Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South and Chair of the Oireachtas Education Committee Fiona O’Loughlin has warned that a growing backlog of Garda vetting applications will have a detrimental impact on schools over the coming months.

Deputy O’Loughlin says the current vetting procedures for Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) needs to be overhauled to prevent duplication of work. Specifically, a centralised database should be introduced to prevent the need for SNA’s to go through the same vetting procedure on multiple occasions over a short period of time. Currently SNA’s need to go through the entire vetting procedure whenever they move schools.

“Since the introduction of new legislation in 2015, which required existing teachers as well as new teachers to undergo vetting, there has been an unprecedented number of applications made through the Garda vetting system. This has resulted in a massive backlog of vetting applications. In the space of one year alone an additional 40,000 teachers have had to apply for Garda vetting,” explained Deputy O’Loughlin.

“This backlog has resulted in huge difficulties for schools right across the country in attempting to fill vacancies. In particular, there are hundreds of SNA and teacher vetting applications still pending. A new member of staff cannot take up their position until they have been vetted so there are many schools which have been left without an SNA due to the backlog of applications.

“It has been reported that a number of children with disabilities have had to stay at home because their SNA has been unable to take up their position. This is simply unacceptable and highlights the need to tackle problems associated with vetting. It’s unfair that children with disabilities are losing out on valuable time in school because of delays in processing vetting applications.

“The current vetting system is in need of reform. The main problem is that there is no centralised record of SNA’s that have been Garda vetted. This means that an SNA has to go through the entire vetting process each time they move school, despite the fact that they have already received the green-light from An Garda Síochána.

“A database already exists for teachers that have been vetted, so there is no excuse for not having a similar database for SNA’s. It makes no sense to have to put SNA’s through the same vetting process on multiple occasions in a short period of time. The system needs to be streamlined and this must be a top priority for the Government,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.