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Students refused crèche work over garda vetting “chaos” 27.01.14

THE Attorney General may have to intervene in a legal impasse over garda vetting that is forcing crèches and pre-schools to refuse work placements to early childcare students, it’s been claimed.
Childcare groups say students on degree and FETAC courses are currently caught up in a "shambles of officialdom" that pits the requirements of the new Child and Family Agency against those of the Data Protection Commissioner.
The problem is affecting some 400 Donegal students and 151 childcare providers – almost 40 of which are in Inishowen.
Previously, garda vetting was carried out through colleges and training institutions and a confirmation letter sent to a service provider that a student had been cleared to work with children.
This practice is no longer acceptable to the Child and Family Agency (formerly HSE) who say the official garda clearance form and relevant documentation must be held on the childcare premises for inspection purposes.
This, in turn, does not satisfy the Data Protection Commissioner who has informed colleges and training institutions that they cannot, under the legislation, share vetting forms with a third party i.e., the childcare provider.
The issue has been highlighted by the Donegal County Childcare Committee which says work placements are grinding to a halt over “the physical location of a piece of paper”.
"Understandably, early childhood service providers do not want to have a recorded non-compliance through no fault of their own and are currently forced to refuse student placements,” said Donegal County Childcare manager, Avril McMonagle.
The Child and Family Agency said its position is guided by 2006 pre-school regulations that require all childcare providers to ensure that vetting is completed in respect of everyone working with children and that the provider has copies of all relevant paperwork. However, the agency acknowledged that there is a “clash” in the requirements of the respective legislation.
“Our legal advice is of the view that this position by the Data Protection Commissioner does not account for the primacy of the welfare of children and inspection officers should continue to seek to examine actual copies of references and clearances as always,” said a spokesperson for the Child and Family Agency.
"This needs urgent clarification and probably will need the Attorney General's office to address via the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
“The introduction of the pending garda vetting bureau will help somewhat but the core issue remains that we have a clash in the requirements of the legislation,” the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, the Data Protection Commissioner said the office collaborated on a solution with the Garda Vetting Unit in 2012. This centred on colleges making vetting requests to the unit on behalf of all relevant students.
"The colleges/ITs then confirmed in writing to the placement centres that the student had been officially vetted and had been cleared by the vetting process on the particular date and quoted the relevant application number,” said a Data Protection Commissioner spokesperson.
"This letter could then be kept on file by the placement childcare facility for compliance with HSE audit purposes, where relevant, to confirm that vetting had taken place.
“The important point is that this sensitive data would in turn be kept confidential and secure by the colleges and ITs on behalf of its students as well as satisfying the vetting placement requirement by the 'confirmation letter',” the Data Protection Commissioner spokesperson added.
Some students have begun vetting procedures independently through allocated agencies such as Barnardos “to get around the chaos” but are experiencing delays of up to 16 weeks, said Ms McMonagle.
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