The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced. The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service (DSS) within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health).
The 2015 Act will also abolish the current Wards of Court system by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. Part 6 of the 2015 Act which deals with wards of court will be commenced when the Decision Support Service is open for business and ready to roll out the new decision-making support options. The adults currently in wardship will transition to the new decision-making support arrangements provided for in the 2015 Act on a phased basis over 3 years from the commencement of Part 6.
The Director of the Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the 2015 Act in 2020. This lead-in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the DSS will have the capacity to be up and running effectively. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations, and the situation is being kept under ongoing review as the preparatory work on implementation moves forward.
A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the DSS and this work is ongoing. I am of the view that the current Steering Group is composed of the most appropriate stakeholders to deal with the high level issues involved in the establishment and commissioning of the DSS and I have no proposals to add additional members to the Group at this point in time.
However, as we move closer to the DSS being operational in 2020, I will give consideration to the inclusion of more stakeholders in the governance structures.