Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999
Written Answers. - Clearance Checks.
Mr. Rabbitte Mr. Rabbitte
489. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding discussions between his Department and FÁS and the Garda Síochána regarding the implementation of a system of clearance checks for personnel working with children on projects supported by FÁS; when the discussions will be completed and a system of checks in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9996/99]
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The position is that there have been arrangements in place since 1994 whereby the Garda Síochána carry out clearance checks in respect of full-time prospective employees in the health care area who would have substantial access to children or vulnerable individuals. These arrangements are implemented by the Garda Síochána in strict adherence to legal advices received in the matter from the Attorney General.
 My Department, together with the Garda authorities, have been in discussions for some time with FÁS, the aim of which is to extend to employees having substantial contact with children in non-residential community employment schemes, the same arrangements as apply to prospective employees in the health care area. The issues involved, while clearly of considerable importance as they relate to the security and safety of children, are quite complex as it is also essential to safeguard the privacy. and other rights of individuals. However, a meeting between the secretary general of my Department, the Garda commissioner and the director-general of FÁS will take place this week with a view to resolving outstanding difficulties. This would allow arrangements to be put in place which would assist in guarding against unsuitable persons participating in FÁS-funded projects involving substantial contact with children.
I should also say that a comprehensive review will be undertaken of the need for “clearance” arrangements in the child care area generally and, perhaps, other areas also having regard, inter alia, to the recent report of the expert working group on child care. However, irrespective of whatever new arrangements may be introduced in this area in the future, it will continue to be necessary to bear in mind that criminal record checks, while being capable in appropriate circumstances of making a significant contribution to ensuring that unsuitable persons do not secure positions of trust, are not the sole answer to ensuring applicants' suitability for jobs particularly where children or other vulnerable persons could be open to abuse. There will continue to be a particular onus of care on employers to maintain good employment practice both during the recruitment stage – e.g., good interviewing practice, checking references etc. – and, also, when it comes to ensuring adequate supervision arrangements post-recruitment.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Clearance Checks.