Hundreds of special needs posts still to be filled due to vetting backlog
Some 34,000 teachers recruited prior to 2006 also face Garda checks for the first time
Support groups and teachers say a lack of special needs assistants means that some children have reduced access to education or, in more extreme cases, are forced to stay at home
Hundreds of special needs assistant posts are waiting to be filled due to a backlog of applications for Garda vetting.
Under child protection legislation, schools are obliged to ensure that anyone working in education setting where there are children must be vetted.
Latest figures show there are almost 400 special needs assistant applications still pending, according to RTÉ news.
Gardaí say most electronic applications are processed within five days. However, 80 per cent of paper-based applications are taking up to four to five weeks to be processed.
Support groups and teachers say a lack of special needs assistants means that some children have reduced access to education or, in more extreme cases, are forced to stay at home.
Separately, about 34,000 teachers working in the education system for a decade or more face being vetted for the first time by gardaí.
New legislation obliges school authorities to vet teachers employed prior to 2006, when it became mandatory for new applicants.
Latest figures show almost 40 per cent of the 90,000 teachers registered with the council have yet to be vetted.
The Department of Justice has confirmed serving teachers will face checks from when the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 is commenced at the end of the month.
In addition to the existing check for criminal offences, the new process will involve a search of “soft information”.
According to the department, this is “information other than criminal convictions held by the Garda that leads to a bona-fide belief that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons”.
“The national vetting unit of An Garda Síochána has offered to conduct vetting of these teachers,” a Department of Justice spokesman said.
“Currently about 300,000 vetting applications are processed by the Garda vetting unit each year.
“The primary purpose of this Act is to put the procedures that have been developed to vet these applications into law.”