Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 152.

Education and Training Boards

Ceisteanna (167)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

167. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12092/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Forth Mountain Outdoor Education and Training Centre referred to by the Deputy is being purpose built by Wexford County Council and there has been consultation between Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board and the local authority on this project.

My Department is not directly involved in the building project but we have received a copy of the proposal from the ETB to relocate the services and facilities of Shielbaggan Outdoor Education and Training Centre to this new facility, and this is currently under review.

DEIS Status

Ceisteanna (168)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

168. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be considered for and granted delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12129/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme, so that all stakeholders can have confidence that we are targeting extra resources at those schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage.

The calculation of the level of disadvantage in each school is based on the socio-economic background of their pupil cohort using centrally held data as previously outlined and is based on the geographical CSO Small Areas where the pupil cohort resides.

A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf

DEIS Plan 2017 states that the improved data on the socio-demographic of schools resulting from the new identification model will have an impact not only on the assessment of schools for inclusion in the programme but also on the scaling of resources to allow for more graduated levels of support. This is turn allows for the ultimate objective of allocating resources to best meet the identified need of individual schools.

In order to achieve this, the current identification model needs to be as accurate as possible and this requires the use of Eircode to ensure correct inputting of addresses. Further analysis is also required to examine other variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage in the context of resource allocation.

Therefore, in order to ensure the quality of the address data and conduct further analysis it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools until this work is complete.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (169)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

169. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will meet with a person (details supplied) to discuss the educational needs of the person's child. [12137/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The policy of my Department is to ensure that all children with special educational needs can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is a separate statutory body whose functions include planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Parents/Guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement, including special class placement, should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child, using the contact details available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.

The NCSE is an independent agency of my Department with responsibility for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. I understand that a senior SENO from the NCSE for the area in question has provided information to the parent in relation to special schools in the locality and continues to ba available to assist the parent. I also understand that there is a Section 29 appeal currently underway. As this process is ongoing, I have no plans to meet with the parent at this stage.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a placement for a particular child, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for direct reply.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (170)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if grant assistance is available for students (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12140/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

There is no specific grant allocation available to this Department from which funding can be made available for the purpose referred to by the Deputy.

Technological Universities Status

Ceisteanna (171)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

171. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an institute of technology (details supplied) is in the process of establishing a formal amalgamation with a college of further and higher education in Northern Ireland; the legislative provision that exists both here and in Northern Ireland for the creation of such an amalgamated institute; if such an amalgamated institute would be able to apply for technological university status here; the implications this may have for staff members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Strategy for Education to 2030 characterises the formation of alliances on a cross-border basis as a potentially exciting and creative way of aligning the higher education resources of those regions with the needs of students, enterprise and other stakeholders and to be encouraged. This is an approach that is supported by Government in terms of ongoing higher education landscape restructuring.

In terms of the funding of higher education landscape restructuring in 2018 €0.5 million in Exchequer co-funding support was allocated under the Higher Education Authority’s call for funding proposals to a number of projects with a cross-border strategic dimension. This included a project involving Dundalk Institute of Technology which facilitated a regional landscape restructuring approach, including improving skills ladder progression pathways in the North East in a cross-border axis with Higher Education Institutions and Further Education and Training colleges such as Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast Metropolitan College and Southern Regional College.

My Department is not aware of any amalgamation process involving Dundalk Institute of Technology and other institutions at this time. It is a matter for each individual Higher Education Institution in the State as to where and how it seeks to position itself in the Irish higher education landscape. The primary legislation governing the establishment of Higher Education Institutions in the State is contained in the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006, the Universities Act 1997 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. This legislation does not provide for the specific cross-jurisdictional amalgamation of higher education institutions in the State.

Section 29 of the Technological Universities Act 2018 provides for the application jointly by two or more institutes to the Minister for an order seeking designation as a technological university in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. Section 38 of the 2018 Act provides that an institute and an established technological university may also apply to the Minister for such an order. The term “institute” is defined in the 2018 Act as meaning the Dublin Institute of Technology, or a college within the meaning of section 2 of the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992, these being Higher Education Institutions in the State.

School Placement

Ceisteanna (172)

John Lahart

Ceist:

172. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rights parents of and pupils themselves have in terms of appealing a school decision to reject an application to attend for post-primary schooling in exceptional circumstances, not in terms of special needs requirements, but in terms of personal security reasons. [12158/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The position is that the selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory, and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent, guardian, or a pupil who is 18 years or over, to the Secretary General of my Department (or in the case of an Education and Training Board (ETB) school, to the ETB in the first instance) where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student, or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

Further information in relation to section 29 appeals is available on my Department’ s website or by contacting Section 29 Administration Unit, Department of Education and Skills, Friars Mill Road, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath (or telephone 0761 108588).

The Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA) is a statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The contact details for this agency are Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency, Floors 2-5, Brunel Building, Heuston South Quarter, Dublin 8 (or telephone 01-7718500).

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (173)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

173. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address a matter (details supplied) relating to children with special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The policy of my Department is to ensure that all children with special educational needs can be provided with an education appropriate to their needs.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is a separate statutory body whose functions include planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a special class.

In deciding where a special class in an area should be established, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned. In this regard, the Special Education Needs Organiser(SENO) may approach individual schools to discuss the matter with a view to finding the optimal location in terms of convenience and sustainability.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation. There are standard arrangements in place for the funding, design and delivery of these projects.

Parents/Guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement, including special class placement, should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child, using the contact details available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular area, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for direct reply.

School Transport Applications

Ceisteanna (174)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

174. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for school transport for a pupil (details supplied) in County Cork; the steps he will take to ensure transport will be provided for the pupil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12317/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The child in question is eligible for school transport and Bus Éireann is currently sourcing an individual service to provide transport to and from school; they will liaise directly with the family in this regard.

In the meantime, the family may continue to avail of the Special Transport Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (175)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

175. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is sufficient that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, in terms of syllabus specifications, merely sets out a list of topics and learning outcomes; and his further views on whether it would be more appropriate also to include depth of treatment standards to be achieved and examination specification. [12415/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) advises the Minister on curriculum and assessment at early childhood, primary and post-primary levels. It uses evidence from educational and other research, national and international, along with the valued experience of practitioners and experts, to arrive at this advice.

NCCA is a statutory, representative body and the approach through which it develops curricula requires that agreement is reached, where possible, with representative stakeholders in education – including teacher unions, management bodies, parents, the early childhood sector, further and higher education, business interests, and the State Examinations Commission . Increasingly, the pupil and student voice is a source of input and feedback on its advice too.

Beyond stakeholder involvement, consultation is a feature of the approach taken: there are public consultations on all major policy documents and curricula before advice goes to the Minister. By the time it does, NCCA has discussed and deliberated, sometimes over a couple of years, so the advice is considered and never offered lightly.

NCCA develops the specifications for particular subjects and areas of the curriculum. These specifications do not ‘merely set out a list of topics and learning outcomes’. For example the recent specification for a new subject, Leaving Certificate Computer Science, included the following material and sections:

- An Introduction to the specification

- An outline of the senior cycle of Irish education

- A rationale for the inclusion of Computer Science as a subject

- The aims and objectives of the course in Computer Science

- Related learning – how Computer Science can link to other subjects and areas across the curriculum

- An overview of the Structure of the course in Computer Science

- An outline of the senior cycle key skills to which it contributes

- A section on the teaching and learning approaches that are fundamental to Computer Science

- An outline of the three strands involved in the course and the learning outcomes for each of these strands

- An outline of how the student’s work on the course will be assessed.

All subject specifications go into this level of detail. In addition, after the finalisation and introduction of the specification, the NCCA publishes Assessment Guidelines. These provide further detail on each of the assessment components, including the final examination and any second assessment components such as projects, practicals, assignments etc. The Assessment Guidelines are developed in collaboration with the State Examinations Commission so that there is clear alignment between the specification and the assessment items in the examinations and assessment briefs administered by the SEC. Increasingly, for example in the case of all recently introduced Junior Cycle subject specifications, the NCCA also develops, on an ongoing basis, exemplification of student work/teaching and learning that demonstrate how learning outcomes in the specification are realised in the classroom or learning site.

Frequently, as in the case of Leaving Certificate Computer Science, Support Material for Teaching and Learning is also provided. This package of material, the Specification, the related Assessment Guidelines, the examples of students’ work, and Support Material for Teaching and Learning is designed to equip teachers with the material they need to successfully teach the relevant course. In addition, of course, the State Examinations Commission also issue teachers and schools with sample papers, and in time, past papers related to the examinations and these too assist teachers in their engagement with the learning outcomes of the course.

Learning outcomes are statements in curriculum specifications to describe the knowledge, understanding, skills and values students should be able to demonstrate after a period of learning. The DES policy on learning outcomes was set out in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in 2011 - A “learning outcomes” approach needs to be incorporated into all curriculum statements at primary level and in all new syllabuses at post-primary levels as they come on stream. Curricula should state clearly the skills and competences expected of learners at six points in their development (end of early years/infants, end of second class, end of fourth class, end of primary stage, end of junior cycle and end of senior cycle).

The point raised in this question about whether it would be appropriate to introduce ‘depth of treatment standards’ relates to the question of how detailed the specification of learning outcomes should be. This is the source of much debate and contestation in the literature on curriculum development and curriculum specification, with long-established as well as newly developing perspectives on both sides of the debate. NCCA keeps the literature on learning outcomes and outcomes-based specification under review and will shortly, in Q2 of 2019, publish a paper reviewing current approaches and views in this area, both in the literature on learning outcomes and in the experience across six jurisdictions worldwide. The paper has been developed in consultation with an expert in the field of curriculum studies, Prof. Mark Priestley of the University of Stirling in Scotland. It is currently the subject of peer review before being published and made available for ongoing discussion.

Parental Leave

Ceisteanna (176)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

176. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the additional two weeks paid parental leave for children under one year as outlined in budget 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has agreed to introduce two weeks of paid parental leave to support the parents of children under one year.

Work is well advanced on the General Scheme of legislative proposals to provide for two weeks paid parental leave. These proposals will be brought to Government for approval shortly.

Court Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (177, 196)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

177. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that the OPW secures another venue in Carndonagh, County Donegal, while the local courthouse will be undergoing essential repair in the time ahead. [11787/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

196. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that court sittings will continue to be held at a venue in Carndonagh, County Donegal, while the local courthouse will be undergoing essential repair in the time ahead. [11786/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 196 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that following professional inspections by the OPW and on their recommendations immediate health and safety issues were highlighted in relation to Carndonagh Courthouse. Therefore court hearings could not continue at the courthouse in the short term.

The Courts Service has advised that a review is currently being carried out and that, in the short term, the Court will sit in Buncrana Courthouse. I understand that the next District Court for Carndonagh will sit in Buncrana Courthouse on 19 March 2019 at 10.30 am.

Residency Permits

Ceisteanna (178)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the residency status of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11482/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person concerned applied on 02/12/2016 for a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 and Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council.  They stated at that time that they were the de facto partner of a citizen of Romania. 

This application was refused on 07/11/2017 as the Minister was satisfied that they had submitted false and misleading documentation in support of their application.  As such, their application was refused in accordance with Regulation 27(1)(a) of the 2015 Regulations.

The person concerned requested a review of that decision on 21/11/2017. This review application is currently at an advanced stage of consideration.  I note that INIS has corresponded recently with the person concerned and a determination will issue in due course, when all matters have been fully considered.

Applications are dealt with in strict chronological order. Although it is not possible at the present time to provide a definitive date by which a determination will be made in this case, there will be no avoidable delay in completing same, and the person concerned should expect a decision in the near future.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose.  This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process.  The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Immigration Status

Ceisteanna (179)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or potential residency status of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11483/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that, in response to a notification pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), written representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

These representations, together with all other information and documentation on file, will be fully considered, under section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and all other applicable legislation, before a final decision is made.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.  

Irish Prison Service

Ceisteanna (180)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

180. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the smoking ban is not being enforced in prisons including Wheatfield Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22; and the steps he plans to take to address the matter in order to protect the health of those working in the prison. [11528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the custodial estate is exempted from certain provisions of the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004 which prohibits smoking in the workplace.  

I am informed it is the policy of the Irish Prison Service that, as a place of work, each prison is smoke free, while recognising that a prison cell is a domestic setting for prisoners.

I am further informed that the Irish Prison Service strives to achieve full compliance with the legislation, and has updated the Irish Prison Service Smoking Policy to incorporate smoking in any form, including all vaping devices and e-cigarettes, in addition to the smoking of any tobacco product.  

The implementation of the Smoking Policy in all Irish Prisons requires that all smoking and vaping is permitted only by prisoners within their cells (defined as their home) and in outdoor designated smoking areas.  I am aware that the Irish Prison Service has a duty to safeguard each individual's health, safety and welfare by maintaining a safe and healthy environment for prisoners, staff, and all other prison visitors.

My officials in the Irish Prison Service have informed me that they are committed to securing full compliance with the smoking policy and have established a National Smoking Cessation Group to support and oversee the implementation of the Smoking Policy. 

All Governors are regularly reminded of their obligations to ensure rigorous implementation of the policy. 

Gambling Legislation

Ceisteanna (181)

John Curran

Ceist:

181. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the areas in which Part III of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 is in force; the measures in place to ensure that District Courts are kept informed as to the areas in which Part III of the Act is in force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11535/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

While the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 comes under the auspices of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the provisions in Part III of the Act relate wholly to the responsibility of a local authority, the District Court and the Revenue Commissioners to take certain actions or not with regard to the licensing of gaming machines. I have no role or responsibility in relation to the actions of local authorities under Part III of the Act. Thus, my Department does not have the information requested by the Deputy.

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to comment on decisions by the judiciary or to interfere in the decision making processes of the courts in any manner.

Wards of Court

Ceisteanna (182)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

182. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the legislative proposals to establish a central funds office to provide for the audit of wards of court funds by the Comptroller and Auditor General have not been progressed in view of the commitment made in the Report and Financial Statements of the Office of the Accountant of the Courts of Justice for year ended 30 September 2009 (details supplied). [11646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that section 5(1)(a) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 expressly excludes the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) from auditing a fund under the control of the courts.  While my Department has examined the proposal to amend the 1993 Act to allow wards of court funds to be audited by the C&AG, I am advised that it is considered to be incompatible with the Constitution’s architecture and not consistent with Article 33.1.

Article 33.1 provides “There shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General to control on behalf of the State all disbursements and to audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas”. The fact that the wardship funds are not public funds and are subject to the control and supervision of the High Court are considered to be essential obstacles to providing that the C&AG may audit such funds. In addition, it is considered that legislating for C&AG oversight of these funds could also undermine the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice under Articles 34.1 and 35.2 of the Constitution. 

Wards of Court

Ceisteanna (183)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

183. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 24 October 2017, if he is satisfied that the court is responding to requests for summaries, specifically that it is the position that the committee of the person is entitled to seek a summary of the overall amount of funds in court in view of reports that persons seeking them are not being responded to. [11657/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in wards of court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. 

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that when a person is taken into wardship, the President of the High Court appoints a Committee, usually one person, and that Committee has an important role in relation to the ward's personal welfare and property. In approximately 75% of all cases the ward’s Committee is a family member or a trusted friend. However, if no suitable or willing relative or friend is available, or if there is a conflict of interest between the ward and the person who would otherwise have been appointed, the President of the High Court can appoint the General Solicitor for Minors and Wards of Court to act as the Committee. 

The Courts Service has advised that statements as to the valuation of funds held in court are sent to the Committee of the Estate who has responsibility for property and affairs of the Ward. In a small number of cases a family member is the Committee of the Person only and his or her role is limited to matters of welfare of the ward. However, where a Committee of the Person seeks a summary of the overall amount of funds in court, that summary will be provided to them.

The Courts Service has further advised that if such a request has not been responded to, details should be provided to the Registrar of Wards of Court and he will ensure that the matter is dealt with promptly. 

Wards of Court

Ceisteanna (184)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

184. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he will take to remedy the situation that the wards of court system is in conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the EU Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [11658/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and more broadly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, address the right to equal treatment before the law. The UN Convention provides that people with disabilities should have the same rights as everyone else and should be provided with the practical supports to make that a reality. 

As the Deputy will also be aware, the legal framework for persons who are deemed to lack capacity is currently undergoing significant reform with the current system of wardship being phased out and replaced with a more modern system focussed on assisting and supporting persons who may lack capacity. This new legal framework is provided for under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 which was enacted in December 2015.   

The 2015 Act provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. It will repeal the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811 and the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. The current adult wards of court system will be phased out and replaced by a less intrusive system which offers a continuum of options to support people in maximising their decision-making capability.

Part 6 of the 2015 Act provides for the phased transition from adult wardship to the new support framework. It provides for the review by the wardship court of the capacity of all current adult wards within three years of the commencement of that Part of the Act.  Following a review of his or her capacity, the ward will be discharged from wardship and depending on the outcome of the review the wardship court may:

- Declare that the ward does not lack capacity and immediately discharge the ward from wardship and order that the property of the former ward be returned to him/her.

- Declare that the ward lacks capacity unless a suitable person is made available as co-decision maker to make one or more decisions. Once a co-decision making agreement is registered the court shall immediately discharge the ward from wardship and order that the property of the former ward be returned to him/her. If there is no suitable person to act as co-decision maker or the co-decision making agreement has not been properly registered within a period set down by the court, then the court shall make orders as appropriate under Part 5 to appoint a decision making representative and order that the property of the former ward be returned to him/her once a decision making representative has been appointed.

- Declare that the ward lacks capacity even if a suitable person is made available as co-decision maker to make one or more decisions.  The court shall make orders as appropriate under Part 5 to appoint a decision making representative and order that the property of the former ward be returned to him/her once a decision making representative has been appointed.

The 2015 Act provides for the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission. New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the 2015 Act, including Part 6, can be commenced. 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 Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing.

The key preparations are being put in place under the oversight of the Steering Group to allow for commencement orders for the substantive provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the Decision Support Service is ready to roll out the new decision-making support options.  Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the Decision Support Service on 2 October 2017.  The Director is working in a very determined way to get the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations in place in order that the Decision Support Service can be up and running as quickly as possible. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations. Every effort is underway to ensure that the Decision Support Service has all necessary capacity to open for business as soon as possible.

The Decision Support Service is not yet operational but every effort is underway to ensure that the Decision Support Service has all necessary capacity to open for business as soon as possible.  While the Decision Support Service has been working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020, the situation is being kept under review as the preparatory work on implementation moves forward.

The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service. 

Assisted Decision Making

Ceisteanna (185)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

185. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the full commissioning of the decision support service; and the achievements to date. [11659/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

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 within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health). 

The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the 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 Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively.

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 Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations. The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service.

A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016) commenced provisions of the Act to enable the recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the Decision Support Service on 2 October 2017.

The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.  On 17 October 2016 the Minister for Health established a multidisciplinary working group to assist in the development and preparation of the code of practice for the AHD provisions of the Act. The role of the working group is to prepare a detailed series of recommendations for the Director of the Decision Support Service in relation to codes of practice.

In anticipation of the completion of that process, the Minister for Health commenced the remainder of section 91 on 17 December 2018 (S.I. No. 527 of 2018). This will enable the Director of the Decision Support Service to progress the preparation of the code of practice on the AHD provisions, based on the working group’s recommendations, and in accordance with the specific process outlined in the Act. The multidisciplinary working group submitted its recommendations on the code of practice to the Director of the Decision Support Service on 21 December 2018. Once completed, the final code of practice can be published by the Director with consent of the Minister for Health. The preparation of the code of practice will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Part 8 of the Act, pertaining to AHDs, in its entirety.

In April 2018, the Mental Health Commission engaged the consultancy firm BearingPoint to support the development of a detailed, costed plan to establish a fully operational Decision Support Service. The contract also includes ongoing project management support for the design and establishment of the organisation, business processes, IT systems and risk management framework.

The Mental Health Commission has also received sanction for the recruitment of a number of staff for the Decision Support Service and also a number of staff to provide shared services for the Mental Health Commission and Decision Support Service. These staff are being recruited on a phased basis by the Mental Health Commission.

The National Disability Authority is currently finalising its work on the suite of draft codes of practice in relation to non-healthcare matters which are required to be prepared under section 103 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.

In June 2018, my Department recruited an external legal expert to assist in the preparation of draft regulations in relation to decision-making assistance agreements, co-decision-making agreements, certain matters relating to decision-making representatives, and enduring powers of attorney.  These regulation-making powers are provided for in sections 10(4), 31, 45(3), 45(4), 46(3) and 79 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Work on the draft regulations is ongoing.