§ Ms. Richardson
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the main needs of women in the policy areas within the sphere of his Department's activities; what has been done to identify and quantify these needs and to monitor services delivery; what consultation is carried out with women to ensure their views are adequately represented; and what training is given to his staff to raise their appreciation of the needs of women.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
The relevant activities in my Department primarily relate to education, employment opportunities, health and social services. The specific needs of women, both as providers and consumers of services, are identified, quantified and monitored on a continuing basis by my Department and bodies with direct responsibilities for services. In particular, emphasis is placed on primary and secondary education in ensuring that boys and girls benefit equally from measures designed to improve the quality and relevance of the school curriculum and to raise standards.142W
My Department is funding a research project involving the study of girls' knowledge of and attitudes towards training and employment following the Cardiff Women's Training Roadshow. In the further education sector my Department is committed to improving the provision of guidance and information about the increasing range of opportunities available to women, including those in traditionally male-dominated areas such as engineering and technology. In the autumn the introduction of the Open College in Wales, with courses that aim to meet the needs and circumstances of individual students, will be of especial interest to women with domestic responsibilities. More generally the Department seeks to encourage a growing consensus within the Welsh education system on the importance of continuing and adult education, particularly part-time and using modern methods such as distance and open learning, that will benefit women.
In so far as employment is concerned, the main need is to create jobs. Employment measures include the full involvement of girls in training, award and work shadow schemes which are operated to attract young people into industry. A number of MSC initiatives are designed specifically for women. The Development Board for Rural Wales is undertaking courses for women interested in establishing their own businesses. In health, particular attention is being given to improve women's health by enhancing cervical cancer screening facilities, making preparations for the establishment of a national breast cancer screening service, addressing women's needs in the Government's anti-smoking and drug education programme and in implementing recommendations from an expert survey group to stimulate improvements in maternity and neo-natal care. The majority of informal carers are women and my Department has consistently encouraged social services departments and voluntary organisations to develop policies to assist both men and women carers. The particular problems faced by informal carers of mentally handicapped people are recognised by the introduction of the all-Wales mental handicap strategy. Finally, the Department funded a seminar to enable Welsh Women's Aid and the police to consider their roles in matters relating to domestic violence.
My Department collects and analyses a comprehensive range of data which differentiates between men and women across the range of my responsibilities particularly in relation to agriculture, education, health and social services and housing. These data highlight differences which assist in the formulation of policy options.
Consultation on policy developments take place with a large number of bodies and the views of women are reflected in responses. The Minister of State is represented on the inter-departmental ministerial group on women's issues. My Department is seeking to develop improved links with the Wales Assembly of Women. Finally, my Department's staff training programme includes sessions on a range of courses, designed to raise the level of appreciation by staff of the needs of women.