Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (536)

Patrick Costello

Question:

536. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if a legal lacuna (details supplied) which is causing serious issues for early years providers will be addressed; if he will instruct his officials to engage with the relevant officials in the Department of Justice in order to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6389/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Garda vetting in Ireland is governed by the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016, which falls under the remit of the Minister for Justice.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 provide a legislative basis for the mandatory vetting of persons who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons or to provide certain services to children or vulnerable persons. Garda vetting is conducted in respect of any person who is carrying out work or activity, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, children or vulnerable persons.

Under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 and the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018, registered owners/ board members and/ or managers of early learning and care and school age childcare services are required to submit Garda vetting disclosures to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) when making an application for registration.

My Department has been advised by the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate that the National Vetting Bureau has confirmed that there is no provision in the relevant legislation to conduct vetting in respect of such persons where that person is not engaged in relevant work or activities as defined in the legislation. Where such persons clearly state on their application for vetting that they have regular access to children as part of their duties, the National Vetting Bureau will process such applications.

Tusla has put in place a number of interim measures in response to this issue. For example, they have issued a notice to all Early Learning and Care and School-Age Care services advising that such persons, who have not been processed for vetting by the National Vetting Bureau but have regular access to and contact with children, should submit a new vetting application expressly clarifying that they have such contact with children. Furthermore, they have notified all services that such persons, who have access to and contact with children and who have been refused vetting, should not be allowed to carry out their duties when children are present.

My Department will continue to engage with both Tusla and officials in the Department of Justice on this matter.

In addition to the above, my Department provides funding to both Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) and Barnardos to act as an “authorised signatory" and process Garda vetting applications on behalf of the Early Learning and Care and School-Age Care sector. Regular liaison takes place between officials in my Department and ECI and Barnardos and this allows the Department to be aware of any potential difficulties concerning Garda vetting for the sector and to act accordingly.