Thursday, 13 October 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
13. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the reviews her Department has carried out on the operation of the Garda Reserve which reached its 10th anniversary in September 2016, with particular reference to any plans to improve the pathways from membership of the reserves to a career in An Garda Síochána, including lifting the requirement for a person to be under 35 years of age if they were under 35 years of age when they joined the reserves, increasing the small payment given to cover expenses or any other changes. [30147/16]
The Garda Reserve was established in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to enhance the links between An Garda Síochána and local communities and consists of voluntary unpaid members, drawn from the community, to support the work of An Garda Síochána. The Reserve perform policing duties as determined by the Garda Commissioner, while accompanied by full time Gardaí. Their role is to provide local patrols and participate in crime prevention initiatives targeted at specific local problem areas. Reserve members are also involved in policing major incidents and events, and in providing other operational support to full time Gardaí. In recent years the Garda Commissioner has conferred further powers on reserve members under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and the Road Traffic Act 1961 and has also decided that they should carry out more duties including the serving of summonses, and the issuing of Fixed Charge Penalty Notices where offences are detected
As I announced earlier this week the Government has approved my proposal for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Funding has been provided for the recruitment in 2017 of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Appointments will also be made to the Garda Reserve of approximately 300 in 2017.
I have spoken to the Garda Commissioner in relation to the delivery of the commitment to double the Reserve to 2,000 and what steps might be taken to ensure that the expanded Reserve is used to best effect in support of visible policing. In this regard, I welcome the recent assignment by the Commissioner of a Superintendent to head up the Garda Reserve Management Office. I understand that that Office is currently undertaking an audit of the experience and skills of Reserves which, when completed, will assist Garda management in considering the future role to be played by the Reserve. It has also started work on the development of a recruitment plan with the objective of recruiting and training 300 new Reserves annually starting next year, to bring the strength of the Reserve up from its current strength of 789 members to 2,000. As part of the planning process, I understand that the Office is examining the possibility of recruitment at the regional or divisional level, rather than centrally, and also the manner in which the training is delivered.
Recruitment of trainee Gardaí to An Garda Síochána involves a competitive process undertaken by PAS on behalf of the Commissioner and, for successful candidates, further fitness, medical and vetting tests undertaken by An Garda Síochána in accordance with the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 2013. Under these regulations the age ceiling at which any candidate may apply to join An Garda Síochána as a full time member is set at not more than 35 years and there are currently no plans to change this regulation.
The Regulations provide that special recognition may be given to Reserve members in the context of the selection process as they have undergone training in many of the skills required to be an effective full-time member of An Garda Síochána and have gained experience in operational policing. The recruitment campaign for 2016 included for the first time a special stream for eligible members of the Reserve. This special steam was continued in the most recent campaign announced on 8 September 2016. To be eligible for the special Reserve stream a reserve member is required to have completed their probation, performed their role to a satisfactory standard, and served a minimum of 150 hours per year for two of the previous four years. The Reserve stream is essentially a fast-track stream in that it allows the eligible reserves to skip stage 1 (unsupervised on-line tests) of the competitive assessment process and move straight to stage 2 which consists of supervised assessment tests taken in an assessment centre. Those who meet the required standard are then called to a competency based interview. Successful candidates are then fast tracked through the medical, fitness and vetting assessments undertaken by An Garda Síochána. The first successful candidates to enter the Garda College from the 2016 recruitment campaign last June were all from the Reserve stream.
As I have already stated the Reserves consists of voluntary unpaid members. Reserve members who work a minimum of 208 hours in a 12 month period receive a non-taxable allowance of €1,000 per annum as a contribution towards their expenses. They are also reimbursed for expenses incurred while attending court in respect of their service as a Reserve member.
The Commissioner, with the aim of recognising the efforts of the Reserves and increasing their visibility within the organisation, is introducing an annual event to recognise them. This is a very welcome initiative and I understand that the first such event, to take place 10 years since the inauguration of the Reserve, is scheduled for 12th December 2016.