The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter T.D. announced that the Oireachtas today passed the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012.
This Bill provides a statutory basis for the use of Garda criminal records in the vetting of persons applying for employment working with children or vulnerable adults. The Bill also provides for the use of "soft" information, (which is referred to as "specified information" in the Bill) in regard to vetting. This is information other than criminal convictions where such information leads to a bona-fide belief that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons.
Vetting procedures are already a requirement under the Children First National Guidelines. By the end of 2012 approximately 350,000 vetting applications will have been processed by the Garda Central Vetting Unit. The primary purpose of the Bill is to put the procedures that have been developed to vet these applications into law, to provide for the use of soft information and to ensure those working with children or vulnerable adults are properly vetted. The Garda Central Vetting Unit will become the National Vetting Bureau under the provisions of this Bill and will have a substantially expanded role under new legislation.
The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 makes it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted, whereas at present this is done on the basis of a voluntary code. The Bill will also create offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with its provisions. The schedule to the Bill lists in detail the types of work or activities that require vetting. These include:
· Childcare services
· Hospitals and health services
· Residential services or accommodation for children or vulnerable persons
· Treatment, therapy or counselling services for children or vulnerable persons
· Provision of leisure, sporting or physical activities to children or vulnerable persons
· Promotion of religious beliefs
In announcing the passing of the legislation Minister Shatter stated: "The recent children’s rights referendum has enshrined in the Constitution key principles to protect children which will guide our legislation into the future. I think it is therefore very timely that the Oireachtas has now passed this important piece of legislation. The Bill makes it mandatory that persons who are working in positions which provide regular access to children or vulnerable adults be vetted. It also now makes it a criminal offence for organisations to fail to carry out the necessary vetting of their employees and volunteers. The Vetting Bill forms part of a suite of legislation prioritised by this Government to enhance the protection of children, including the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes Against Children and Vulnerable Adults Act) 2012 and the Children First Bill 2012 being progressed by my colleague Minister Frances Fitzgerald."
19 December 2012
Note for Editors:
National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill - Purpose of Bill
In November 2007, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children was established to consider and report to the Houses on the proposals set out in the Twenty-Eight Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2007.
In September 2008, the Committee published an interim report which recommended that legislation be introduced to regulate and control the manner in which records of criminal convictions and information including "soft information" can be stored and disclosed by the Garda Síochána and other agencies for the purpose of child protection.
This Bill provides the necessary statutory basis for the use of Garda criminal records database to conduct vetting of persons applying for employment working with children or vulnerable adults. The Bill also provides for the use of "soft" information in regard to vetting, which is referred to as "specified information" in the Bill. Specified information is information other than a court determined criminal record. For example, it includes conclusions from investigations of child abuse or neglect that have been conducted by the HSE, where such investigations have concluded that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons. Specified information will also include similar conclusions arising from fitness to practice inquiries by statutory bodies such as those conducted by the Medical Council, the Nursing Council or the Teaching Council. It also includes a bona-fide concern that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable person where this arises from Garda investigations of criminal offences. The Bill provides for the appointment of an independent Appeals Officer who will be responsible for assessing and deciding appeals against the proposed disclosure of specified information.