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3 Feb 2005 : Column 1071W—continued

Maternity Units

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to his answer of 19 January 2005, Official Report, column 977W, on maternity units, what the reasons were for the temporary arrangement in December 2004; what form this arrangement took; and when it is expected to end. [212023]

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Angela Smith: The midwife-led unit in Craigavon Area Hospital is currently operating with two rather than three midwives. These temporary arrangements were put in place due to staff sickness and a high level of obstetric activity within the main delivery suite and the maternity wards. This action has been necessary in order to ensure that a safe service is provided across all the trust's maternity services. I would emphasis that the extent of change was the reallocation of one midwife only and that this measure is temporary, circumstance-specific, and under continual review.

Migrant Workers (Translation Services)

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will provide information about emergency services to newly arriving migrant workers in their own language upon arrival. [210372]

Mr. Spellar: There is a range of organisations, both statutory and voluntary, within Northern Ireland involved in the provision of support to migrant workers including the provision of information on services. Some provide welcome packs" in English and a variety of minority languages where there is a demand. The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister has provided funding from its minority ethnic voluntary organisation fund for this purpose, for example to the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme.

Also the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is planning a booklet for migrant workers outlining where and how to seek advice, support and redress against racism and to access public services. This booklet is due to be published in March 2005. It is anticipated that the booklet will be published in a variety of languages.

However, we recognise that we still have a great deal to do in facing the challenges posed by the arrival of increasing numbers of migrant workers in Northern Ireland. This has been brought into stark relief by the horrific ordeal of the Ukrainian national who had her legs amputated after suffering from frostbite as a result of sleeping rough. Clearly, Government and others need to establish, as a matter of urgency, what lessons we can learn from this horrific experience. To this end a multi-agency review and assessment meeting is being facilitated by the northern health and social services board in the near future.

I have asked my officials to investigate whether there are gaps in provision of information services and welcome packs, how to plug any gaps and the scope for setting out minimum standards. We recognise, however, the crucial role of the voluntary and community sector in providing information that is tailored to specific communities across Northern Ireland and we would wish this to continue. I also wish to see employers and trade unions working with us on this important area.

The rapid changes in the composition of the migrant worker population in Northern Ireland and the sheer diversity of source countries for migrant workers means that it is unlikely to be practical to offer every single migrant worker, regardless of the language they speak, a welcome pack in their own mother tongue. However, I would hope that such packs could be made available in those languages that are most frequently used.
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Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many migrant workers were estimated to be in Northern Ireland on 1 January; and how many he estimates had (a) a basic understanding of the English language and (b) access to an interpreter for urgent medical assistance if required. [210446]

Mr. Spellar: Research commissioned by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister—Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland" (June 2004) indicates that:

I have arranged for copies of the research report to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This research indicates the difficulty in identifying the total number of migrant workers in Northern Ireland with any degree of accuracy. In particular, nationals from countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and family members of EEA nationals are exempt from immigration control and have a right to enter, reside and work in the UK without the permission of any UK authority. Thus there is no central body that records their migration to Northern Ireland. Migrant workers from outside the EEA are allowed to work here under work permit arrangements which are regulated by the Home Office.

The 2001 Census indicates that there were 5,940 people in Northern Ireland who were born in EU countries (excluding the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) and 20,719 people born in non-EU countries. This gives a maximum figure of 26,659 people who could be classified as migrant workers or dependents of migrant workers.

Home Office records show that 3,253 applications for work permits were approved from employers with a Northern Ireland postcode in 2003 and 3,827 in 2004.

I have asked my officials to work with their colleagues in other Government Departments including the Home Office, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, trades unions and business interests to see how they can work together in this area, to improve the availability of information on flows of migrant workers into Northern Ireland—to ensure that Government Departments, agencies and others can respond effectively to the needs of migrant workers.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is to be commended for the lead that it is taking in gathering examples of good practice in the employment of migrant workers. Many employers in both the public and the private sector are to be commended, too, for their good practice in working with and supporting employees from overseas. The Equality Commission has held a range of seminars and roundtable discussions to encourage employers and service providers to meet their obligations to migrant workers. Together with Business in the Community it is organising a Migrant Workers: Building on Best Practice" conference for later in the year. I strongly support this initiative. I would wish to see greater exchange of good practice between employers (including trade unions) and recognition by
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all employers of their responsibilities—legal and moral—towards their workers and society in Northern Ireland.

I do not have details of the English language skills of migrant workers. We do know that the language barrier is a problem for many migrant workers, their family members and members of minority ethnic groups who do not speak English as their first language or who speak little English and for the statutory agencies involved in the provision of services. Government are committed to effective communication with all its customers and to ensuring that services are as accessible as possible to all members of the community, including people from minority ethnic groups and migrant workers. DHSSPS does not have information on the number of migrant workers accessing emergency medical services. In emergencies hospitals use interpreting services provided by Language Line and other providers.

For its part, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) introduced new interpretation procedures in September 2004. Telephone interpreters are available 24hours a day, seven days a week, and are available from any phone, including mobiles, from any location. This has considerably increased the Police Service's ability to liaise quickly with individuals who cannot understand English. Face-to-face interpreters are also available if required.

Finally, the PSNI is currently working with its telephone interpretation service provider to investigate ways of handling emergency calls made by people who cannot speak English.


Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many whole-time equivalent nursing vacancies there are at each health trust in the Province. [212189]

Angela Smith: Information requested is provided in the following table.
Number of nursing vacancies by health trust as at28 January 2005

TrustWhole-time equivalent
Altnagelvin Group HSS Trust51.87
Armagh and Dungannon HSS Trust12.59
Belfast City Hospital HSS Trust77.35
Causeway HSS Trust6.80
Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust3.53
Craigavon Area Hospital Group HSS Trust21.76
Down Lisburn HSS Trust22.25
Foyle Community HSS Trust48.26
Greenpark Healthcare HSS Trust54.60
Homefirst Community HSS Trust31.03
Mater Infirmorum Hospital HSS Trust71.80
Newry and Mourne HSS Trust2.50
North and West Belfast HSS Trust44.82
Royal Group of Hospitals HSS Trust139.03
South and East Belfast HSS Trust17.33
Sperrin Lakeland HSS Trust0.00
Ulster Community and Hospitals Group HSS Trust5.80
United Hospitals Group HSS Trust37.38

NI Health Trusts

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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many nurses from overseas were employed by each health trust in the Province on the latest date for which figures are available. [212190]

Angela Smith: Information requested is provided in the following table.
Number of nurses from overseas employed by health trust as at 28 January 2005

Altnagelvin Group HSS Trust33
Armagh and Dungannon HSS Trust0
Belfast City Hospital HSS Trust70
Causeway HSS Trust13
Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust2
Craigavon Area Hospital Group HSS Trust41
Down Lisburn HSS Trust56
Foyle Community HSS Trust1
Greenpark Healthcare HSS Trust56
Homefirst Community HSS Trust47
Mater Infirmorum Hospital HSS Trust54
Newry and Mourne HSS Trust13
North and West Belfast HSS Trust0
Royal Group of Hospitals HSS Trust219
South and East Belfast HSS Trust0
Sperrin Lakeland HSS Trust22
Ulster Community and Hospitals Group HSS Trust118
United Hospitals Group HSS Trust67

NI Health Trusts

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