The Government is committed to fully commencing the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”). The Act provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The 2015 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).
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 and enable the recruitment of the Director of the DSS. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the DSS 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.
The implementation of the 2015 Act requires that the DSS is fully operational and in a position to offer services including the new decision-making support options. A high-level Steering Group comprising senior officials from my Department, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission, the Courts Service and the HSE, together with the Director of the DSS, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the DSS and this work is ongoing. The DSS, led by its Director, is working on putting in place the necessary infrastructure to support the full commencement of the Act. The infrastructure required includes, amongst many other elements, ICT capability for the DSS. These preparations are being implemented under the oversight of the Steering Group and will allow for commencement orders for the main operative provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the necessary preparations have been completed. This will enable the DSS to roll out the new decision-making support options.
My Department has sought and received funding, through the Estimates process, over the last three years to assist the DSS in delivering on its mandate. Further funding will be necessary through the Estimates process in 2020 and 2021. In the interim, and subject to the funding allocation, my Department, in conjunction with the DSS, the Mental Health Commission and other stakeholders have agreed to an implementation plan which anticipates commencement of DSS services in mid-2022. There are also critical dependencies for the DSS on other organisations, including, for example, the Courts Service, the HSE and the Department of Health amongst others, which need to be delivered in order to achieve this timeline. The Steering Group has been meeting regularly to ensure a coordinated approach to the implementation of this project.
As this is a function that is due to transfer, it will of course be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, to bring this matter forward.