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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I understand what the Government are getting at. However, I should have thought that the expression "inspection by the public" has entered into the minds of the body politic over the decades and that one does not need to give an extended meaning to the word "person", as the Minister sought to do by referring to partnerships, bodies, and so on. If one simply says that the register is open to inspection by the public, everyone knows what that means.

It would be easier--I am sorry that I did not think of it myself--simply to take out the words "members of" and then the matter would be clear. Everyone would understand what the provision meant.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's comment. However, we believe that the minor amendment we propose is probably the best way of ensuring that organisations in an official capacity are covered by the clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 130:

    Page 37, line 36, after ("training") insert (", including disability equality training,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before moving the amendment, perhaps I may crave your Lordships' indulgence and assume once again for one moment the role of a rogue and vagabond in apologising to the House for my unavoidable absence for the second half of the performance last Thursday, after the dinner interval. I thank my noble friend Lord Laming for assuming my part at such short notice and proving to be such a splendid understudy. I must commend the stage management skills of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas--unfortunately he is not in his place--in prompting those taking part that Amendments Nos. 91 and 92 had made a somewhat late entrance. Last, but not least, I am delighted by the warm-hearted response of the audience in the shape of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. At the end of a curtain speech, I suppose I should say, "Goodnight and God bless us", and leave the Chamber. However, I assume that I must now move Amendment No. 130.

Families with a child with severe learning disabilities or complex health needs often find it extremely difficult to obtain reliable professional and affordable childcare.

Childminders, of whom we have been talking a great deal this evening, are often reluctant to offer care to disabled children unless they have already had experience of so doing. This has wider ramifications for the social inclusion of disabled children, and indeed may impact on the ability of parents to go out to work. Offering disability equality training to childminders, as indeed to all social care workers, will go a long way to prevent the social barriers which derive from ignorance.

The activities covered seem to be within the ambit of the Disability Discrimination Act, which of course itself argues for disability equality training. Therefore, can the Minister assure us that such training will take place? I beg to move.

Lord Bach: The noble Lord, Lord Rix, with his renowned expertise in this field, is right to be concerned that provision for the special needs of disabled children and children with learning disabilities is not overlooked.

It is, of course, only proper that those responsible for the welfare and development of disabled children receive adequate training and operate within the appropriate guidelines and to the relevant standards.

It is already the case that all early years providers receiving funding for early education must have regard to the code of practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Need. The noble Lord will welcome the fact that that Code of Practice is currently being revised to include more detailed guidance.

As the noble Lord will be aware, we intend to implement a new framework of national standards for day care providers and childminders. Work on the

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detail of these new standards is ongoing, and, naturally, there will be full consultation with the sector before the standards are developed fully. However, I can assure the noble Lord that disability and special needs will be covered in the new standards, which will be underpinned by regulation and guidance.

If, as we intend, providers and their staff are to meet these new requirements, they must, where necessary, have access to the proper training. As drafted, the relevant provision in this part of the Bill enables Ofsted to secure such training. Furthermore, in October we implemented further rights under the Disability Discrimination Act, which cover services to the public, including day care and childminding services. In December, following recommendations from the Disability Rights Task Force, the Secretary of State announced that the Government will bring forward legislation to tackle disability discrimination in education, including that for under-fives.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me, through his amendment, the opportunity to explain how it is envisaged that the new regulatory system and standards will operate in respect of disabled children and children with learning difficulties. I hope that, in the light of the explanation that I have attempted to offer concerning the Government's action more widely in this area, he will at least have been reassured on the point that we are discussing now.

Lord Rix: I warmly welcome the assurances that the Minister has given us, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 131:

    Page 38, line 27, at end insert--

("( ) The Chief Inspector shall secure that registered inspectors receive appropriate training.").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 132, 133 and 134.

If I have an overriding concern over Part V, it must be my concern about the inspection of childminding and day care. The first and main point that I should like to emphasise is that any national system should be operated by staff who are trained to understand the full range of issues in education and childcare. They must understand the techniques of inspection and be familiar with a diversity of settings. The training of such staff is a task that is integral to these aims. If early learning is to be long lasting, a child's intellectual development must be nurtured on an equal basis with his or her emotional development. The training of registered inspectors must reflect both of those aspects.

Registration and inspection staff are worried about their jobs. The DfEE has let it be understood that they are expected to transfer to the new branch of Ofsted, but how, and on what basis? I am aware, of course, of the TUPE arrangements, but local authorities need all the information possible to help them in planning for

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this transition and for the necessary changes, including the training of staff with qualifications that will be recognised by Ofsted.

I hope that the Minister can provide reassurance on these issues, which are not clear from my reading of new Section 79N, within Clause 68. New Section 79P(3), again in Clause 68, allows for the subcontracting of inspections. Have the Government considered giving the voluntary sector a role in such inspections? Does the Minister envisage the possibility of such organisations--provided, of course, that they are competent--registering as inspection bodies? Generally, on the issue of subcontracting, can the noble Lord confirm the paramount importance of ensuring the maintenance of high standards, whoever conducts the inspection?

Speaking on an earlier set of amendments regarding the inspection of fostering and adoption agencies, I argued that the names of children and of adoptive and foster parents should be kept confidential in any inspection report and that they should not be publicly disclosed. I believe strongly that the same safeguards are needed for childminding as for the inspection of fostering and adoption arrangements.

On a related point, the privacy of childminders should not be invaded more than is strictly necessary. Entry into a child's home is entry into a private domestic household, and ideally the minder as well as the inspector should be safeguarded by being accompanied by an officer of the arranging agency. We should remember that this is an activity that must be conducted with great sensitivity.

With that thought in mind, let me express some concern over the drafting of new Section 79R(3). I was going to say that I hoped that the Minister would be minded to take away this part of the Bill and have a thorough look at it. Happily, the Government have already done that. But, without having had the benefit of hearing the Minister's remarks, I worry about the word "inspect", which it is proposed will replace "examine". I hope that the Minister will explain exactly what the significance of that word is.

Looking further down the subsection--and here I re-emphasise a point I made a moment ago--I question whether inspectors should interview a childminder without anyone else being present in the room.

The Government's proposal to inspect childminders will cost a considerable sum of money. The number of childminders is falling, I understand, and the proposal to create a national inspectorate may result in a further fall. I do not know how many recent scandals and disasters there have been in this field, but in looking at the issues as they will impact on local authorities, perhaps I may make a plea to the Government that the money transferred from local authorities to Ofsted to accompany the transfer of functions will be no more than can be fully justified. Local authorities will still retain important functions in providing information, training and advice on childminding and day care.

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With the revenue support grant already under pressure to meet the teachers' pay award, funding must be adequate. I beg to move.

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