Ba mhaith liom i bharr fáilte a chur roimh an t-Aire go dtí an Teach inniu. That is my little bit for Seachtain na Gaeilge. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House today. This week the Joint Committee on Disability Matters heard very compelling advocacy from members of the disability committee in the National Women's Council of Ireland and from Amy Hassett of Disabled Women Ireland. It was really quite an extraordinary and very powerful meeting of the disability matters committee. Ms Hassett's statement included a reference to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the fact that it has not commenced, while also noting elements of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the Sign Language Act have not been enacted. I know the Cathaoirleach, in particular, has advocated for sign language. I appreciate the Minister of State is not here to talk about those matters, but I am sticking them in as a reminder.
I note that Inclusion Ireland highlighted that the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act states that everyone is presumed to be able to decide for himself or herself, unless the opposite is shown. That is important. The Act and the law set out ways to support people who lack capacity in making decisions. The Act also provides for a move away from the idea of best interests and a move towards a rights based decision-making capacity. It is designed to meet the standards of respect and the needs of persons with intellectual disabilities, for people with decision-making ability who have been affected perhaps by traumatic brain injury and for older people with diminished capacity or dementia.
I acknowledge the thrust of this Act is already in operation in the form of guidelines and great moves have been made in that regard. I have been involved in it from the privacy and general data protection regulation, GDPR, end, in training and in assisting people and ensuring their capacity is to the fore. Sage Advocacy has noted the commencement of this Act will also ensure that information is imparted in a way that people can receive it and are best informed and assisted in making their decisions.
We see the thrust of all our legislation. In the last year, in particular, since I have been in the Seanad and prior to that, I have noticed the move away from a paternalistic approach and very much towards the person who is most affected being party to a decision. We have seen many actions on the Statute Book that move in this direction and they are to be commended.
The difficulty here, and why it is particular to this week, is that women tend to survive to old age in greater numbers and can be particularly affected as a consequence. They disproportionately comprise an older age cohort and are more likely to be affected by diminished capacity as a result. There is a need for urgency in bringing in commencing this Act.
I believe that when it is commenced, we will need an information campaign to ensure everybody knows about it. I tend to get calls when people assume they have legal status as next-of-kin and do not quite understand the implications of enduring power of attorney and so on. When this comes in, it will be important because, naturally, if the decision-maker is the person most affected, he or she will have a power and agency not there heretofore. I would urge that is noted also.