The National Safeguarding Committee, of which Sage is a member, has called for the urgent commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, as a new report it publishes today finds the 19th century Wards of Court regime to be inadequate and archaic.
The report, Review of current practice in the use of wardship for adults in Ireland, found there is substantial public confusion and lack of understanding around the Wards of Court system, and that it relies too much on the integrity of family members and professionals.
The National Safeguarding Committee, which promotes the rights of adults who may be vulnerable, suggests therefore that the guiding principles contained in the 2015 Decision-Making (Capacity) Act be commenced immediately. These principles identify relevant human rights obligations and the need to respect the right of a vulnerable person to dignity, bodily integrity, privacy, autonomy and control over his or her personal affairs.
Under the current system a court steps in and acts as agent for an individual deemed by the court to lack capacity to make decisions for himself or herself. Usually, a person is made a Ward following an application by a family member, the person’s own solicitor or the Health Service Executive (HSE). There are almost 3,000 wards, with total assets of over €1 billion.
The report says there should be a presumption that a person has capacity to make decisions until an inquiry finds that a person lacks such capacity. There should be a customer charter to deal with representatives of wards, and a transparent complaints process. It found that
The paper makes a number of recommendations:
The National Safeguarding Committee was established in December 2015. It is a multiagency and inter-sectoral body in recognition of the fact that safeguarding vulnerable people from abuse is a matter that cannot be addressed by any one agency working in isolation, but rather involves a number of agencies and individuals working collaboratively with a common goal.
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will ultimately replace the wards of court system but is not yet fully commenced. This Act provides that the capacity of all existing wards be reviewed within a period of 3 years and discharged from wardship. Those wards who, on review, are found to lack the capacity to make decisions will transition to the new system.
Read the report in full Review of current practice in the use of wardship for adults in Ireland