Proposed law would end adult wards of court

Decision-making assistants to be appointed to adults with diminished mental capacity

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: ‘Enactment of this Bill will be a key step to enabling Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.’ Photograph: David Sleator

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: ‘Enactment of this Bill will be a key step to enabling Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.’ Photograph: David Sleator

 

Adults with diminished mental capacity will no longer be made wards of court, under revised legislation approved by the Government yesterday.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald brought a memo to Cabinet seeking a series of changes to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill.

Under the new proposals, adults will no longer be able to be made wards of court and instead a decision-making assistant, a co-decision- maker or an attorney will be appointed based on the capacity of the person.

The legislation will allow for the court to intervene when it rules a person lacks the capacity to make decisions. The courts will have the power to appoint a decision-making representative to help the person.

Under the current legislation wards are denied the possibility of making decisions on fundamental matters including getting married.

Strict supervision

The people appointed will be subject to strict supervision by an office to be set up within the Courts Service called the Decision Support Service. It will have a director who will prepare a code of conduct for sectors, such as doctors, lawyers or banks, who deal with people with capacity difficulties.

“Enactment of this Bill will be a key step to enabling Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The new provisions will remove the decision-making option from out of the courts ensuring it can’t force a decision-maker on a person and will avoid legal costs.

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch had published the Bill in 2013 but it has failed to move past report stage.

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill will also repeal the 1871 Lunacy Regulation Act.The Minister said this was not proposed in the original Bill but the advice of the Attorney General is recommending its repeal.

The Bill will go to committee stage within weeks and the Government is eager to have it passed by the end of the year.