I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me the opportunity to raise this issue.
I was contacted by one school in County Galway which offers a post-leaving certificate, PLC, course in child care. Part of the course involves students gaining work experience which requires Garda vetting. Two students who started the course in September have still not received their vetting clearance and it is now early December. This has a knock-on effect. Part of the course involves gaining work experience and they cannot do this without vetting clearance. Even when they have completed the course, they will have to be Garda vetted again if they take up employment in a child care setting. Waiting times for applications to be Garda vetted are up to 14 weeks, which is proving extremely frustrating not only for the school but also for these participants in the PLC course mentioned. These are students who want to further their education and get into a specific area. It is one in which an arm of the State is actually holding them back.
This problem has been ongoing for many years. It does not just cover schools but also the voluntary sector and sports groups. I worked with Foróige, a national youth organisation, for four years in which we had to vet volunteers. Delays in vetting are completely unacceptable. When this issue was raised before, one answer was that there were not enough staff in the Garda vetting section and more staff were provided for it as a result. We need to move past this. In certain parts of Europe a person can walk into the local police station, provide the equivalent of a PPS number and a vetting letter will be sent there and then. Why is our system so archaic that it takes many application forms and stymies the opportunity for people to move on in what they want to do? If one is working in the voluntary sector with one organisation, one will have received Garda clearance. If one moves to another organisation, one must apply again. That is also unacceptable. We need to do a lot of work to reduce the delays in being Garda vetted from 12 weeks to an average of two, as well as to completely change the processing system to make it easier for people to be vetted.