231. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that the recommendations contained in the national safeguarding committee's review of the wardship system are implemented without delay, in view of the significant shortcomings identified in the system by the committee and the need for these shortcomings to be addressed pending the full enactment of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 [5311/18]
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 it has reviewed the Report of the National Safeguarding Committee and advised that while there is no automatic system of independent advice or advocacy, this can be done in specific cases if the court so directs. In addition, while medical visitors' reports are not as a matter of course provided, if there is an objection or an application by a respondent for release of the medical report(s), the court invariably grants such applications. Furthermore the Office of Wards of Court, when contacting medical visitors, confirms the legal test for wardship which is to be applied. However, the legal test for wardship cannot be changed to the functional test in advance of the implementation of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
As the Deputy is aware, many of the recommendations raised in the review are provided for in the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and one of the key aims of the Act is to introduce a statutory framework for supported or assisted decision making and to move away from the substitute decision making model.
The Courts Service has advised that preparation for the transition to the Assisted Decision Making regime is a Courts Service priority for 2018 and that the priority for the Wards of Court Office and the General Solicitors Office is to manage the wards of court caseload in the interests of existing wards, while preparing for the commencement of Part 6 of the 2015 Act. These offices must be in a position to review at least 2,500 files within three years of the commencement of Part 6 of the 2015 Act. The Courts Service has advised that putting in place interim measures, as suggested in some recommendations, would delay the planning of transitioning to the new system by both court offices and impact on the ongoing management of existing cases.