Press Release

Minister Lenihan on Vetting Procedures to protect Children

“It is integral to ensure that the most stringent vetting procedures and good employment practices are adhered to when persons are being evaluated in relation to their suitability to work with children and young people”.

“No child should find themselves in a situation, either within or outside the family, where they are subject to abuse of any kind be it neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse”.

“In order to offer greater protection to children a number of improved procedures have been put into place in Ireland over the past decade. These procedures include the Child Care Act, 1991, the Children First Guidelines, Our Duty to Care guidelines, Recruitment guidelines and the Garda Central Vetting Unit.”

“In November, 1994 and September, 1995 directions were issued by the Department of Health and Children regarding the recruitment of staff to areas within the health services where these staff would have substantial access to children and vulnerable individuals. These directions highlighted the need for Garda clearance and verified references to be obtained.”

“It is necessary to bear in mind that criminal record checks are not the sole answer to ensuring applicants suitability for jobs. There is a particular onus of care on employers to maintain good employment procedures such as good interviewing practice and validation of references during the recruitment stage. Adequate supervision arrangements must also remain in place post recruitment”.

“In response to concerns regarding the clearance of applicants to positions where persons have responsibility for children, a Central Vetting Unit was established by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Garda Headquarters in January, 2002. This Unit currently provides checks on prospective full-time health sector employees who would have substantial access to children and vulnerable adults. Up to last September, the Unit had dealt with in the region of 40,000 vetting and data protection requests. The Unit processed, in seven months, the equivalent of the number of applications processed in one full year previously. It has also reduced the length of time taken to process vetting requests for Irish workers to within a period of three weeks. The work of the Unit also involves on-going co-operation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”

“The National Children´s Advisory Council (NCAC) have now completed and submitted to me in my capacity as Minister for Children a report on Child Protection and Vetting to me.”

“On foot of this report the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have recently established a working group comprised of representatives of the Garda, the Attorney General´s Office, Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children to consider the enhancement of vetting procedures for persons coming into contact with children and vulnerable people. This group will examine the current Garda Vetting System. They will also examine –

  • Coverage, including priorities for extension of police checks
  • Access for voluntary, community and charitable organisations
  • The role of national protocols/procedures to ensure uniformity/consistency in the system”

“I also intend to establish a mechanism which will allow the voluntary organisations such as Barnardo´s, ISPCC, and NSPCC, to put their views to this group and to have consideration given to their concerns.”

“National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children were published in September, 1999. These guidelines are national and over-arching and apply to all individuals and agencies dealing with children. They support and guide health professionals, teachers, members of the Garda Siochana and the many people in sporting, cultural, community and voluntary organisations who are in regular contact with children.”

“They also emphasise the importance of good practice in recruiting individuals who are to work with children. Information and Advice Officers have been employed by the health boards to work with voluntary organisations in implementing the National Guidelines. In addition, a recently published document entitled Our Duty to Care, is based on Children First and a Northern Ireland document of the same name, which promote good practice and procedures for voluntary and community organisations dealing with children”.

“We must build on the steps which have been taken already and improve the protective measures in place. The Health Boards in conjunction with my Department and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform keep the national Guidelines and procedures generally, under review so as to ensure that we offer the highest standards of protection to children.”