55,000 still wait months for Garda clearance

THERE are 55,000 people waiting up to four months to get Garda clearance to work with vulnerable adults or children in community and voluntary services, latest figures from the Department of Justice have shown.

Despite considerable beefing up, the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU), where 89 gardaí and Garda civilian personnel now work, the figure has remained chronically high over the past year.

Last October, the Irish Examiner revealed the backlog was at 60,000. At that time, an additional 10 staff had just been recruited to the unit in Thurles.

According to the department, the average waiting time is approximately 10 weeks, however, some people are waiting up to four months for clearance and cannot take up a job.

More than 290,000 people were vetted last year, and people who have been vetted and cleared once by the gardaí must be vetted again if they want to work or volunteer for a different organisation. Groups such as the St Vincent de Paul have said this is unnecessary.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he is “concerned” at the length of time taken to process vetting applications. He said the Department of Finance had sanctioned the recruitment of 10 temporary employees in the GCVU and they are now being recruited.

The minister also said further steps are “under consideration” with a view to alleviating the pressure on the staff of the GCVU and reduce the time taken to process applications.

Children’s rights groups have consistently called for legislation around vetting.

In January 2009, following the publication of the Cloyne Report, the then minister promised to publish a National Vetting Bureau Bill within six months.

This would allow for a comprehensive vetting system of those working with children, including the use of soft information. Such legislation was recommended by the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children in September 2008.

There have been arguments against the use of soft information, which includes background checks on allegations or concerns raised about people in the past.

Mr Shatter said the question of legislative proposals to provide a statutory framework for vetting would necessitate consideration of a wide range of issues including information sharing with other relevant bodies, such as the HSE.

“It will also have to have regard to how responsibility for the management of information relevant to the vetting process is assigned and the need to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens,” he said.

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