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Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the recorded crime figures for (a) murder, (b) manslaughter, (c) grievous bodily harm, (d) assault, (e) burglary, (f) armed robbery, (g) riotous behaviour and (h) theft in Northern Ireland were in each of the last six years. 
Mr. Woodward: I refer the hon. Member to the Chief Constable's Annual Reports which contain the information requested. These are available on the Police Service of Northern Ireland website at www.psni.police.uk.
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many anaesthetists were available to undertake treatments at the School of Dentistry, Royal Victoria hospital Belfast on the last date for which figures are available. 
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many dentists are undergoing special needs training in the School of Dentistry, Royal Victoria hospital, Belfast. 
The responsibility for and expertise in treating patients with special needs rests primarily with the Community Dental Services. Special needs dentistry is soon to become a recognised specialty, but as yet no Royal College Higher Training programme has been developed. In the interim, the eastern health and social services board, in collaboration with the School of Dentistry, has put in place plans to train eight further community dentists in oral surgery skills for special needs patients.
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Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many special needs patients are on the waiting list for dental treatment at the School of Dentistry, Royal Victoria hospital, Belfast (a) from each health board area and (b) in total. 
Mr. Woodward: The (a) total and (b) numbers broken down by health board, of special needs patients on the waiting list for dental treatment at the school of Dentistry, Royal Victoria hospital, as at 27 January 2006 are shown in the following table:
|(b) Health board of residence||Number waiting at 27 January 2006|
|(a) NI total||303|
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many specialist dentists are available to undertake special care treatment at the School of Dentistry, Royal Victoria hospital, Belfast. 
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people work in each of the directorates within the Northern Ireland Office, broken down by (a) sex and (b) community background. 
Mr. Woodward: The following table shows the composition of the Northern Ireland Office (excluding Agencies) as at 19 January 2006. Gender figures relate to the total Core Department, including NIO staff in London, while community background figures relate only to staff working in Northern Ireland.
The purpose for collecting this personal data is to enable the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Civil Service to monitor the effectiveness of their policies on equality of opportunity. Such monitoring is not undertaken or appropriate at the level of directorates, branches or offices.
Mr. Hain: On 11 January, in a statement to the House, I made clear that this Government believes that 2006 can be the year for restoration of the Assembly and will work to that end as a matter of the utmost priority".
Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are due in May 2007. In order that those elections are meaningful, we require an Assembly exercising its full responsibilities. The need for progress toward genuine political engagement is urgent.
2006 can and must be a year of historic progress in Northern Ireland. It must be a year in which we see a fully inclusive, power-sharing Executive restored so that locally elected politicians can take the decisions that affect the everyday lives of the people of Northern Ireland.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many patients were awaiting the supply of new digital hearing aids in each of the health and social services board areas on the last date for which figures are available. 
Mr. Woodward: Information is currently available in respect of the northern and southern health and social services boards only. At 30 September 2005, there were 272 people in the northern health and social services board area, and 1,437 people in the southern health and social services board area, who were waiting for a digital hearing aid to be fitted.
Information is not currently available in respect of the eastern and western health and social services boards. I will write to the hon. Member with the relevant information as soon as it is available and place a copy in the Library.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent steps have been taken to improve the provision of digital hearing aids in each of the health and social services board areas. 
Mr. Woodward: Direct referral by a GP to an audiology clinic is being piloted in a number of health and social services trusts in order to reduce waiting times for those awaiting an assessment for a digital hearing aid.
The Department is also considering the feasibility of implementing direct referrals to all health and social services trusts. However, any new proposals will be determined on the basis of what best meets the clinical requirements of individual patients.
A departmental led group focussing on the modernisation of audiology services will be established in the near future, as part of a review of physical and sensory disability policy. This group will be tasked with making recommendations in respect of further improving current service provision and reducing waiting times.
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to encourage
31 Jan 2006 : Column 388W
small businesses to recruit long-term unemployed people from disadvantaged communities; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela E. Smith: Following the Taskforce Report on Employability and Long Term Unemployment, the Department for Employment and Learning created a number of targeted initiatives in the most disadvantaged areas (characterised by low employment and high social deprivation) of West Belfast, Greater Shankill, Londonderry (both Foyle and Waterside) and Strabane.
The component parts of targeted initiatives are a stakeholders forum, employers forum, a transitional employment programme and job assist centres. As part of the Targeted Initiatives programme, employment liaison officers in the Department of Employment and Learning engage with employers to assist with employment issues and match long term unemployed clients with job opportunities.
Invest NI may also include a condition, when offering assistance to larger client companies, setting a target to recruit a percentage of workers from programmes such as new deal and bridge to employment.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the level of meals on wheels service provision is in each of the Health and Social Services Board areas; and what the cost of such provision was in each of the board areas, in each of the past three years. 
Mr. Woodward: Information on the cost of meals and numbers of meals provided 1 is shown in the table, for the position during the financial year 200304, the latest year for which such information is available. Information for previous years is not available on a comparable basis. The information is shown according to Health and Social Services Trust, as the analysis is not available by Board area. 2 The latest available information on number of recipients, shown in the table, is for the position at 31 March 2005.
|Health and Social Services|
|Cost (£) (200304)||Meals provided (200304)||Recipients|
(31 March 2005)
|Craigavon and Banbridge||426,339||107,580||671|
|Newry and Mourne||269,006||98,617||292|
|North and West Belfast||549,607||202,936||731|
|South and East Belfast||856,843||254,251||978|
|Northern Ireland Total||3,414,497||1,197,642||6,284|
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