Public and Professionals encouraged to get informed
‘Now we need culture change’
Safeguarding Ireland has welcomed the commencement of new laws on assisted decision-making – which came into effect on Wednesday April 26.
Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said: “We have good laws – now we need culture change. The public and professionals need to get informed and put these laws into practice. Doing so will prevent and reduce adult abuse and uphold our rights”.
Key places to access more information are:
Safeguarding Ireland will run a public awareness campaign on the Acts next month.
The legislation has guiding principles the most important of which is a presumption of capacity to make decisions.
The law also places responsibility on health and social care professionals and legal, financial and public services to assist and support people’s decision-making, if they need it.
The Acts will be relevant to all families at certain times, and a very wide range of professionals and service providers in their routine work.
They are of particular importance for people who live with frailty, dementia, an intellectual disability, an acquired brain injury, or communicate differently – and close family and friends who support them.
The laws replace the much criticised ‘Lunacy Regulation Act’ of 1871 and the associated Wards of Court system. A review of all (approximately 2,000) Wards of Court will begin shortly and this process will continue for three years.
A new State Agency called the Decision Support Service (DSS) has been established and it is responsible for public awareness, to register decision support arrangements, to provide supervision and oversight and to resolve issues which may arise.
Some aspects of the law will take some time to come into effect, but the new legally-based structure for assisting decision-making applies from today.
This tiered structure includes:
- a Decision-making Assistant who a person can formally appoint to help but they still make their own decisions
- a Co-decision Maker who must be registered with the DSS and has authority to make a decision jointly with a person
- a Decision-Making Representative who is appointed by the Courts and has legal authority to make decisions, as specified by the court, on a person’s behalf.
Codes of Practice have been developed for professionals and service providers which must be adhered to. There are practical codes for Healthcare Professionals, Legal Practitioners, Financial Professionals and Financial Service Providers and Attorneys.
There is also a code for Independent Advocates (people who can be chosen to act on a persons’ behalf) and on Advance Healthcare Directives (a document setting out future healthcare treatment preferences).
Furthermore, Advance Healthcare Directives will have legal standing and Enduring Powers of Attorney are being refined.
The laws provide greater clarity on past confusion on ‘next-of-kin’, who have no legal standing to make any decision on a person’s behalf.
This Act was passed into law in 2015, subject to amendments in 2022 and commence today. During the intervening period necessary structures were put in place for delivering the law in practice.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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. www.safeguardingireland.org.
More Information on the Acts
The Assisted Decision Making legislation includes Guiding Principles which are:
- Presume each person’s capacity to make each decision
- Take all practicable steps to support a person with making a decision
- No intervention unless necessary
- An unwise decision does not mean that a person is unable to make a decision
- Minimal restriction on a person’s rights and freedom of action
- Regard to a person’s rights to dignity, bodily integrity, privacy, autonomy and control over their financial affairs and property
- Any assistance must be limited in duration, proportionate, facilitate participation and take into account past and present wishes and beliefs and values.
Five types of Decision Support Arrangements
When a person needs assistance to make a decision, the Acts provide legal clarity on five different tiers of assistance:
- A Decision-Making Assistant is appointed by a person to help obtain, explain information and a communicate decision for them. The person still makes the decision. It is an informal arrangement. It is a written agreement a person prepares in which they identify one or more people they trust to act as a decision-making assistant to help them make decisions. In the agreement, a person can choose what decisions they need help with including, for example, money and finances.
- A Co-Decision Maker is appointed by a person to make decisions jointly with them. This can be used when a person feels unable to make decisions on their own. This is a more formal arrangement which is registered with the Decision Support Service (DSS). A capacity statement is required and the Co-Decision Maker reports to the DSS.
- A Decision-Making Representative is appointed by the courts, following an application for a Decision-Making Representation Order which is limited in time and scope. If the court does not make a decision itself it appoints a Decision Making Representative to make certain decisions on a person’s behalf, taking into account their wishes. This can happen if a person is unable to make decisions, even with help. The person appointed by the Court can be someone known to the individual and trusted by them or a person from a special panel who is trained for the role. The order is registered with the DSS and the representative reports to the DSS.
- An Attorney appointed under an Enduring Power of Attorney
- A Designated Healthcare Representative appointed under an advance healthcare directive.