Protecting vulnerable adults
Sir, – Although there is no system that can entirely eliminate the occurrence of abuse of so-called vulnerable adults, Ireland can do much, much more to prevent abuse. Inclusion Ireland has advocated for the assisted decision-making system and safeguarding of adults for decades. We know that today, because we do not have a modern system of supporting decisions, there are thousands of people with intellectual disabilities and others being denied clear rights to make decisions and there are family members making decisions on behalf of someone without any legal protection or guidance.
Any one of us may become vulnerable or lose our capacity to make decisions at any time through age, illness or injury, and it is simply not always practical to apply to the High Court to intervene, or to make everybody a ward of court, and this is why we need the assisted decision-making system to commence.
The assisted decision-making system does not create guardians but puts in place decision-making representatives and other, less obtrusive structures depending on the support needed. Crucially oversight and complaint mechanisms will be part of the system, something missing today.
What the assisted decision-making system challenges us to do is look beyond paternalism, protection and guardianship and towards an individual right to make decisions in line with your personal will and preference, something the recently ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires.
Ireland lags behind in other aspects of preventing abuse such as safeguards against people being deprived of their liberty; again not in line with the UNCRPD and our under-resourced advocacy system, is in urgent need of bolstering too.
The current law regulating ward of court is the Lunacy Regulation Act 1871, a Victorian-era relic; the UNCRPD is a modern international agreement. It is time for Ireland to move into the 21st century and provide adequate supports for those among us who may be vulnerable. – Yours, etc,