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9 Dec 2004 : Column 786W—continued

Fuel Poverty

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the fuel poverty strategy for Northern Ireland will be issued; and what the proposed time scale is for the implementation of its recommendations. [203153]

Mr. Spellar: The Government's fuel poverty strategy "Ending Fuel Poverty: A Strategy for Northern Ireland' was launched on 23 November. The strategy sets out a target of eradicating fuel poverty in Northern Ireland in all vulnerable households and the social rented sector by 2010 and in non-vulnerable households by 2016.

General Practitioners

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will introduce an audiology direct access system through which general practitioners in the Province could refer patients directly to audiologists. [202588]

Angela Smith: The current referral path for most audiology patients in Northern Ireland is from their General Practitioner to an ENT Consultant and on to an audiologist, if required. However it is for Boards and Trusts to provide local services in the way that best meets the needs of their patients and some have opted for a direct access system, such as Newry and Mourne Trust. A number of others are piloting direct access with a limited number of general practitioners in order to assess demand and resource implications before extending the scheme.

Hospital Audiology Departments

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what changes have been made to audiology department facilities at hospitals across the Province in the last 12 months. [202590]

Angela Smith: In the past 12 months all trusts with audiology departments have moved to digital systems and computerisation, for the fitting of digital hearing
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aids, in line with a Province-wide modernisation programme. In addition, they are in the process of installing a computer-based management information system (Practice Navigator), which will enable audiology departments across Northern Ireland to share information. Individual trusts have made a range of other improvements in respect of staffing, equipment and accommodation.

Irish Medium Schools

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Irish medium schools there are in Northern Ireland; what their average cost is in 2004–05;
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and what percentage their pupils make up of the total school population, broken down by Northern Ireland Education Board area. [203048]

Mr. Gardiner: There are 18 Irish medium schools in Northern Ireland entitled to receive funding under the Local Management of Schools arrangements. Two of these have only recently received approval and the relevant funding authorities are currently assessing the level of resources to which these schools are entitled. The following table sets out the average initial delegated budget allocations for 2004–05 and the percentage number of pupils in each Education and Library Board area for the 16 Irish medium schools funded for the complete financial year.
Board areaNumber of schoolsAverage initial delegated budget (Irish medium schools) (£)Per capita
(Irish medium schools) (£)
Percentage of overall pupils

The variation between Boards is caused by the small number of schools involved, their relative sizes in terms of pupil numbers, differing levels of social deprivation and variations in the individual LMS schemes operated by each of the Education and Library Boards.

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average (a) pupil/teacher ratio and (b) cost per pupil attending (i) Irish medium schools, (ii) maintained schools, (iii) controlled schools and (iv) integrated schools was in each Northern Ireland Education Board area at the latest date for which figures are available. [203049]

Mr. Gardiner: The following table sets out the information requested. The cost per pupil is based on data contained in the Local Management of Schools outturn statements published by the funding authorities for the financial year 2003–04.
BoardSectorAverage pupil/teacher ratio(£)Average cost per pupil (£)
BELBIrish medium15.02,971
NEELBIrish medium11.73,883
SEELBIrish medium17.82,963
SELBIrish medium15.73,033
WELBIrish medium18.12,654

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of Northern Ireland's population are Irish speakers, broken down by Northern Ireland Education Board area. [203050]

Mr. Pearson: The 2001 Census of Population showed that 10.35 per cent. of persons aged three and over had some knowledge of Irish. The equivalent figures at Education and Library Board level are provided in the following table.
Education and
Library Board
Percentage of persons aged three and over who have some knowledge of Irish
North Eastern6.83
South Eastern5.62

Passive Smoking

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects the Code of Practice on Passive Smoking at Work to be published. [201939]

Mr. Gardiner: The Government recently published a White Paper, "Choosing health: making healthier choices easier" that contains a number of proposals for dealing with passive smoking in the workplace in England. Publication of a Code of Practice on Passive Smoking at Work in Northern Ireland is currently on hold while a fresh look is taken at the way forward in the light of the White Paper proposals and also developments elsewhere, including Scotland and Wales.

Primary Schools (Psychology Support)

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the budget for psychology support to primary schools in North Belfast is in 2004–05; how many psychology referrals there have been to each primary school in each of the last five years; and what
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the constituent parts of the common funding formula used by the Belfast Education and Library Board to allocate these psychology referrals to individual schools are. [203051]

Mr. Gardiner: The BELB is currently reviewing all budgets and until this review is complete a precise figure for the educational psychology service budget for 2004–05 is not available. However, the cost of providing an educational psychology service to all children in BELB in 2003–04 is estimated to have been £1,191,122. It is not possible to give an exact figure for the proportion of these costs which were incurred in primary schools in North Belfast only, but we know that 17 per cent. of all assessments completed by the psychology service took place in North Belfast primary schools.

Calculating the number of referrals to the educational psychology service from each primary school in the area over the past five years is not possible in the time available. I have, however, provided as follows the global figures for referrals from North Belfast primary schools in the BELB area.
Global figure

There is no specific factor either within the existing Belfast Education and Library Board's Local Management of School's funding formula or within the proposed common funding formula to allocate psychology referrals to individual schools. The costs of
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the school psychology service are met centrally by the Belfast Education and Library Board and, therefore, are not charged to the delegated budgets of individual schools.

The North-Eastern Education and Library Board, into which five wards in the North Belfast area fall, was not able to respond in the time scale available. I will write to you again as soon as this information is available together with the number of referrals from each primary school in the Belfast Board area.

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