New decision-making support services available as the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act comes into being today
26th April 2023
Wednesday 26 April 2023: New ways of providing decision making support services to vulnerable members of society are available today with the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, and Assisted Decision-Making Capacity (Amendment) Act 2022. The amending Act was developed to streamline processes and improve safeguards in the 2015 Act. Inclusive and progressive, this new legislation caters for a wide range of circumstances including, but not limited to: intellectual disability, psychiatric illness, acquired brain injury, age-related condition, such as dementia or mental illness.
The Act provides for a long-sought after assisted decision-making process to replace the substituted decision-making process under the current Wardship system for adults. The Act presumes that everyone has capacity and provides mechanisms for demonstrating that someone might need support making decisions. The type of support needed depends on the individual’s demonstrated capacity to make decisions. Under this new approach people will need to make a Capacity Application to the Circuit Court when they are looking to appoint a decision-making representative (DMR). Forms and Rules will be available, following Ministerial sign-off, from https://www.courts.ie/assisted-decision-making-circuit-court
Existing Wards of Court will transition to the new system immediately or over a 3-year period depending on preference. After the 3-year period, the Wardship system will cease to exist for adult Wards. Please note wardship still remains in place for minor Wards.
The Act also introduces a brand-new service - the Decision Support Service which is part of the Mental Health Commission and separate from the Courts Service. The Decision Support Service promotes the rights and interests of vulnerable members of society who may need support with decision-making (https://www.decisionsupportservice.ie/).
Under the Act, this new way of providing decision making support services, recognises that everyone’s capacity is different and every case should be treated individually.
What does this mean?
Depending on the specific circumstances and who is seeking decision making support services or making capacity applications the process may be different.
Existing Wards of Court: For those who have already been made a Ward of Court, a solicitor will need to make a discharge application to the High Court within the next 3 years, which will be supported by a capacity assessment carried out by a psychiatrist. A judge of the High Court will either discharge the person to look after their own affairs or will approve an arrangement with the relevant support services, which may involve registering with the new Decision Support Service. If further Court arrangements are required, the case will be referred to the Circuit Court to be progressed. For more information, log onto the Courts Service’s Office of the Wards of Court webpage on courts.ie.
New to the process and looking for decision making supports for the first time: From now on, where an individual is unable to make certain decisions, even with someone else’s support, a Capacity application can be made to the Circuit Court to appoint a decision-making representative. A decision-making representative (DMR) will make certain decisions on behalf of the ‘relevant person’, i.e. the person whose capacity is or is soon to be in question, taking into account their known will and preferences. Applications must be brought to the Circuit Court where the relevant person:
(a) is residing at the time the application is made
(b) is carrying on business at the time the application is made, or
(c) has resided at any time within the period of three years immediately prior to the making of the application
Details of the Circuit Court venues nationwide can be found on courts.ie under the Find Us section. Information on making a Capacity application can be accessed from https://www.courts.ie/assisted-decision-making-circuit-court as soon as available.
Decision Support Service: In cases where individuals may want to put in place a decision-making assistance agreement or appoint co-decision makers to jointly make decisions with them, the Decision Support Service are available to provide the relevant services in these situations. Equally for those who currently do not have capacity issues but wish to plan ahead the Decision Support Service can assist them in making an advance healthcare directive or an enduring power of attorney. (https://www.decisionsupportservice.ie/).
The ADMC Act essentially introduces new ways of working for the new Decision Support Service, the Courts Service including the Offices of Wards of Court and the General Solicitor as well as all Circuit Court Offices nationwide, the judiciary, the HSE, the Law Society and the various support groups.
The Courts Service has been working with all those involved and have introduced a new ICT system to make processes internally more efficient to the benefit of users. The new legislation, court rules, forms, systems and processes will mean significant change and new ways of working for everyone working in the offices affected. We are committed to working with the other services, court users, court applicants and members of the public during the introductory period to overcome any initial issues and to improve how we deliver this new service.
There has been much preparation to arrive at today’s commencement date and the Courts Service have worked closely with the other services, providing extensive information to the relevant users and their families and will continue to do so.
For further information: https://www.courts.ie/assisted-decision-making-circuit-court or https://www.courts.ie/assisted-decision-making-capacity-act
Circuit Court ADMC support: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the Wards of Court: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Decision Support Services: https://www.decisionsupportservice.ie/
Media: Gerry Curran, Media relations advisor, email@example.com