The Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald expressed concern that many creche and pre-school personnel have no Garda vetting after the publication of the latest tranche of 37 HSE inspection reports for Limerick. They are available on pobal.maps.ie, writes Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little.
The Shannonside county is the first of the Republic's 28 (Dublin comprises three Counties) on which inspection reports will be published in response to last May's RTÉ Primetime expose of mistreatment of children in some creches in Greater Dublin.
It was chosen quite arbitrarily, Ms Fitzgerald explained, and not because of any particular concern about the quality of services in Limerick.
Since August 2012, the HSE has required all pre-school and creche personnel to have Garda vetting. But in the reports published on Wednesday and today, many of the Limerick-based facilities failed to comply.
Ms Fitzgerald told RTÉ News that the processing time had quadrupled this year but that the Government had re-assigned 54 public servants to the Vetting Unit in a bid to reduce the backlog.
She said that at present, the HSE was satisfied to allow the non-compliant childcare facilities to continue to function once they provided evidence that they had applied for Garda vetting for all their personnel.
Once this was provided, there was no question of them losing their State contracts to provide the Free Pre-School year, she said.
75 reports on facilities in Limerick have now been published. The Minister said this is not an exhaustive list of Limerick services but represents the most recent reports which have been completed on the named facilities during the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.
She also advised parents and guardians not to rely on reading the HSE reports on the internet.
She said they should be made available on request by the creches and pre-schools themselves.
According to the Department of Justice, at the end of last month, it was taking on average 12 to 14 weeks to process applications to the Garda Central Vetting Unit. Minister Fitzgerald told RTE News that this marks almost a four-fold increase since earlier this year.
On 27 June, Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, told the Dáil that one Garda Superintendent, three Garda Sergeants and approximately 136 civilian personnel were working for the Unit.
This civilian complement in the facility included 23 staff recently transferred from Department of Agriculture. An additional 31 public servants had been reassigned to the Unit and were undergoing training. Mr Shatter said that once various cohorts complete their courses between now and mid-September, he expected vetting times to be reduced.
He said the Unit provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organizations in the Republic which employ personnel to work in a full-time, part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and/or vulnerable adults.
He also noted that it processed approximately 328,000 applications on behalf of those organizations last year alone. And he cautioned that new and forthcoming legislation will result in a significant increase in the workload of the Unit which is based in Thurles, County Tipperary.