I have a number of difficulties with this amendment. In the first place, I would point out that section 8 enables a health board to make a once-off grant or a periodic contribution towards the expenses incurred by a voluntary body providing child care or family support services. In the case of such once-off or periodic payments, the question of renewable contracts does not arise. The health board must have the discretion to pay a once-off grant without being tied into a renewable contract.
While I can see that in certain cases, for example, the provision of ongoing residential services, it would be good practice to have a contract between the board and the voluntary body, in other cases it would not be appropriate, for example, in the case of a small once-off grant to set up a toy library. I also have doubts about the suggestion that the proposed contracts be based on a defined level of service laid down by the Minister. I do not believe it would be practicable to create a situation in which every contract which a health board wished to make would have to be vetted by the Minister. However, it seems that this would be the effect of the amendment.
Under section 3 health boards are placed under a statutory obligation to provide child care and family support services. It is a matter for each board to decide on the type and level of services required in its area having regard to the particular needs of the area. While the Minister will have powers under section 52 to give general directions to health boards in relation to the performance of their functions, I do not think it would be desirable that the Minister should take to himself the right to dictate to the boards in specific detail the types and levels of services that should be provided. In view of what I have said, I would respectfully suggest that the Deputy might consider withdrawing this amendment.