Almost 700 Special Needs Assistant and teacher positions remain unfilled in schools throughout the country as a result of a backlog in applications for garda vetting.

A number of children with disabilities have been forced to remain at home as a result because Special Needs Assistants are not yet in place in their school to cater for their physical needs. Others have been asked to attend for shorter periods to help their schools cope.

These would include children with toileting needs or behavioural problems, who need physical assistance during the school day.

Legislative changes mean this is the first year that schools can not employ anyone whose background has not been vetted by the gardaí. 

The gardaí said they have processed thousands of applications since mid-August. However, more than a month into the school year, 389 Special Needs Assistant and 294 teacher vetting applications are still pending.

They said the bulk of those would have been received within the past five days.

The gardaí said 80% of electronic applications are being processed within five days. However many schools are still obliged to make paper applications, and 80% of those applications are taking up to four to five weeks to be processed.

Schools and Special Needs Assistants have also complained that the system is too cumbersome. Schools must make applications on behalf of successful job applicants. If an already vetted SNA changes school then often the vetting process must be done again.

RTÉ News has spoken to one SNA who has been vetted around 15 times.

Difficulties are also arising in relation to cover for Special Needs Assistants who are ill, as the school needs to have vetting in place before a substitute can begin work.

Although several hundred teachers are also waiting to be vetted, the situation with teachers is not problematic. A centralised system of electronic vetting is being run by the Teacher's Council, and this is apparently working well.