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Ireland

Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons (IE0034)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Justice and Equality

Support Institution(s): Department of Health, Decision Support Service

Policy Areas

Access to Justice, Judiciary, Justice, Legislation & Regulation, Marginalized Communities, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Ireland Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Commitment Text:
Introduce a new statutory framework to assist vulnerable persons and individuals
with decision-making capacity difficulties to exercise their legal capacity. The new
framework will replace the outdated "Wards of Court" system and establish a modern
statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties.
The aim is to safeguard the person’s autonomy to the greatest extent possible by
offering a continuum of decision support options most appropriate to the person's
needs.
Milestone
3B. Introduce a new framework to assist vulnerable persons and individuals with
limited decision-making capacity
Responsible institution: Department of Justice and Equality
Supporting institution: Department of Health, Decision Support Service
Start date: January 2017
End date: June 2018

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3B. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

Commitment Text:

Introduce a new statutory framework to assist vulnerable persons and individuals with decision-making capacity difficulties to exercise their legal capacity. The new framework will replace the outdated 'Wards of Court' system and establish a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The aim is to safeguard the person’s autonomy to the greatest extent possible by offering a continuum of decision support options most appropriate to the person's needs.

Milestone

3B. Introduce a new framework to assist vulnerable persons and individuals with limited decision-making capacity

Responsible institution: Department of Justice and Equality

Supporting institution: Department of Health, Decision Support Service

Start date: January 2017

End date: June 2018

Editorial Note: For the remainder of this commitment text, please see Commitment 3A.

Context and Objectives

Under the present system there is a weak statutory framework to support decision making by adults with capacity difficulties. In this regard, regulations needed to be put in place to safeguard the person’s independence and autonomy, as a function of their most appropriate needs. The main objective of the new proposals, as stated the Irish Times, is that

…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.[Note: Sarah Bardon, ‘Proposed law would end adult wards of court,’ Irish Times, 10 June 2015, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/proposed-law-would-end-adult-wards-of-court-1.2243417. ]

While granting access to decision making and self-determination support options for those with capacity difficulties is laudable, the commitment as written is not relevant to OGP values because it focuses on enhancing autonomy rather than participation or accountability. The specificity is low because the text does not clearly indicate what the ‘new framework’ will include and how the implementation of this framework will take place. The potential impact is minor. While it may potentially change the status quo, and assist an important part of the population with limited decision-making capacity, its lack of specificity means that it is hard to see how it will change business as usual in a transformative way.

Completion

The milestone’s implementation has not started, but is on schedule. This assessment is based on the evidence raised in the government’s progress report on this milestone and interviews with government officials conducted by the IRM researcher’s team. From the progress report, it became clear that while the legislation known as the Assisted Decision-Making Act 2015 provides a framework to support decision making by adults with capacity difficulties, this milestone has as its main goals to ensure its full implementation regarding the decision-making support options provided in the Act. Based on interviews with officials in the Department of Justice and Equality,[Note: Interview held December 2017.] the IRM researcher learned that the Assisted Decision-Making Act 2015 is a joint legislation between the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality, with the former leading the implementation of this new framework. Very little progress has been made in the first year of the action plan, although in October 2017 the new director of the Decision Support Service, which is a new part of the Mental Health Commission, was appointed.[Note: ‘Dublin solicitor appointed inaugural director of the Decision Support Service,’ Irish Legal News, 4 October 2017, http://www.irishlegal.com/8798/dublin-solicitor-appointed-inaugural-director-of-the-decision-support-service/#. ] This director will implement this commitment over the second year of the action plan, with significant progress expected in early 2018 during the second year of the plan. There has been no civil society involvement in the implementation of this milestone.

Next Steps

If fully implemented during the second year of the action plan, this milestone does not need to be carried forward into the next action plan.

IRM End of Term Status Summary


Commitments

Open Government Partnership