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Question

753. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of wards of court, adults and children, respectively; the number of adults who were made wards in March, April, May and June 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17974/20]

754. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of adults who have been made wards of court since the signing of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 to date; the number of wardship applications made by the HSE in relation to vulnerable persons in the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17975/20]

755. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in funding the decision support service to replace the wards of court system, which is in conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; if full funding will be guaranteed in budget 2021 to make it immediately operational in view of the urgency of the requirement for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17976/20]

756. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outstanding legislation in relation to putting the decision support service in place; the timeframe in which this will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17977/20]

757. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to other factors which might delay work in relation to setting up the decision support service in view of the January 2020 minutes of the Mental Health Commission (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17978/20]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 755 to 757, inclusive, together.
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”) provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The 2015 Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced. The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service (DSS) within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health).
A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service and enable the recruitment of the Director of the DSS. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the DSS on 2 October 2017. The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.
Part 6 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides for the phased transition from adult wardship to the new decision-making support arrangements that will be available under the 2015 Act. It provides for the review by the wardship court of the capacity of all current adult wards of court within three years of the commencement of Part 6 of the 2015 Act. In each case, the ward shall be discharged from wardship and the court shall order that the property of the former ward be returned to him or her. The safeguards and procedures of the 2015 Act will apply to a former ward who transitions to any of the new decision-making support arrangements available under the 2015 Act. The current wards of court system will continue to operate until Part 6 of the 2015 Act is commenced. It is not possible to commence Part 6 of the Act until the DSS is operational and ready to roll out the new decision-making support options that will be available under the 2015 Act.
A range of amendments to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 have been identified as necessary for the proper operation of the 2015 Act, taking account of issues raised by the Mental Health Commission, the working groups developing draft codes of practice under the 2015 Act, and submissions received from other bodies. The amendments to the 2015 Act will be brought forward by way of a stand-alone Bill. Work is ongoing in the Department on the General Scheme, with a view to Government approval being sought as soon as possible for the priority drafting of the Bill. The Deputy will understand that it is not possible for me to predict the outcome of the legislative process with regard to this or any other Bill.
The implementation of the 2015 Act also requires that the DSS is fully operational and in a position to offer services including the new decision-making support options. A high-level Steering Group comprising senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission, the Courts Service and the HSE, together with the Director of the DSS, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the DSS and this work is ongoing. The Steering Group has given detailed consideration to the feasibility of commencing the remaining uncommenced provisions of the Act however, due to the complexity of the Act and the interconnectivity of its provisions, it is not possible to make any further commencement orders until the DSS is operational. The DSS, led by its Director, is working tirelessly to put in place the necessary infrastructure to support the full commencement of the Act. The infrastructure required includes, amongst many other elements, ICT capability for the DSS. These key preparations are being put in place under the oversight of the Steering Group and will allow for commencement orders for the main operative provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the necessary preparations have been completed to enable the DSS to roll out the new decision-making support options.
The Department of Justice and Equality has sought and received funding, through the Estimates process, over the last three years to assist the DSS in delivering on its mandate. Further funding will be sought through the Estimates process in 2020 and 2021 but this will of course be subject to available Exchequer funding through that process. In the interim, and subject to the funding allocation, the Department of Justice and Equality, in conjunction with the DSS, the Mental Health Commission and other stakeholders have agreed to an implementation plan which anticipates commencement of DSS services in mid-2022. I am aware that there are also critical dependencies for the DSS on other organisations, including for example the Courts Service and the HSE, Departments of Health amongst others, which need to be delivered in order to achieve this timeline. The Steering Group has been meeting regularly to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the implementation of this project.