Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Questions (55)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

55. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the progress on completion of a workforce plan and human resources strategy within An Garda Síochána as outlined in the Policing Authority report of December 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5559/18]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Justice)

The Policing Authority report is very good. It is easily readable and digestible. There is the creation of a new language, as it were, within the Policing Authority regarding how it sets out the challenges it faces. Has there been any progress on the completion of the workforce plan and human resources strategy?

The Policing Authority is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the agreed recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report, Changing Policing in Ireland, and reporting to me on a regular basis. I welcome its fourth progress report which includes an in-depth assessment of the human resources function within An Garda Síochána.  Human resources is an important strategic business support in any organisation but this is most especially the case in an organisation such as An Garda Síochána that is undertaking a programme of reform in tandem with a major expansion of its workforce. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware the Government is committed to an increased Garda workforce, comprising 15,000 gardaí, 4,000 civilians and 2,000 reservists, over the next four years.

The broad principles underpinning the deployment of these additional personnel are contained in the Garda Commissioner's modernisation and renewal programme for the period 2016 to 2021 and supported by the Government's commitment to civilianisation and in particular the medium-term target of 20% civilians to be achieved by 2021. However, I agree with the authority's assessment that a HR strategy articulating how these resources are to be leveraged in support of visible, responsive policing is necessary at this stage. This would assist in ensuring that there is clarity as to how the contribution of gardaí, reservists and civilian staff is to be optimised throughout the organisation and ensure a coherent approach. It would also facilitate better planning in other areas, for example, with regard to training needs and accommodation needs. The Garda Commissioner is committed to the development of such a strategy by mid-year as part of the 2018 annual policing plan. I will be meeting the Garda Commissioner shortly to discuss the fourth report and this subject will be one of the key items on the agenda.

Does the Minister acknowledge that concerns were raised in the report of 22 December 2017 about the pace of implementation? The July report stated that although the Garda Síochána had indicated that 20% were completed, the authority found on further investigation that many of those which had been marked as complete had, in fact, not met the intent of the relevant recommendation in Changing Policing in Ireland. Does the Minister acknowledge that the clear, cohesive language of the Policing Authority, which is reporting back to us and publicly, is telling us that there is still much change management to be completed within An Garda Síochána and that the pace of the implementation of change is not where it needs to be?

I certainly agree that there is a body of work to be undertaken. The Deputy referred to the plan that was submitted by An Garda Síochána to the authority in July. This has been the subject of discussion with the authority, my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that a further iteration of that plan is currently being drafted. It will expand on issues such as workforce assessment, workforce supply and demand, the model for redeploying sworn officers to operational policing roles and the identification of new civilian posts. In recent months, An Garda Síochána has been in a position to enhance its capacity in this area through recruiting civilian expertise. This additional capacity is contributing towards the delivery of an updated workforce plan.

The Commissioner has acknowledged that the human resources function within An Garda Síochána is outmoded and unsuitable for an expanding 21st century workforce. It is important that the Policing Authority and An Garda Síochána work closely together on the issues in conjunction with my Department while also recognising the role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I thank the Minister for his response. All Members, along with the community who are observing the ongoing change management, want to see a policing strategy and a committee to examine performance in that regard. I acknowledge that is taking place on a monthly basis but we must ensure that milestones are being reached and that reform, which is a slow and meticulous process, is achieved. Does the Minister agree that the role of the Policing Authority has been crucial in ensuring the progress of the change management process?

Is Deputy Sherlock certain he has no other questions? I call on the Minister to respond.

I acknowledge the crucial role of the Policing Authority in the ongoing process of modernisation and reform. The issue of recruitment of civilians is of particular significance and I am anxious to ensure that process is accelerated. It is disappointing that the target of 500 civilian recruits last year was not reached. I acknowledge a number of contributory factors in that regard, including the need for An Garda Síochána to increase its recruitment abilities after a lengthy moratorium, the time required to vet persons comprehensively before they can be employed in the policing sector and the number of bodies, including the Policing Authority, my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, involved in the sanctioning process for each post. I acknowledge there was a significant acceleration in pace in the last quarter of 2017 but it is imperative that progress is more intensively accelerated this year.

I will shortly meet the Commissioner to discuss the fourth progress report of the Policing Authority. We will emphasise the importance of moving more quickly on the two strands of the civilianisation programme: the recruitment of additional civilians to address critical skills gaps and the redeployment of gardaí to policing duties and the backfilling of their posts with suitably qualified civilian staff. There are some complex and detailed issues to be addressed but this is a priority for me, as Minister, and I am happy to engage bilaterally with Deputy Sherlock and keep the House fully informed on this crucial aspect of the modernisation and reform programme for An Garda Síochána.