Public encouraged to get informed on new ‘Decision-making arrangements’
Two-thirds of all adults have had never heard of Ireland’s new Assisted Decision-making law, or have any knowledge of what it is about.
The finding has prompted Safeguarding Ireland to call for a major public drive on understanding and applying the law, which came into effect in April.
The law or Act is one of the most significant new bodies of social legislation in Ireland for many years and is designed to uphold people’s rights and reduce adult abuse, particularly among vulnerable adults.
The findings are contained in a RED C survey of a representative sample of 1,000 adults.
Of the one third of people (33%) who said they had heard of the new law, half of those said they still did not know what it is about. Just 4% said they had a good understanding of assisted decision-making.
Awareness was higher among adults aged over 65 and more advantaged economic and social groups.
Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke encouraged every person, professional and organisation to become familiar with the law and to apply it.
“The new law is about rights, and taking every possible step to assist people to continue making their own decisions about their health, finances, housing, work or personal welfare – even if there are challenges in doing so.
“The Act is of particular importance for people who have challenges with decision-making such as those living with frailty, dementia, an intellectual disability, an acquired brain injury, or mental illness. But it may be important to all of us at certain times in our lives.
“Up until last April, the 1871 Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act remained the law being used. It created ‘Wards of Court’ whereby the court took charge of decisions when a person was declared of ‘unsound mind’ and people in authority decided what was in people’s ‘best interests’. However, this is now gone forever – and all 2,000 Wards of Court cases are being reviewed.”
Also included in the law is guidance for doctors, lawyers and financial providers such as banks on actions they must take to uphold the rights of all people to decision-making.
To coordinate this major change, a new State Agency called the Decision Support Service (DSS) has been established and is responsible for promoting public awareness, to register the new decision support arrangements, to provide oversight and to resolve issues which arise.
The key principles of the new law are:
The five new Decision Support Arrangements are:
- can be appointed by a person to gather and explain information and communicate a decision for them. However, the person still makes the decision. The agreement must be recorded with the DSS and certain people must be notified about it.
- can be appointed by a person to make decisions jointly with them. This arrangement can be used where a person feels unable to make decisions on their own. The agreement must be written down and registered with the DSS. Co-decision-makers make annual reports to the DSS about the decisions that have been taken under the agreement.
- can be appointed if a person is unable to make decisions, even with help. This person is appointed by the Court and can be someone trusted by the person, or from a panel maintained by the DSS. Their role is limited to the specific requirement identified by the Court and must take into account the wishes, values and beliefs of the person. It is registered with the DSS and the Representative reports to the DSS.
Ms Rickard-Clarke said that is it important to clarify the common and completely incorrect ‘myth’ that when someone needs help a ‘next-of-kin’ would assume charge of their affairs.
“While next-of-kin can be an important contact point, a ‘next-of-kin’ has no legal standing or authority to act on a person’s behalf. To have legal authority a person must be appointed under one of the five decision support arrangements.
“We know that there is unacceptable adult abuse, neglect and coercive control in Ireland. The aim of this law is to support a person to make their own decisions which will in turn help to prevent, reduce and detect adult abuse.
“Rights-based assisted decision-making has commenced in Ireland. Safeguarding Ireland encourages every person, professional and organisation to become familiar with the Assisted Decision-making Act and to apply it in their lives and work. If these are things that are relevant to you, your family, or your work but you are not sure what to do – please find out more.”
More information at:
- Decision Support Service: 01 211 9750 / decisionsupportservice.ie.
- HSE: assisteddecisionmaking.ie / 1800 700 700
- National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities: advocacy.ie / 0818 073000:
- Sage Advocacy: sageadvocacy.ie / 01 536 7330.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
Safeguarding Ireland promotes safeguarding of adults to protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and to deliver a national plan for promoting their welfare.
Safeguarding means putting measures in place to uphold our rights, to support our health and wellbeing, to reduce our risk of harm – and to empower us to protect ourselves. Safeguarding involves ourselves, our families, services and professionals all working together to prevent and respond to adult abuse, neglect or coercive control. Safeguarding means empowerment – that if we face challenges with our capacity, ability or independence our decisions are supported and respected.