by disabled people in the workplace in each year since 1997. 
Jane Kennedy: From the information available the number of projects that received funding from Northern Ireland Government Departments to promote participation by disabled people in the workplace in each year since 1997 is contained in the following table.
|Year||Number of Projects|
The answer contains information on projects that provide a range of workplace participation including paid employment (full-time and part-time), voluntary work and work placements. The answer does not take account of disabled people working in Government Departments.
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Employment information is often used as a proxy for economic growth as more up to date figures are available. In September 2003, there were an estimated 669,470 (seasonally adjusted) employee jobs in Northern Ireland. This represents an increase of 0.8 per cent. since September 2002 (compared with a UK decline of 0.01 per cent.) and an increase of 8.4 per cent. (51,790 people) over five years, almost twice as fast as the UK average growth rate of 4.3 per cent.
Angela Smith: Money for the Soccer Strategy can be released to the Irish Football Association once the department is satisfied that the necessary Governance and Accountability arrangements have been agreed.
Angela Smith: There are on-going meetings with the Irish Football Association (IFA) at official level within the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure on a number of issues. The last of these took place on 12 February 2004. In addition, a DCAL working level group, which includes the Sports Council and IFA officials, meets to agree the details for taking forward the Soccer Strategy initiative. This group last met on 7 November 2003. The group will meet again in the very near future. I have also indicated my willingness to meet with the IFA after that meeting.
Angela Smith: The future of Windsor Park is primarily a matter for the owners, Linfield Football Club, and the Irish Football Association, who use Windsor Park for Northern Ireland's home international fixtures under an agreement with Linfield FC. Both are considering their future facility needs as are the other main spectator sports and to assist them I have asked the Strategic Investment
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Board to commission the preparation of a business plan which will test the viability of the concept of a new purpose built multi-sport stadium. Discussions on Windsor Park must await the outcome of this work.
Angela Smith: Windsor Park is owned by Linfield Football Club and is used by the Irish Football Association as the venue for Northern Ireland's home international fixtures. To date I have not had any specific requests for funding for floodlighting improvements at Windsor Park. Any proposals for such improvements should first be discussed with the Sports Council, which has responsibility for the development of sport in Northern Ireland including the distribution of funds.
Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to offer additional financial support to Northern Irish higher education students to take into account the costs of travelling to universities in Great Britain. 
Jane Kennedy: The student loan, which is available to Northern Irish students attending higher education institutions in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, is intended to meet students' living costs such as accommodation, food and travel. Northern Ireland students who study at institutions in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland, or at institutions in Northern Ireland which are not within reasonable travelling distance of the parental home are currently able to access a higher rate of student loan than those students living in the parental home.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent meetings he has held with (a) the Secretary of State for Education and (b) representatives from universities to discuss the implications of the Higher Education Bill for Northern Ireland's universities and students; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: While the Higher Education Bill, does not, in the main apply to Northern Ireland, it has significant implications in view of the strong links between the HE Sectors and the level of student flows between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Since the publication of the White Paper, I have had discussions with the Secretary of State for Education on the potential implications of the proposals in the Bill for Northern Ireland, and I am fully aware of the respective views of the two universities.
It is my intention to bring forward proposals soon for the way forward in Northern Ireland, taking into account discussions with local stakeholders, including the universities and the student representative body the NUS/USI, and advice from the Northern Ireland Higher Education Council (NIHEC).
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Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from home economics teachers about the proposal to teach this subject as a non-examinable component of the curriculum at Key Stage Three; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: As part of the consultation process on the review of the curriculum, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment received representations from Home Economics teachers as to the form that provision for this subject should take. The Council's proposals would make aspects of Home Economics a statutory entitlement for all pupils in Key Stage 3. I am currently considering the Council's proposals for the Key Stage 3 curriculum as a whole. No decisions have yet been taken.
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