Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ceisteanna (204)

Tom Neville


204. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Health the age of consent in which a young person can interact with the mental health services. [20600/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001, which was published in 2015, referred to Section 23 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 which states that "The consent of a minor who has attained the age of 16 years to any surgical, medical or dental treatment which, in the absence of consent, would constitute a trespass to his or her person, shall be as effective as it would if he or she were of full age; and where a minor by virtue of this section given an effective consent to any treatment it shall not be necessary to obtain any consent for it from his or her parent or guardian".

The Expert Group also acknowledged, however, that it has long been unclear how that Act interacts with the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001.  Specifically in relation to children and consent, in proposing how our mental health legislation could be improved, the Expert Group has recommended that children aged 16/17 should be presumed to have capacity to consent/refuse admission and treatment; that a 16/17 year old must also consent or at least must not object to his/her voluntary admission; where the 16/17 year old objects, the case should then be referred to a child friendly District Family Law Court to assess the maturity and capacity of the child to make an informed decision (where the Court determines the child has the necessary maturity and capacity, admission may only proceed on an involuntary basis by order of the Court, where the child does not have the necessary maturity and capacity, then voluntary admission may proceed with the consent of the parents/guardian); and that there should be no automatic presumption of capacity for children under the age of 16.

Amendments to the Mental Health Act 2001 based on the recommendations of the Expert Group Review of the Act are currently being progressed.  Government approved plans to proceed with the general scheme of a bill and officials are working on the heads of the amending bill which will legislate for the recommendations of the Review, including those relating to children. 

The National Youth Mental Health Task Force has also recommended that priority is focused on the need to ensure that the voice of all children and young people is heard. In addition, I should also mention that it is intended that a new inter-departmental Pathfinder Team will take a lead in formalising mechanisms to ensure that the voices of young people are fully considered in the development and implementation of legislation, policy and services for youth.