Garda Vetting

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 709 No. 4

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Deputy Cyprian Brady: Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  I welcome the opportunity to raise this important and specific matter, namely, delays in clearance for volunteers and participants in forthcoming summer projects. In my constituency, stretching from East Wall to the Navan Road and the markets area to Cabra, groups and communities depend on volunteers to run projects throughout the summer. In some cases, these summer projects provide the only opportunity for children to take part in structured activities and may be the only break a parent will get in the summer. They are extremely important to communities in my area. The alternative is that children will have no option but to hang around and we have all seen the result of this type of activity on numerous occasions.

In recent years, Dublin City Council has built a successful framework for summer projects. Delays in clearing workers and volunteers can be highly damaging given that these summer projects have become a major part of life in local communities to which people look forward [849]for a whole year. They take place when children are off school and, as I stated, they sometimes provide the only opportunity a child will have to take part in certain activities.

I am aware of delays in clearing applicants for some community employment schemes and training courses, specifically in areas involving children, vulnerable adults and older people. Everyone fully accepts that checks must be made. In light of a number of incidents of abuse and malpractice in recent years, the highest standards are required, particularly where the care of children is concerned. I ask the Minister of State to ensure the resources needed to ensure effective and effective clearance are provided, particularly as the summer projects will soon commence.

Deputy Áine Brady: Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  I am replying to this matter on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I thank Deputy Cyprian Brady for raising it. It may be helpful if I outline briefly the background to the system of Garda employment vetting that operates at present. The Garda central vetting unit provides employment vetting to a large number of organisations registered with the Garda for this purpose and which employ or engage persons, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, for posts where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults.

In response to a written request for vetting, which is only made with the consent of the person in question, the vetting unit releases criminal history information in respect of the person concerned to the prospective recruiting organisation. It is important to emphasise, however, that Garda employment vetting is only one element of the overall recruitment process and that there is a range of other factors which the recruiting body or organisation should take into account when coming to a decision on a person’s suitability.

The Garda employment vetting service has undergone a significant expansion in recent years. This strategic expansion is taking place by way of a phased roll-out to an increasing number of organisations in the child and vulnerable adult care sectors. The House will understand that this target group is the clear policy priority. Phasing the expansion of vetting is necessary to prevent an unmanageable surge in vetting application numbers, which would likely lead to an administrative logjam.

The Garda vetting unit has successfully managed a significant growth in the number of vetting applications it receives to the point where it dealt with almost 250,000 applications last year, an increase from 137,000 in 2006. The average processing time for vetting applications fluctuates during the year owing to seasonal demands when the volume of applications received from certain sectors can increase greatly, for example, for summer camps and training placements. The Garda authorities indicate that the average processing time for valid vetting applications received at the vetting unit may vary from four to five weeks in periods of lower demand to up to about 12 weeks at times when demand is particularly high.

In any individual case additional time may be required to process a vetting application where clarification or further information is required as to the details provided or where other inquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. While a reasonably significant period will always be required to process a vetting application, the Garda makes every effort to reduce this to the minimum period possible, consistent with carrying out the checks required.

Responsibility for the deployment of Garda personnel is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner, taking into account all his requirements. From the outset of the expansion of the vetting service, significant additional resources have been deployed to the vetting unit. A total of 83 personnel are currently assigned to the vetting unit, including six gardaí and 77 [850]Garda civilian personnel. Five additional temporary personnel are being recruited and it is intended that these personnel will commence work during next month.

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Taken in the aggregate, these figures, constitute a significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the vetting unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development of the Garda vetting service began in 2005. Approximately 18,000 organisations are in receipt of vetting services from the Garda vetting unit for employment purposes, covering the wide range of health, educational, sporting and recreational sectors. The Garda manages contacts with these organisations through more than 800 single points of contact. An essential feature of the current vetting system is the partnership approach that has been adopted with the various organisations. The Garda vetting unit provides ongoing support and advice to the organisations in question in managing their vetting requirements.

There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. However, the Garda Síochána makes every effort to reduce this to the minimum possible, consistent with carrying out the checks needed.

Responsibility for the deployment of Garda personnel is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner, taking into account all his requirements. From the outset of the expansion of the vetting service, significant additional resources have been deployed to the vetting unit. There is currently a total of 83 personnel assigned to the vetting unit, including six gardaí and 77 Garda civilian personnel. Five additional temporary personnel are being recruited and it is intended that these personnel will begin work during the next month.

Taken in the aggregate, these figures represent a very significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the vetting unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development of the Garda vetting service began in 2005. There are approximately 18,000 organisations in receipt of vetting services from the Garda vetting unit for employment purposes, covering the wide range of health, educational, sporting and recreational sectors in Ireland. The Garda Síochána manages contacts with these organisations through 800 single points of contact. An essential feature of the current vetting system is the partnership approach that has been adopted with the various organisations, and the Garda vetting unit provides ongoing support and advice to the organisations in managing their vetting requirements.


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