Written answers

Tuesday, 2 July 2024

Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Wards of Court

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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370. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his officials will meet with a group (details supplied) and review the process for discharge of courts to make it easier for people to transition to the decision support group. [27936/24]

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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On 26 of April 2023 I commenced the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, along with the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Act 2022. Commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making Act brought an end to wardship in the State for adults, by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and replacing the wards of court system with the new process for appointing tiered decision support arrangements that is now in effect. All existing wards of court will exit wardship on a phased basis over three years starting from 26th April 2023.

My Department has engaged with the Decision Support Service (DSS), Legal Aid Board and Office of Wards of Court regarding the discharge of wards. My Department continues to chair an Interdepartmental Steering Group on Assisted Decision-Making which has also discussed the process of discharge from wardship and is monitoring the transition to the new support model.

While the abolition of wardship and the move towards a rights-based model of tiered supports is a landmark legal reform in how Ireland approaches persons with capacity difficulties, it also necessitates change and reform on a significant scale that requires an adjustment and transition process. In order to support persons transitioning from one system to another, and in particular to facilitate the discharge of wards, a number of supports are available, principally via engagement with the DSS or the Office of the Wards of Court. There have been a number of targeted actions undertaken, detailed below.

The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 as amended by the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Amendment Act 2022, provides for legal aid provisions in respect of applications from discharge from wardship. Where the applicant for legal services is a Ward of Court, the Ward has an entitlement to legal aid in the application for discharge from wardship even if they do not satisfy the financial eligibility criteria provided for in the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 – 2021. This is subject to potential recovery of costs where means exceed a certain threshold. Legal aid is also available in certain other circumstances related to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, and more information is available on the Legal Aid Board website.

The DSS has collaborated with colleagues in the Office of Wards of Court and the Office of the General Solicitor to provide information and assistance for the benefit of wards, their families and committees and for professionals. This has been to provide information about post wardship supports and potential future engagement with the DSS post-wardship.

The DSS may be contacted directly for information regarding the process for discharge of courts and they endeavour to respond to all queries relating to applications made under the 2015 Act. As part of its statutory functions to promote awareness and understanding about the 2015 Act generally, the DSS has also published information on its website at www.decisionsupportservice.ie/ about what the 2015 Act means for wards of court with links to other useful resources. They can be further contacted at 01-2119750 or by email at queries@decisionsupportservice.ie.

Alongside this my officials are available to engage with the group referenced by the Deputy.

My Department will continue to work with all relevant organisations on the timely discharge of wards of court, and to facilitate the transition from wardship to the new rights based models of support.


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