Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
80. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if amendments to the Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 and the Sex Offenders Act 2001 will be forthcoming during the remainder of the term of this Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27583/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Ensuring the protection, health and welfare of children is a key concern for the Government, parentsand agencies that work with children and society generally. The Government is determined to do all that it can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has announced a doubling of the number of staff employed in the unit to ensure that they can handle a greater volume of requests from employers. The unit will commence the augmentation of its existing vetting arrangements upon decentralisation targeted for mid-November 2005. The provision of additional staff resources will enable the Garda Síochána’s vetting services to be extended to all persons working with children and vulnerable adults. This will include teachers, caretakers and others working with children.
In the education sector, vetting is available in respect of requests for clearance from the Department of Education and Science for bus escorts and special needs assistants provided to children with special educational needs, and to staff working in children’s detention schools. Irrespective of whatever additional arrangements may be introduced in this area in the future, criminal record checks, while being capable in appropriate circumstances of making a significant contribution to ensuring that unsuitable persons do not secure positions of trust, are not the sole answer to ensuring applicants’ suitability for posts. There will continue to be a particular onus of care on employers to maintain good employment practice both during the recruitment stage, for example good interviewing practice, checking of references, and in ensuring adequate supervision arrangements post-recruitment.
The working group on Garda vetting has recommended the Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 be amended so as to offer protection for persons reporting the abuse of vulnerable adults, such as those with certain mental and physical disabilities, and not just the abuse of children. It was also recommended that the Sex Offenders Act 2001 should be amended to require a convicted sex offender to inform a prospective employer of his or her conviction when applying for a position involving unsupervised access to the physically disabled and not just children or the mentally impaired. These proposals are being considered within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
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