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Garda vetting wait leaves charities hit by helper hold-ups

INCREASED demands on the Garda Vetting Unit has led to delays of almost two months for new members joining charitable organisations, the Herald can reveal.

Voluntary organisations such as the Vincent de Paul and the ISPCC get all new members vetted, as recommended by an Oireachtas Committee in the area of child protection.

Normally this process takes up to three weeks -- but increased demand on the valued resources of the Garda Vetting Unit means this has increased up to eight weeks.

Caroline O'Sullivan, Director of Services with the ISPCC, told the Herald the situation will only get worse if more funds aren't allocated to the unit.

"This has to come in; it has to be effective, so therefore resources have to be put into it," Caroline O'Sullivan said.

She says that the ISPCC is "willing to wait a couple of weeks but don't want to get into a situation where [they're] waiting months for feedback from the Vetting Unit."

While she acknowledges that the unit is doing great work, she says the Government has to give the unit more resources in order for it to maintain its high level of quality.

"The Government need to be cognisant of the fact that [the Garda Vetting Unit] need more resources to keep up their current standards.

"Are we actually taking steps to protect children? Or are we going to ignore them?" Caroline O'Sullivan asked.

A spokesperson from the Garda Press Office says that there is no set time for how long the vetting process will last. Each individual case has to be assessed on its own merit. The processing of the applications is usually done within a four to five-week period.

However, the garda spokesperson revealed to the Herald that employers are currently being asked to wait for seven to eight weeks for the vetting process to conclude.

Garda Vetting is the process whereby a background check is conducted to see if a person has any previous convictions.

Recently, a plan to axe a scheme which provides schools with vetted substitute teachers has caused widespread condemnation.

Under the scheme, schools are supplied with substitute teachers who are known by the school and ready to take over if needs be.

The substitutes are all located in a single school and are ready to cover for teachers who are absent in surrounding schools.

Sheila Nunan from the INTO calls the scheme "basically cost neutral". Instead of axeing the scheme, she said, minister Batt O'Keefe, head of the Department of Education and Science, should be extending the scheme to include rural schools or schools in disadvantaged areas.