SECTION 49.

I move amendment No. 185a:

In page 22, subsection (2), line 21, to delete "permanent capacity" and substitute "wholetime capacity".

This is a minor technical adjustment. Section 49 provides for the introduction of a pension scheme for the staffs of 40 or 50 children's residential centres. It gives effect to a commitment made some years ago during renegotiation on pay and conditions of service for the staff of these homes. In discussions between officials of my Department, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Finance it was decided that the most convenient way to provide a comprehensive superannuation scheme for these staffs would be to regard the staff as employees of the health board which fund their home and thus bring them them within the scope of the local government superannuation scheme. This is the scheme that applies to the staff of health boards, local authorities and various corporate bodies in the health and local government areas.

My Department have recently been advised by the Department of the Environment, which is responsible for the administration of the superannuation scheme, that the reference here to permanent capacity is incorrect and should be changed to whole-time capacity. The reason for this is that in order to be pensionable under the scheme an employee need not hold a permanent position but need only be employed in a whole-time capacity. In other words, the scheme applies to temporary staff as well as permanent staff provided they are employed on a whole-time basis. I hope this amendment will find common agreement.

I support the Ministers view on this but I would ask him to have a look at "wholetime"; I can see where the word "permanent" had led to an abuse in my view. The question of whole-time is in line with modern labour legislation but the word "wholetime" is in itself capable of abuse in so far as there are all sorts of combinations as to what constitutes whole-time. It can be a fulltime whole-time, or a part-time whole-time and so forth. There are different combinations. I am well aware of abuses in that area. I would hope, between now and finalising the legislation, the Minister might think about the tightness of the definition. What I am really interested in here is the person, inevitably a dedicated person — I think a majority of them have a certain amount of vocational enthusiasm — who is in a sense, being abused. By breaking the person's service, particularly in the case of married women — you could break service by having a long string of part time employment slots which did not qualify for our definition of "wholetime"— he or she could find themselves outside the protection. I welcome the Minister's amendment but I still have a reservation in relation to the adequacy of the protection involved.

I would hope to reassure the Deputy that "wholetime" is clearly defined in the local government regulations pertaining to the employment of staff in the public service. The word "permanent" has been an inhibiting factor over the years in that people who work in a temporary or whole-time capacity left service and maybe were qualifying for pensions later and did not get their full credits, etc. Alternatively a person who worked in that kind of a capacity maybe withdrew from the service for a number of years and came back in a permanent position, might not get credit for their earlier work in a temporary capacity and this is here to regulate and clarify and synchronise this whole employment situation.

Just very quickly I would take it that that whole section of employees who are now seen as part time, when the part time legislation comes in these employees will be automatically covered by it.

I am sure it will take account of all that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 186:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) All staff employed in children's residential centres shall be required to have suitable training and qualifications, which shall be prescribed by the Minister and shall be registered as prescribed by the Minister.".

This is an important amendment and it deals with staffing in the residential centres. As the Committee are aware, child care is a specialist section of health care and requires highly skilled personnel. It is a very demanding job if children are to develop psychologically and socially. Therefore, the training of staff is critical.

Section 49 of the Bill does not set out any minimum standards as regards staff training or qualifications. My amendment No. 186 would arrange for the Minister to set out a register of staff, their training and qualifications. My understanding is that in 1992 there will be an EC requirement laying down qualifications for paramedics, social workers, care workers and so on. Since we may not get an opportunity to amend this legislation between now and 1992 it is very important that the child care area is properly dealt with so far as qualifications are concerned. I understand the Minister for Health has promised new legislation to give different grades separate status — for example, social workers, care workers, physiotherapists and all grades of paramedics. This amendment sets out what the particular requirements would be and I think it should be accepted. I might add that there are already career structures for care workers in these centres. There is an association of such care workers, and it would not be administratively difficult to put such a structure in place.

The only point I would make against my own amendment relates to the first words "all staff employed. . ." The Minister may seek to modify this in regard to ordinary cleaning staff, domestics and so on, who I would not expect to have qualifications or letters after their names. What I am saying is that all the mainline child care workers would have a minimum level of qualifications so that the friends, relatives, the next of kin of children who are taken into care will at least be assured that they are in capable hands. I ask the Minister to give this matter full consideration because there is a serious gap in this Part of the Bill.

I wholeheartedly support the amendment. We have dealt with administration and how that would be catered for, but the needs of the children taken into care must be the primary consideration. People who take up positions in the child care area are always dedicated. There is no doubt about that. They have something very special. Nevertheless I see the need for the type of qualification suggested in this amendment and I support it.

There are two elements in this amendment. The first is that the staff in children's homes should be properly trained and the second is that they should be registered under some statutory procedures. In regard to the first matter I accept that staff in our homes should be suitably trained and qualified. This is the case in relation to the vast bulk of our existing staff. Furthermore the regulations to be made under section 45 (2) (c) will be able to impose requirements as to qualifications, etc. I would put it to the Deputies, therefore, that this aspect is adequately provided for.

The second aspect is the introduction of a system of professional registration. Deputies should be aware that this is to be the subject of a separate Bill to be promoted by my colleague, the Minister for Health. The purpose of the proposed Bill is to provide for the introduction of statutory registration for a range of health professions, including child care workers, social workers, physiotherapists, radiographers, etc. The preparation of the scheme of this Bill is proceeding in consultation with the various staff interests and it is hoped to introduce a Bill later this year. Consequently both points have been covered and this amendment is unnecessary. I would be grateful if the Deputy would withdraw this amendment.

The Minister made reference to secton 45 (2) (c). We have already discussed this in relation to the amendment that "shall" be substituted for "may", and it met with little favour at the time. I question now the reliance of the Minister in relation to the qualifications and training for staff and whether that is adequate. This should be the subject of a separate section because while Deputy O'Donoghue said he did not want to see someone getting into trouble over a faulty light of ventilation, I certainly consider that unqualified staff would be quite a separate matter. I ask the Minister therefore to consider whether section 45 (2) (c) should be appropriately put in the same bracket as equipment and facilities or ventilation, and if it might more appropriately be the subject of a separate section setting out that the Minister would deal with this matter.

I would like further clarification from the Minister about registration how this would restrospectively apply or whether the new legislation would amend this legislation to meet the EC requirements in relation to registration. Now is the time to consider this.

The Minister has made no argument against the principle of what I am seeking to achieve. He is just saying it is provided for in an alternative way. I would ask the Minister, as he is going to substantially amend Part VII anyway, if he would consider taking subsection (2) (c) out of section 45 and making a proper section dealing with all facets of staffing — with ratio, qualifications and training.

When a new registration Bill is introduced it would incorporate references to existing Bills which means that the proposed new registration Bill would cover the demands of existing law and existing services. Consequently health professionals working in the child care area would be covered by the new Bill retrospectively and in the future. That would also be in line with the European directive. As we have dealt with section 45 (2) (c) I cannot contemplate removing any part of it. I thought we had explained quite clearly on amendment No. 182 the effects that changing "may" for "shall" would have. I thought I clarified the situation. The Deputy can take it that we want the best professional staff available for child care services. One cannot put everybody in as a professional. There would be a need for ancilliary staff, back-up staff, and that flexibility must be there. There must be qualified staff, professional staff and the new registration Bill will take care of the quality and standards to be attained by people going into the child care area.

When I look over to my right and see the strong support I have facing into this area of conflict, I will withdraw this amendment and resubmit it on Report Stage when I might have more support.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 49, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 50 to 52, inclusive, agreed to.