THE Government’s refusal to include up to 30,000 professional childminders in Garda vetting legislation makes little sense at a time when it is campaigning for a Yes vote in the children’s rights referendum, according to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins.
The Limerick TD conceded that while it was “not feasible” to vet casual babysitters, he saw no reason why those who earn a living minding children should not be covered by the provisions of the Garda Vetting Bill. He expressed frustration that an amendment proposing this was rejected by the coalition. There was “currently no regulation of professional childminders in this country”, Deputy Collins said.
“At a time when we are campaigning to enhance the rights of children and improve our child protection system, it’s worrying that absolutely no checks are carried out on the tens of thousands of people employed to take care of children every day. If we vet teachers, school bus drivers, health workers, social workers, sports club staff, charity workers and so on, why are professional childminders who are trusted to care for children exempt from checks?
“Vetting legislation must apply to everyone who works in the area of childcare, whether that is home or centre-based. Fianna Fáil submitted amendments to recent legislation on Garda vetting to ensure that all those who have an employment contract to mind children and are in receipt of a regular wage are vetted by the gardaí. Unfortunately these proposals were rejected,” he said.
Up to 100 civilian officers work in the Garda vetting unit and Justice Minister Alan Shatter told an Oireachtas committee that they simply didn’t have the resources to screen every single person who comes into contact with children, saying it would be “impracticable”.
Deputy Collins has urged him to reconsider, adding “if this Government is serious about child protection, then this needs to be urgently reviewed,”