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
The problem is affecting some 400 Donegal students
and 151 childcare providers – almost 40 of which are
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
“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
"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
"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