Minister Shatter publishes legislation to require mandatory vetting of persons working with children or vulnerable adults

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., today published the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 to enhance the protection of children and vulnerable adults. When enacted this Bill will make it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted by the Gardaí.
 
In September 2008 the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children recommended that the existing vetting procedures be placed on a statutory basis. The Committee also recommended that legislation be introduced to regulate and control the manner in which records of criminal convictions and information including "soft information" can be stored and disclosed by the Garda Síochána and other agencies for the purpose of child protection. This Bill provides the necessary legislation. The Bill also seeks to provide an appropriate balance between the need to disclose such information in the public interest, and in the interest of protecting children or vulnerable adults, while also providing appropriate safeguards to recognise the rights of persons who are the subject of such disclosures.

On the 27 July 2011 the Minister published the Heads of the Bill. At the time, the Minister also referred the Heads of the Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence for consideration by the Committee. The Joint Oireachtas Committee published its recommendations in regard to the Bill in November 2011.  

In announcing the proposed legislation, Minister Shatter said:

"When enacted this Bill will make it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted by the Gardaí. There will also be criminal penalties for any employer who fails to do so. I consider it essential that where persons have been convicted by the courts or have been found to be a danger to children or vulnerable persons, then we must provide a clear legal basis to ensure that potential employers will be made aware of the facts. The Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of children and vulnerable persons is protected to the fullest extent possible.  This Bill is part of a suite of legislation to provide additional legislative safeguards to protect children or vulnerable adults. This Bill will complement the provisions of the Children First Bill and the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012."

The Minister continued:

"A series of reports including the Kelly Fitzgerald Report, the Ferns Report, the Dublin Archdiocese Report, the Ryan Report and the Cloyne Report have demonstrated the absolute need to strengthen our procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults and the publication of this Bill represent a major step in that direction".

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 will be made available on the Oireachtas website.

20 July 2012

ENDS

Notes for Editor

The Central Vetting Unit of the Garda Síochána, established in January 2002, provides a vetting service for public service employers (e.g. Health Service Executive, hospitals, schools etc.) and certain bodies (e.g. National Youth Council, GAA, Barnardos) working with children or vulnerable adults.

In September 2008, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children published an interim report which recommended that legislation be introduced to regulate and control the manner in which records of criminal convictions and information including "soft information" can be stored and disclosed by the Garda Síochána and other agencies for the purpose of child protection. 

In July 2011 the Government agreed to proceed with the drafting of the Bill.

Main Provisions of the Bill
The Bill has two main purposes:

1) To provide a statutory framework for the existing vetting procedures, using criminal records information, in regard to persons seeking employment working with children and vulnerable adults.
2) To provide a statutory framework to define "soft" or "specified" information and to set out procedures to allow this information be used in vetting persons applying for employment working with children or young adults. "Specified information" is defined as information in respect of the person that is of such a nature as to reasonably give rise to a concern that they may harm a child or vulnerable person.

The following are key provisions of the proposed legislation:
· Decisions on whether or not to employ a person are made by the employer, not by the Vetting Bureau.
· The consent to the vetting process of the person seeking employment will be obtained prior to vetting.
· The Vetting Bureau’s role is to disclose verified, accurate information to enable employers make informed decisions, in order to protect the public interest.
· The definition of "soft" or "specified" information in the scheme is quite restrictive and only includes information arising from a formal investigation, either by the Gardaí or another specified body which has statutory responsibility for conducting such investigations, where that investigation found bona fide evidence that a person is likely to cause harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Schedule 2 of the Bill lists the organisations responsible for providing "specified" information to the Garda Vetting Bureau. (Copy attached)
· The Bill provides that before any "specified" information is disclosed, the person to whom the record refers must be afforded the opportunity to challenge the information in question. The Bill provides for an independent appeals mechanism if the person concerned is not satisfied with the decision to disclose the information.
· The disclosure of "specified" information in the vetting process is restricted to employment which involves regular or ongoing contact with or access to children or vulnerable adults.  The types of employment which will require vetting are listed in Schedule 1 of the Bill. (Copy attached)
· Certain private arrangements such as babysitting, private tuition or other private contracts will not be subject to the requirements of vetting (see Section 3 of the Bill).  

Schedule 1
Part 1
Relevant work or activities relating to children

1. Any work or activity which is carried out by a person, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, children in -
(a) an establishment which provides pre-school services within the meaning of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991,
(b) a school or centre of education, both within the meaning of the Education Act 1998,
(c) any hospital or health care centre which receives, treats or otherwise provides services to children,
(d) a designated centre within the meaning of section 2 of the Health Act 2007, in so far as it relates to an institution at which residential services are provided in accordance with the Child Care Act 1991,
(e) a special care unit provided and maintained in accordance with section 23K of the Child Care Act 1991,
(f) a children detention school within the meaning of section 3 of the Children Act 2001,
2. Any work or activity which consists of the provision of home tuition by a person pursuant to the Scheme administered and funded by the Department of Education and known as the Home Tuition Scheme.
3. Any work or activity which consists of treatment, therapy or counselling provided to a child by a person in the course of that work or activity.
4. Any work or activity which consists of care or supervision of children unless the care or supervision is merely incidental to the care or supervision of persons who are not children.
5. Any work or activity which consists of the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities (whether or not for commercial or any other consideration) to children unless the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities is merely incidental to the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities to persons who are not children.
6. Any work or activity which consists of the provision of  advice, guidance, developmental, or counselling services, (including by means of electronic interactive communications) to children unless the provision of the  advice, guidance, developmental or counselling service is merely incidental to the provision of those services to persons who are not children.
7. Any work or activity as a minister or priest or any other person engaged in the advancement of any religious beliefs.
8. Work as a driver of a public service vehicle which is being used only for the purpose of conveying children.
9. The provision by a person, whether or not for commercial or other consideration, of accommodation for a child in his or her own home.
10. Any research work or activities (howsoever described) carried out in a university, institute of technology or other establishment at which third level education is provided where a necessary and regular part of the research work or activity involves contact with or access to children.
11. Any application by a person to carry on or manage a designated centre within the meaning of section 2 of the Health Act 2007.
12. Any application by a person for a declaration of eligibility and suitability within the meaning of section 3 of the Adoption Act 2010.
13. Any assessment of a person’s suitability to act as a foster carer by or under section 39 of the Child Care Act 1991.
14. Any assessment by or under section 41 of the Child Care Act 1991 of a person’s suitability to act as a carer of a child in respect of whom he or she is a relative.
15. Any work or activity which is carried on by a person, a necessary and regular part of which requires the person to have access to, or contact with, children pursuant to the following enactments:
(a) Medical Practitioners Act 2007;
(b) Nurses Act 1985
(c) Nurses and Midwives Act 2011;
(d) Dentists Act 1985;
(e) Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005;
(f) Pharmacy Act 2007;
(g) Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council Order 2000 (S.I. No. 109 of 2000);
(h) Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (Establishment) Order 2000 (Amendment) Order 2004 (S.I. No. 575 of 2004).
 Schedule 1
Part 2
Relevant work or activities relating to vulnerable persons
1. Any work or activity which is carried out by a person, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, vulnerable persons in -
(a) a school or centre of education, both within the meaning of the Education Act 1998, unless, in the case of a centre of education, the work or activity is merely incidental to work or activities undertaken in relation to persons who are not vulnerable persons.
(b) any hospital or care centre which receives, treats or otherwise which provides services to vulnerable persons,
(c) a designated centre within the meaning of section 2 of the Health Act 2007, in so far as it relates to an institution at which residential services are provided to vulnerable persons,
(d) an approved centre within the meaning of Part 5 of the Mental Health Act 2001,
(e) any organisation or facility which provides educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities (whether or not for commercial or any other consideration) for vulnerable persons,
(f) in any organisation or facility which provides welfare, advice, guidance, developmental, or counselling services for vulnerable persons.
2. Any work or activity which consists of treatment, therapy or counselling provided to a vulnerable person by a person in the course of that work or activity.
3. Any work or activity which consists of the care (including the provision of health and personal social services and essential domestic services) of vulnerable persons unless the care is merely incidental to the care of persons who are not vulnerable persons.
4. Any work or activity which consists of the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities (whether or not for commercial or any other consideration) to vulnerable persons unless the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities is merely incidental to the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities to persons who are not vulnerable persons.
5. Any work or activity which consists of the provision of advice, guidance, developmental, or counselling services, (including by means of electronic interactive communications) to vulnerable persons unless the provision of the advice, guidance, developmental or counselling service is merely incidental to the provision of those services to persons who are not vulnerable persons.
6. Work as a driver of a public service vehicle which is being used only for the purpose of conveying vulnerable persons.
7. Any work or activity as a minister or priest or any other person engaged in the advancement of any religious beliefs.
8. A person providing accommodation, whether or for commercial consideration or any other consideration, for vulnerable persons in his or her own home.
9. Any research work or activities (howsoever described) carried out in a university, institute of technology or other establishment at which third level education is provided where a necessary and regular part of the research work or activity involves contact with or access to vulnerable persons.
10. Any assessment of a person’s suitability to act as a care representative under section 21 of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009.
11. Any application by a person to carry on or manage a designated centre both within the meaning of section 2 of the Health Act 2007.
12. Any work or activity which is carried on by a person, a necessary and regular part of which requires the person to have access to, or contact with, vulnerable persons pursuant to the following enactments:
(a) Medical Practitioners Act 2007;
(b) Nurses Act 1985;
(c) Nurses and Midwives Act 2011;
(d) Dentists Act 1985;
(e) Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005;
(f) Pharmacy Act 2007;
(g) Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (Establishment) Order 2000 (S.I. No. 109 of 2000);
(h) Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (Establishment) Order 2000 (Amendment) Order 2004 (S.I. No. 575 of 2004).
Schedule 2
Section 19
Organisations required to notify specified information to Bureau

1. The Health Service Executive
2. The Teaching Council
3. The Medical Council
4. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland
5. The Dental Council
6. The Health and Social Care Professionals Council
7. The Mental Health Commission
8. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland
9. The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council
10. The Health Information and Quality Authority
11. The National Transport Authority.