Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Tuesday 20 November 2001


Assembly Business

North/South Ministerial Council: Tourism

Part-Time Workers Regulations

Health and Social Services Staff

RUC Reserve Pensions



The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Mr Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes' silence.

Assembly Business


Dr Adamson:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the weekend, our party Whips advised us that on the Order Paper this morning there was to be a motion pertaining to the serious situation at Bombardier Shorts. Is it in order to ask why that motion was withdrawn?

Mr Speaker:

It is unfortunate that, from time to time, some change may arise in the circumstances of someone who has a motion on the Order Paper, after the Business Committee has agreed the Order Paper but before it is printed. It may concern a Member who is tabling a motion, a Minister with an item of business, or a particular clause of a Bill, with the result that that item of business must be withdrawn. It can even happen that items of business that are on the Order Paper do not proceed for various reasons.

As far as the particular circumstances are concerned, I would prefer that those issues did not become a matter of substantial debate in the Chamber. There is, of course, no reason why the Business Committee could not discuss such a matter.


North/South Ministerial Council: Tourism


The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Sir Reg Empey):

The fourth meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in the tourism sectoral format took place in Dublin on Wednesday 7 November 2001. After nomination by the then First Minister and the then Deputy First Minister, Dr Seán Farren and I represented the Northern Ireland Administration. The Irish Government were represented by Dr James McDaid TD, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation. This report has been approved by Dr Farren and is also made on his behalf.

Mr Andrew Coppel, chairman of Tourism Ireland Ltd, presented a progress report to the council on developments since the last tourism sector meeting. Mr Coppel reported that, after an open recruitment process, Mr Paul O'Toole formally took up his position as chief executive of Tourism Ireland Ltd on 16 July 2001. Mr Coppel also gave an update on recruiting staff to new positions in the company and on progress on the company's new premises in Dublin and Coleraine. Mr Coppel reported that the board of Tourism Ireland Ltd had formulated a comprehensive marketing programme for the 2002 season, together with the creation of new marketing communication materials. Mr Coppel also informed the Council that a tourism marketing partnership had been formed with members of the tourism industry to assist Tourism Ireland Ltd in its strategic thinking.

The Council noted that preparation of the Tourism Ireland Ltd corporate plan had commenced. It is intended that the plan will be submitted for approval at the next meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in this sector.

The Council received a verbal report from Mr O'Toole on developments since his appointment in July. That covered issues such as market conditions in the tourism industry after the events of 11 September and the objectives and strategy of the company for the 2002 marketing campaign. The Council assured Mr O'Toole of its support in meeting the significant challenges facing the company.

Dr Farren gave the Council an update on the progress made on the tourism training initiatives that were discussed at earlier meetings, such as the business renewal for hospitality and tourism operators programme, the operational skills development programme and the scheme facilitating the exchange of teachers, educationalists, trainers and practitioners.

The Council agreed that its next meeting in tourism sectoral format would take place in Northern Ireland in February 2002.

Mr McClarty:

Will the Minister advise the House if a location has been identified for the Northern Ireland headquarters based in Coleraine? Has recruitment begun, and when is the Coleraine office likely to open?

Sir Reg Empey:

Significant progress has been made in establishing the Coleraine office. Discussions between Tourism Ireland Ltd, the Valuation and Lands Agency and the developer are almost complete. Tourism Ireland Ltd wishes to ensure that the Coleraine office is a fully functional regional office, including reception, necessary information technology infrastructure and the ability to meet the trade and to support future board meetings.

Owing to the technical requirements of the information technology role in Coleraine, costs are still being calculated. Temporary premises have been identified in the New Row area, at numbers 34 to 36b, and will be available from 1 December 2001. Coleraine will have 16 staff with responsibility for information technology, direct marketing, printing and distribution, financial and administrative support for Coleraine, call centre management and public relations. It is expected to take approximately four to five months to build the new structure with the specific information technology requirements that are necessary. In the meantime, temporary facilities will be available. Some staff are already transferring. Two have been identified so far. The total complement will be 16.

Mr Dallat:

Representing as I do the North's number one tourist area, which includes Coleraine, I welcome the Minister's interest in that area. Can he give the number of people, North and South, participating in the training programmes that he has announced? Has any evaluation taken place? What relationship will the new tourism company have with the regional tourism organisations (RTOs)?

Sir Reg Empey:

I see that the last two Members are impartial in their opinions of the tourism potential of Coleraine.

Regional tourism organisations remain a significant tool in the delivery of a successful tourism policy. Tourism Ireland Ltd has already engaged with them directly. As far as I know, the chief executive and his colleagues have been to see most of the RTOs and have explained their ideas to them. One measure of the company's success will be its ability to build strong partnerships with the RTOs.

I shall have to defer to my Colleague, Dr Farren, regarding numbers on training programmes. I shall write to the Member with those details. Dr Farren will confirm that the response has been exceptionally positive, and we are very pleased. Some of the schemes are oversubscribed, particularly as regards graduates. The Council of Education, Recruitment and Training (CERT), which is the Republic of Ireland's equivalent body for dealing with training in the tourism and hospitality sector, and the Department for Employment and Learning have worked very closely together. The schemes have advanced more quickly than expected since our meeting in Letterkenny, and we expect a positive outcome. Dr Farren's Department and CERT will monitor the results, and I am sure that those can be made available to Members.

Mr McElduff:

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Cuirim fáilte roimh an chruinniú agus roimh an ráiteas.

I welcome the meeting, the statement and Mr O'Toole's appointment as chief executive of Tourism Ireland Ltd. Does the comprehensive marketing programme include a focus on cultural tourism? Have the Minister's thoughts on market conditions developed in the wake of the events of 11 September?

Sir Reg Empey:

Mr O'Toole and Mr Coppel reported on events after 11 September, and it will come as no surprise that there has been a significant impact. Air traffic and passenger movements in the United States immediately dropped by 90%, as did confidence in the market. Approximately 25% of the seats on flights across the Atlantic have now gone.

This period, like spring, is called the shoulder of the season, and it is being used increasingly to bolster tourism earnings. Undoubtedly, there will be a significant fall-off, and there is no way of sweeping that under the carpet. The precise extent varies among sectors, and the full picture will not be available until statistics are collected.

Cultural tourism is an area with significant growth potential. Marketing plans are still being established, but it is obvious that we can offer culture-related and heritage-related tourism. We believe that it is attractive to visitors from North America and Europe. Last year, we had a substantial increase in tourism from France, and it was in the area of natural resource-based cultural heritage, gardens, and visits to historical sites. Cultural tourism will be one of the growth areas of the future.

I shall briefly return to Mr Dallat's question, because I was not quick enough with my notes. I do have some statistics on participating numbers. However, in view of the different categories it would still be better to provide details in writing.

Mr J Wilson:

The Minister will be aware that August was a particularly disastrous month for the tourism industry. I believe that Americans are in the habit of booking holidays in February and March. At that time of the year, we were in the middle of the foot-and-mouth disease crisis. Action must be taken to attract lost business back to Northern Ireland; it will not happen of its own accord. Are there plans to make the industry more buoyant?

10.45 am

Sir Reg Empey:

The Member has identified one of this year's twin problems. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak happened in the spring - I think in February. Many holidays are booked during March and April. Undoubtedly, there was a significant downturn in business, with figures of 10% to 15% mentioned. However, until the season is over, and statistics are analysed, it will be difficult to determine the exact amount of decline. Moreover, a complete cut-off point was reached as a result of the events of 11 September.

The North/South Ministerial Council has discussed the problem at great length. The chairperson and the chief executive of Tourism Ireland Ltd are focused on that issue. They have set out an ambitious, but thoughtful, marketing programme for the coming season. Members will be impressed with it. It is intelligent, with Tourism Ireland Ltd retaining a degree of flexibility. The company does not commit its entire budget to any one sector. It will hold back some resources so that it can react as events occur. However, using the Gulf War in 1991 as a yardstick to measure how quickly the American market can recover, it took three to four full seasons. That was taken into account on the marketing plans.

We shall not attract the same volume of business from North America. Therefore, we must attract more business from closer to home. That means refocusing additional marketing in Great Britain. There will be a specific marketing strategy for Scotland and the north of England, as those areas attract the most visitors. We shall also refocus to a degree on Europe because, although there have not been the same flight difficulties, huge access problems exist. That is another major issue.

Dr McDonnell:

I thank the Minister for his report. Members are interested in the outlook for 2002 and must be satisfied with predictions. Many people want to know when Tourism Ireland Ltd will begin to make an impact. That is its first test.

Another important issue is the relationship between the Tourism Ireland Ltd offices abroad, the IDB offices and the Executive Information Service offices in Washington and Brussels. Will an integrated approach be adopted to maximise the benefits as widely as possible?

Sir Reg Empey:

If things go according to plan, the transfer of staff from Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board will formally take effect on 1 September. For the first time, the company will have its own staff. The transfer of people from the overseas offices to Tourism Ireland Ltd will take effect from 1 December.

The future of the overseas offices has not been determined. The Council will return to the issue at its next meeting, because several instances of duplication have arisen. Some of the offices are located in embassy buildings, whereas Tourism Ireland Ltd's approach will be market driven and commercially focused. Therefore offices must be established with that in mind. At the moment, the Industrial Development Board (IDB) has a network in North America and one or two offices in other parts of the world. However, those offices are not specifically linked to tourism. Tourism Ireland Ltd is a joint company owned by the two tourist boards.

New York is still one of the best places to have an office - it would be inconceivable not to have one there. We would need some convincing that Washington would be a suitable location for a tourism base - we do not even have an Industrial Development Board office there. However, when the Executive office in Washington is opened we expect the IDB to make use of it, although that may not be on a permanent basis. I note the point and will mention it to the company, but there are no plans to develop a totally integrated approach with the Tourism Ireland Ltd offices. I can, however, foresee circumstances where the Brussels and Washington offices could have a gateway into both of those sectors.

Mr Speaker:

I shall call one further Member, but I wish to make a comment that is more for the benefit of Members who are not here than those who are. Ministers have generally been good about making statements to the House rather than making them outside first. That should be appreciated and respected. Statements are made to provide information and to give Members an opportunity to ask questions. Therefore in future I do not intend to call Members to ask questions on ministerial statements if they have not been here for ministerial statements. It is clear that those Members do not intend to ask questions on the statement but on a subject that takes their fancy. If Ministers are good enough to come to the House to make statements rather than make them outside, Members ought to be good enough to be in the Chamber to hear the statement on which they can ask a question. That is a warning for the future, and I hope that Members will transmit that to erring absent Members.

Mr McElduff:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker:

Points of order are not normally taken during ministerial statements, so I shall take the last question and then the point of order.

Ms Morrice:

I want to apologise. When I switched on the monitor and saw the Minister speaking, I was afraid that I would miss something in my rush down to the Chamber, so I stayed to watch the speech on the monitor. That way I made sure that I did not miss anything in the Minister's statement.

I am impressed by the marketing angles. I was also impressed by what the Minister said about the need to focus on Europe. The same air flight difficulties do not exist in Europe as in the United States. The Minister will know what my question will be. What accommodation will be made for the fact that the euro is being introduced? Is Tourism Ireland Ltd making any plans to accommodate the euro, with foreign tourists in mind?

Sir Reg Empey:

The Member has combined ingenuity in introducing the matter and predictability in asking the question. As the Member knows, my Department is responsible, through the euro preparations forum, for ensuring that businesses are aware of the implications of the introduction of the euro in January. Tourism Ireland Ltd does not have a responsibility in that regard, for, although the Republic is introducing the euro and we are not, it is still the responsibility of individual businesses to prepare. However, Tourism Ireland Ltd and the respective tourist boards have been anxious to ensure that customers can be accommodated. With effect from January, customers in the European Union have a right to be accommodated. Therefore, if businesses fail to follow the guidance that we have issued or to take up our offers of help, they will fail as businesses because they are obliged to be able to take payments and make appropriate arrangements in euros with effect from January. Tourism Ireland Ltd is trying to market in two currencies. That is a difficult problem to tackle.

The literature that is being prepared will make specific reference to currencies. It will point out the differences and try to offer the best advice to potential visitors by ensuring that they are fully informed. Similarly, industry is being kept informed of the proposed contents of the literature and the web site so that it can be prepared. However, individual businesses have an obligation to ensure that they can accommodate our visitors. They will be in default if they do not.

Mr Speaker:

I am all for the use of new technology, but the Member and the House must be aware that her reason for being allowed to ask a question despite not having been in the Chamber will not be acceptable in future: it is too easily abused.

Dr McDonnell:

Lies. She is telling lies.

Mr Speaker:

The Member should withdraw that comment made from a sedentary position. It is unparliamentary.

Dr McDonnell:

I withdraw the remark.

Mr McElduff:

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Does the Speaker have the flexibility to offer those Members who were present for the Minister's statement the opportunity to ask a second round of questions?

Mr Speaker:

Ms Morrice's ingenuity is matched only by that of Mr McElduff. The answer to both their questions is no.


Part-Time Workers Regulations


The Minister for Employment and Learning (Dr Farren):

I beg to move

That the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 (SR 319/2001) be approved.

I shall refer to those Regulations as the part-time workers Regulations. They were laid before the Assembly on 12 September 2001, came into operation on 21 October 2001, and are subject to confirmation by the Assembly within six months of the latter date.

The Regulations amended the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, which implemented European Union Directive 97/81/EC, as extended to the UK by Directive 98/23/EC, in Northern Ireland. The aim of this essentially technical amendment is to enable the Labour Relations Agency to conciliate in industrial tribunal cases brought under the part-time workers Regulations.

Under the Industrial Tribunals (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, the Labour Relations Agency may conciliate between parties to certain employment disputes, and, if both parties agree, reach binding agreements that obviate the need for a tribunal hearing. However, the Labour Relations Agency is granted that power only in respect of disputes relating to specified employment legislation. The list of such legislation did not cover disputes relating to certain provisions of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. The Regulations before the Assembly today will enable the Labour Relations Agency to conciliate in that jurisdiction also. In other words, these Regulations effectively make good an omission relating to the jurisdiction of the Labour Relations Agency in certain provisions of those Regulations. I commend the Regulations to the Assembly.

The Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning (Dr Birnie):

On behalf of the Committee, I welcome the approval of this statutory rule. The Committee considered the rule on 11 October 2001, together with the report from the Examiner of Statutory Rules, and the Committee had no objection to the rule. As the Minister said, the statutory rule is a technical amendment to primary legislation, and it gives new powers to the Labour Relations Agency to conciliate on claims where part-time workers allege that they have suffered a grievance at work.

At present such cases must go directly to an industrial tribunal. The Committee welcomes the proposal because it will take pressure off the tribunal system.

11.00 am

The Committee shares the concern raised by many people about the increase in the number of cases that went through tribunals in the past decade. The Committee for Employment and Learning will scrutinise how this legislation and other improvements relating to the tribunal system help both employers and employees, so that a speedier resolution can be achieved. However, the Committee wants reassurance that the Labour Relations Agency has received, or will, if necessary, receive, the extra resources needed to carry out this function effectively. Subject to that caveat, I add the Committee's support to the motion.

Mr Dallat:

As a Member of the Committee for Employment and Learning and as someone with an interest in equality, I too welcome the motion. It will enable the Labour Relations Agency to help to settle disputes in the workplace. Indeed, I will take this opportunity to say that the performance of the Labour Relations Agency has been very satisfactory in recent times.

It is important that part-time workers have the same rights and protection as their full-time colleagues. For too long part-time workers were the Cinderellas of the workplace. This statutory rule proposes equality for a group that has suffered terrible injustices in the past, often resulting in personal hardship not only for individuals but also for their families. At a time when more and more people are employed part time - sometimes by choice, but often through necessity - it is critical that their human rights are protected in the same way as those of full-time workers. There never was, nor should there ever have been, any excuse for treating workers differently, but part-time workers have on occasions been exploited in the most appalling ways.

Let us send out a clear message that the age of equality is arriving - slowly, but surely - and that the Assembly is determined to eliminate all forms of social and legal injustice so that the principles enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement apply to everyone. Part-time workers have been treated badly by both the Government and the private sector. That should now end. We hope that all employers now follow the example of others who never differentiated between full-time and part-time workers, but treated them as people.

Can the Minister tell us what percentage of industrial tribunal cases the Labour Relations Agency deals with successfully?

Dr Farren:

I thank the two Members who have spoken.

Workers who lodge an industrial tribunal application under the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 will have the same right as in other jurisdictions to approach the Labour Relations Agency for assistance in reaching a conciliated settlement with their employers.

In response to Mr Dallat's question, the Labour Relations Agency facilitated a conciliated settlement in over 22% of all cases brought to industrial tribunals and played a key role in a significant proportion of the 33·5% of cases withdrawn. Obviously, access to the Labour Relations Agency for assistance in reaching a conciliated settlement can be quite effective and should, in all justice, be available to part-time workers as much as to full-time workers, as this amendment to the Regulations is intended to ensure.

Regulations provide for greater choice for part-time workers and their employers in the way in which their cases are handled. They will afford them the opportunity to avoid the cost and inconvenience of a full hearing, if they wish. Any reduction in the number of cases needing to be heard by an industrial tribunal is also good news for the tribunal system itself. I can tell Dr Birnie that my Department will monitor the resource implications of any significant increase in the caseload of the Labour Relations Agency.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 (SR 319/2001) be approved.


Health and Social Services Staff


Ms Ramsey:

I beg to move

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to work towards the common validation and recognition of the qualifications of health and social services staff on a cross-border basis.

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for attending.

All Members are aware of the financial and staffing problems in the health sector. Recognition of qualifications on an all-island basis would give staff greater flexibility of movement. That would be especially important in the border counties, where hospitals and boards already work on a cross-border basis for the benefit of their patients. Such recognition of qualifications would remove the need for dual registration, which is time consuming and costly. It would also go some way towards tackling staff shortages, especially in positions that must be filled at short notice.

The current registration system prevents nurses from working throughout areas such as those covered by hospitals in Letterkenny and Derry or Sligo and Enniskillen. Everyone is aware that waiting lists are growing - in some cases, that is due to a shortage in nursing staff - and this small move would have long-term benefits for patients and would help to shorten waiting lists.

There have always been strong links between practitioners North and South; most difficulties concerned service delivery, which is affected by the registration situation. The British Medical Association (BMA) has written to welcome the commitment in the Programme for Government to develop areas for closer co-operation through the North/South Ministerial Council. The BMA asks for a cross-cutting study of the barriers that doctors face in North/South work. The BMA also wants clarification of any new all-Ireland system of registration of medical practitioners and of how such a system would solve the professional, legal and technical problems of working in both jurisdictions. The BMA also recognises the importance of sharing clinical expertise and experience and of co-operation in areas such as research and development. In September 2000 the BMA and the Irish Medical Organisation jointly hosted the first all-Ireland health conference.

Paramedics can work on both sides of the border as a good Samaritan act, and they have a good working relationship. However, there are some serious problems. Agreed training standards would benefit patients, especially in the border counties. I urge all parties to support this common-sense approach; it can only be of benefit to patients and staff.

Mr McCarthy:

Ms Ramsey said, there is a crisis in almost every sector of Northern Ireland's health and social services, including staff throughout the Health Service. The motion is worthy of support because, if implemented, health and social services staff throughout this island would be able to exercise their skills across Northern Ireland. Currently, health staff are being brought into our hospitals from the far corners of the world. Such staff are very welcome, and they contribute enormously to the welfare of all the people of Northern Ireland.

As the health spokesperson for the Alliance Party, I fully support the motion. Ms Ramsey mentioned the border counties; I would prefer to include all counties in Northern Ireland among those that would benefit from the proposal.

Mr J Kelly:

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I too support the motion. As my Colleague has said, it will help to bring forward the harmonisation of healthcare throughout the island of Ireland. That is significant. It is not a political point. The health issue affects all of us who live on this island.

Considering the wider issue, with co-operation, major savings could be made in health benefits, particularly in the border counties. As Kieran McCarthy has said, that is not confined to the border areas but applies to the island of Ireland. That is especially true in relation to nursing and health and social services staff, because there is currently a shortage of nursing staff. Nurses are being brought in from the Philippines and from other Far Eastern countries to help to service the shortage of nurses in the island. Harmonisation, or fewer difficulties for nurses from one part of the island practising in another, would help to alleviate those shortages.

The shortages are an important issue, but the wider picture involves an attempt to bring some harmonisation to health provision. We looked at the fuel crisis, and we discussed harmonisation in that context, given the wide variation in fuel prices - petrol and diesel, et cetera - between the Twenty-six Counties and the Six Counties. The harmonisation of healthcare would have a much greater impact on the well-being of our citizens throughout the island of Ireland.

The motion, while it is confined to the issue of health and social services staff, widens the horizon and gives us an idea of how we might approach health on a 32-county, all-Ireland basis. I support the motion. We should give consideration to its wider implications for health provision.

Ms Morrice:

I support the motion on the grounds that it makes sense. I must admit that I understood that in the single European market there was provision for the freedom of movement of goods, capital and services throughout the member states of the European Union.

Strenuous work has been conducted in Brussels to move towards the mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications in all European Union countries. That would be important, not only on a cross-border, island of Ireland basis but on a Europe-wide basis. In a single market, people with qualifications should be able to move - whether it is to the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal or anywhere in the European Union. In the early days there was mutual recognition of qualifications in hairdressing. That got through, but there is still much work to be done on other qualifications, such as pharmaceutical industry qualifications.

I support the motion not only on an all-Ireland basis but also on a Europe-wide basis.

11.15 am

The Chairperson of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Dr Hendron):

I congratulate Sue Ramsey on tabling the motion and apologise for not being in the House for her speech.

Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) is a long-established co-operative venture. The CAWT project was set up in 1992 when the North Eastern and North Western Health Boards in the Republic, and the Southern and Western Health and Social Services Boards in Northern Ireland, entered into formal arrangements. That was the Ballyconnell Agreement.

It is important to work towards the common validation and recognition of the qualifications of health and social services staff on a cross-border basis. Nurses are the backbone of any health service, and that is true of Northern Ireland, where there are major problems in the Health Service. There are grades for nurses, social workers and others. It is not irrelevant to note that many nurses in the Ulster Hospital and elsewhere are working at higher grades and have more responsibility than they are being paid for. It is important to sort out our own house. It is also important for cross-border issues. Nursing qualifications in the North are recognised in the Republic and vice versa, but educational qualifications in the North and South must be standardised.

Queen's University is the only medical school in Northern Ireland, but there are several such schools in the Republic. Qualifications are recognised on both sides of the border and worldwide. The same goes for special needs, general medicine and surgery, but other qualifications such as diplomas may cause problems.

Doctors and general practitioners from the South work in Northern Ireland in primary care, and the same applies vice versa. The question of doctors being revalidated every few years is at the forefront of debate in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, and parts of Western Europe. That will also apply to nurses and members of other professions. I am not sure what the position on revalidation is in the South, but that is something to be considered over the next couple of years.

The North/South Ministerial Council set up the Obstacles to Mobility working group that dealt with standardisation and recognition of qualifications across the board. Ms Morrice made some comments about social workers. The social worker mobility study was part of that working group. The Northern Ireland Social Care Council was established on 1 October 2001. Its primary role is to register and regulate the social care workforce and to draw up codes of practice for social care workers and their employers. The council was set up to redress the lack of qualifications among social care staff here. Bearing in mind that 80% of the 30,000 social care staff in Northern Ireland have no relevant qualifications, the cross-border mobility study was undertaken for the National Social Work Qualifications Board in the South and the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in Northern Ireland. The aim of the research was to analyse social work training courses on both sides of the border to identify any differences between them and to examine, in particular, social policy, social delivery structure and law. The ultimate aim of the project is to facilitate the cross-border mobility of social workers through the development of a teaching tool to bridge any gaps in training between the two jurisdictions.

The most significant difference between training for social work in each jurisdiction was that, in general, courses in the Republic lasted longer than courses in the North.

Among the recommendations for facilitating cross- border mobility was the creation of a system of cross- border exchange placements, an idea that was generally well received on both sides. It was suggested that intensive seminar exchanges, and the sharing of information, should continue. Recommendations were also made in regard to the contents of the resource pack, social services systems and Government structures.

There is still much work to be done, but progress is being made. The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has the support of the House in carrying out this useful work.


Next >>