230. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that ward of court inpatients are frequently kept in acute hospitals rather than being transferred to more suitable long-term care settings due to delays in having the legal authority of wardship appointed to a committee and the fact that such delays are particularly problematic in the summer months when the courts are in recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5305/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in wards of court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the time taken to bring a person into wardship can vary due to a number of factors such as the need for medical evidence, the service of documentation and the establishment of the position as to a person's welfare and affairs. In some cases there is no relative to undertake the application and therefore a hospital or the Health Service Executive must initiate the application for wardship.
I am advised that the Courts Service, the President of the High Court and the Wards of Court Office ensure that applications for wardship are dealt with as quickly and as efficiently as possible. There were significant delays in cases awaiting a declaration of wardship in late 2016 with over 120 cases awaiting declaration. However, I am informed that extra staff resources were allocated to the Wards of Court Office and the General Solicitors Office and that there are currently less than 40 cases awaiting declaration.
The Courts Service has also informed me that urgent wardship matters are heard and dealt with by the court outside the usual legal terms and that there is a wardship list in the summer months when the courts are in recess, with urgent cases being listed for declaration in this list.