We have received many requests from parishes for a simple guide to some basic questions about how Garda vetting applies to parish staff and volunteers. We hope these few points will be helpful.
What does the law require?
From the date of commencement of the legislation on 27 April 2016, it is a criminal offence to allow anyone to engage in work with children or vulnerable adults, without having them vetted first.
The law sets out circumstances that require vetting, defined as:
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.
What about new and existing volunteers?
This definition includes the following examples in all parishes:
- Clergy and parish safeguarding representatives
- Directors of choirs with children under 18 years involved
- Parish catechists.
This list is not exhaustive; these are merely examples.
If you have a new parish employee or volunteer who has regular contact with children as part of the person’s service in the parish, that person must be vetted.
All existing volunteers who have regular contact with children (see above examples) must be vetted prior to 31 December 2017.
What about the vetting form?
- Any forms that do not include a date of birth and email address will be returned to the applicant.
- If the applicant does not have an email address, the applicant should ask the Parish Priest for permission to cite the parish email address.
- The parish should post only the application form to the Diocesan Office. The identity documents (copy of passport and utility bill) are shown only to the Parish Priest; due to data protection laws, these documents should not be sent to the Diocesan Office.
- The National Vetting Bureau will email the applicant, requesting details to be submitted online, including passport number and previous addresses. The volunteer should be informed that the application will expire after 30 days so it must be completed promptly.
What happens then?
- The National Vetting Bureau will carry out its enquiries and send the results to Linda Duncan at the Diocesan Office.
- Linda Duncan will return the certificate to the Parish Priest; the diocesan office has been informed that does not have a data protection agreement in place that would permit Linda Duncan to send the certificate directly to the applicant.
- The Parish Priest should inform the applicant.
- The information should be stored carefully.
For how long is vetting valid?
It is likely that staff and volunteers will have to be vetted every three years but this has not yet been confirmed.
What if the volunteer has already been vetted by another organisation?
Even if the volunteer was vetted for work in a school or for service to the GAA, the parish must request the person to be vetted for the specific Church role. This seems unfortunately but the Gardai informed us that there is no current data protection arrangement to allow for one vetting to cover all volunteering activities.
What about parish schools?
Fr Brendan Ludlow has received some guidance relating to Garda vetting and schools. In recent times there has been a considerable increase in the number of applications from schools, requesting that members of Parents Associations be vetted. While this office is not in a position to give a definitive response, it should be noted that parents who assist the school on an occasional basis not involving the coaching, mentoring, counselling, teaching or training of children do not need to be Garda vetted. Please bring this information to the attention of School Principals and Chairs of Boards of Management.
For example, is there a requirement to vet parents who help out with the annual school cake sale?
The Vetting Act does not apply to unpaid volunteers (such as parents) who assist the school on an occasional basis provided such assistance does not involve the coaching, mentoring, counselling, teaching or training of children or vulnerable persons. A parent who helps on an occasional and unpaid basis is therefore not subject to vetting as long as the parent is not involved in the coaching, mentoring, counselling, teaching or training of pupils. Separate to the requirements of the Vetting Act, school authorities must always be cognisant of their civil law duty of care to their pupils and the need for prudent practice from a child protection perspective.
Further information is available here http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0031_2016_faq.pdf