CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Seanad Éireann

Commencement Matter

22 March 2017

 


The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to review the current operation of the Garda Vetting legislation.  Whereby an applicant approved by Garda Vetting, can have the approval/clearance attached to the person for a fixed period of time, and not have to make a number of applications for different organisations which he/she maybe involved with.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden

 

On behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality I thank the Senator for raising this issue in the House.

 

As the House will appreciate, the primary purpose of the Garda vetting is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.  Every effort is made to make the system as efficient as possible but that cannot be at the expense of the core objective.

 

In accordance with the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016, vetting is conducted by the Garda National Vetting Bureau in respect of a range of employments and services where persons would have substantial and unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults.

 

It is necessary for the Garda vetting bureau to conduct full vetting checks for each new vetting application received to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account.  This is because once there has been any significant lapse of time between one employment and another, the original Garda Vetting Disclosure must be reviewed to take account of any changes in information, such as more recent criminal convictions.

 

Furthermore, under the Data Protection Acts, any sensitive personal data which employers use in regard to their employees must be current, accurate and up-to-date.

 

I am pleased to inform the Senator that the vast majority of vetting applications are now submitted and processed via the e-Vetting system and that 80 per cent of the applications are now being processed by the National Vetting Bureau in five working days.

 

In circumstances where there is such a sustained reduction in processing times the problems presented in individual cases of ‘re-vetting’ or vetting ‘transferability’ are very significantly reduced.

 

This sustained improvement in processing times has come about primarily as a result of significant investment by the Government in the National Vetting Bureau and, in particular, following the launch in April this year of the new e-Vetting system.  All organisations are encouraged to avail of this service and indeed 85 percent of organisations registered for vetting are already using it.

 

Some individual cases will of their nature take longer than the average to complete when, for example, more extensive inquiries are required.  However, these cases are in the minority.

 

It is important to note also that the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 provide for a degree of flexibility which may lessen the administrative burden in respect of vetting for the management of organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults.

 

Section 12 of the Acts makes provision for certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting disclosure in respect of an individual application where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant.  This is a particularly important flexibility in respect of persons working, for example, in the health or education sectors as locums or substitute teachers.

 

Section 12 of the Acts also makes specific provision in respect of persons who may be employed on a recurring but non-continuous basis – this could comprise persons who might provide services in a school or a number of schools on a regular basis.  The vetting obligations in respect of these persons shall be regarded as satisfied where the registered organisation received a vetting disclosure in respect of the individual for the initial engagement.

 

So, in summary, a Chathaoirleach, the vetting process demands rigorous procedures to safeguard its integrity and to maintain the highest level of confidence by the public and organisations availing of the service. Any vetting process will take a certain minimum amount of time to complete and, given the importance of this service, I do not consider the current processing times unreasonable.