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Sex Offenders

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many convicted sex offenders have been working in (a) schools and (b) hospitals in Northern Ireland in each of the past five years. [44562]

Angela E. Smith: I asked the employing authorities (that is, the Education and Library Boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, and voluntary grammar, Irish medium, grant-maintained integrated and independent schools which employ their staff directly) to check their records and inform me whether there is any person currently in employment in any capacity in a grant-aided school who is required to notify their details to the Police Service as a sex offender, or who has a history of sex offending. They have confirmed that there are three persons, none of them teaching staff, with a conviction for a sexual offence who are currently working in schools; none of these persons is on a sex offenders register as all the offences were committed over 15 years ago. In one case the offence was against a minor and involved a girl who was just under age; in the other two cases the offence was against an adult female. In each case the employing authority knew of the conviction through the pre-employment check and took professional advice. The advice was, in each case, that the person was not a risk to children, and so employment was offered. The employing authorities remain satisfied that these persons do not pose a risk to children.

In Northern Ireland vetting against all sources is done by a single agency, the PSNI Criminal Records Office (CRO). The CRO checks individuals who apply to work with children, either as employees or those engaged as volunteers, against both List 99 and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety's list of people who are disqualified from working with children, as well
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as carrying out a foil criminal background check. Employers are informed of all convictions, including cautions and bind-over orders, no matter when the offence was committed, and non-conviction information which CRO considers to be reliable. The CRO has also confirmed that their pre-employment checks on persons applying to work in schools have not identified any individual on a sex offenders register since the introduction of registration in 1997.

I have been advised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South, that not all posts in hospitals are vetted or would involve working with children or access to children. It is impossible to say definitively whether or not sex offenders have ever been employed in one of our hospitals over the past five years.

However, since September 2001, when a person is convicted of a sexual offence, he/she is subject to assessment of their individual level of risk under the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Process.

When that individual is employed in a range of specified occupations e.g. medical, health etc, the agencies (including PSNI) will consider carefully the relevance of the offence in relation to the occupation/employment and decide whether to bring this to the attention of the relevant employer as part of the risk assessment.

My hon. Friend would not tolerate any decision by a HSS Trust or other employer within the statutory sector to ignore this multi-agency advice and DHSSPS cannot identify any instance where this has happened.

Smoke Alarms

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he plans to take to ensure that as many households as possible in Northern Ireland have working smoke alarms. [49154]

Mr. Woodward: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I provided to him on this matter on 24 June 2005. In addition, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service is planning to introduce a Home Fire Safety Check Programme whereby every householder in the Province will be offered the opportunity to have their home assessed in terms of risk of fire and protection against such an occurrence. This will include a check on the suitability, operation and provision of smoke alarms.
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It should be noted that the 2005 Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey reported a 98 per cent. ownership of smoke alarms, an increase of 2 per cent. on the previous year. Of these, 73 per cent. reported that they check their smoke alarms regularly.

Social Exclusion

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he (a) is taking and (b) plans to take to address social exclusion in Northern Ireland; what assistance has been given to address pockets of socio-economic deprivation in deprived areas in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [44918]

Angela E. Smith: New Targeting Social Need (TSN) is Government's current high level policy aimed at tackling poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland by targeting effort and available resources at people, groups and areas in greatest objective need.

Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) is a key component of New TSN policy, and involves Departments working together and with partners outside Government to develop strategies aimed at tackling a range of issues impacting on vulnerable groups such as older people and people with disabilities. Future policy and priorities will continue to focus on preventing social exclusion, and it is hoped to make an announcement on these shortly.

As well as initiatives targeting groups at risk of social exclusion, many government programmes are focused on the issues impacting on areas and communities. Currently the Rural Development Programme is aimed at tackling rural disadvantage throughout the region, and the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, targets the worst areas of urban disadvantage in Northern Ireland.

Government's programme of equality legislation also contains provisions which contribute to reducing social exclusion of vulnerable groups and plays an important role in supporting policies. In October 2006 legislation will be introduced to prohibit unjustified age discrimination in employment and vocational training. This will give individuals new rights not to be discriminated because of their age and will place new responsibilities on all employers of vocational training.

Threats to Safety

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, (b) members of the Royal Irish Regiment, (c) prison officers and (d) members of the general public in Northern Ireland have been advised of a threat to their safety from Republican sources in each of the last 12 months, broken down by parliamentary constituency. [48278]

Mr. Woodward: The PSNI does not have a central record containing the information requested. Much of the information relating to threats is held at DCU level and to obtain it would require a manual trawl at disproportionate cost.

PSNI has provided figures for threats recorded by location relating to police officers only for 2005.
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Antrim DCU2
Cooks Town2
Dungannon and South Tyrone2
Belfast East8
Newry and Mourne2
Belfast North1
North Down9
Belfast South6

The Northern Ireland Prison Service has provided the following statistical information in response to this question:

As staff are not required to register details of their home address, it has not been possible to break down this information by parliamentary constituency.

Treatment-related Complaints

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many treatment-related complaints have been made to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman by people suffering from (a) mental health-related illnesses and (b) general medical health-related illnesses in each Health and Social Services trust area in Northern Ireland in the last five years; and what percentage of those complaints have been upheld by the ombudsman, broken down by health trust area. [47003]

Angela E. Smith: The Northern Ireland Ombudsman has written to the hon. Gentleman. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.
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