Written Answers - Child Care Services.

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 613 No. 13

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  300.  Mr. Perry  Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the avenues persons (details supplied) have to pursue to get clearance for the operation of their crèche and Montessori; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2966/06]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Garda vetting is currently not generally available in respect of child care services. In respect of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, where that makes a contribution towards the staffing costs of certain workers working directly with children, it is a condition of the programme that such staff “must have any clearance prescribed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform”. The requirement of the programme only relates to such workers, and not to other people who may be present in the facility.

Last year, an inter-agency working group on Garda vetting reported with a clear and focused strategy for enhancing national vetting arrangements from a child protection perspective. This strategy provided for an expansion in the criminal record vetting service provided by the Garda central vetting unit to all organisations which recruit persons having substantial, unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults. This has significant implications for the education, child care, [1410]youth work, sports and voluntary sectors, among others.

To provide for the increase in demand associated with such an expansion in the availability of vetting, the working group made a number of recommendations. I am pleased that the central vetting unit has now been successfully transferred to new, custom-designed office accommodation in Thurles, County Tipperary, from where it will soon complete expansion of its vetting service. I can also confirm that, during its expansion, the matter of the adequacy of staff resources will be kept under constant review.

The strategy is being overseen by an implementation group on Garda vetting comprising key stakeholders, including the education, health, child care and sports sectors, as well as Mr. Paul Gilligan, CEO of the ISPCC. The implementation group is overseeing the implementation of the practical recommendations of the report of the working group. Implementation issues include the training of the additional staff, accommodation matters, financial management arrangements, work process re-engineering and the preparation of client organisations and sectors for the availability of vetting. In terms of overall prioritisation across sectors, the central vetting unit will roll out its vetting service in the chronological order that each sector completes its own preparatory actions.

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