I propose to take Questions Nos. 796 and 798 together.
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 2015 Act will also abolish the current Wards of Court system by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. Section 54 of the 2015 Act provides for the review by the wardship court of the capacity of all current adult wards within three years of the commencement of Part 6 of the Act. Section 54 also provides that an application for a review may, with the consent of the wardship court, be made by the ward, or a relative or friend of the ward who has had such personal contact with the ward over such period of time that a relationship of trust exists between them, or such other person as appears to the wardship court to have a sufficient interest or expertise in the welfare of the ward.
Section 55 of the 2015 Act provides that 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, if it is satisfied that the ward has capacity, order that the property of the former ward be returned to him or her, or make a declaration that either the ward lacks capacity unless the assistance of a suitable person as a co-decision-maker is made available to him or her, or make a declaration that the ward lacks capacity even if the assistance of a suitable person as a co-decision-maker were made available to him or her.
If a declaration regarding lack of capacity is made by the wardship court, the former ward will be offered the support option most appropriate to his or her needs i.e. the appointment of a co-decision-maker or decision-making representative to support the former ward. The safeguards and procedures of the 2015 Act will then apply to the former ward.
Part 6 of the 2015 Act 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 scheduling of reviews of the capacity of wards following the commencement of Part 6 will be a matter for the courts.
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 Decision Support Service 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 Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. I can confirm that the Registrar of the Office of Wards of Court is already a member of this Steering Group.