416. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will support proposals on the assisted Decision Making Capacity Bill (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49707/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The primary aim of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill is to put in place a new legislative framework to support persons with capacity difficulties in a manner that is compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. One of the key requirements of the UN Convention is that persons with capacity difficulties should be enabled to exercise decision-making autonomy. Consequently, the starting point in the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill is one of enabling persons with capacity difficulties to take their own decisions to the greatest extent possible. Where they are unable to take decisions themselves, the Bill provides for a series of decision-making supports. However, the priority remains one of ensuring that the person's will and preferences are respected as far as possible.
I recognise the fundamental and critical role of parents, and other relatives and siblings in relation to the day-to-day lives of many people who need assistance in exercising their legal capacity. The focus of the Bill is on enabling persons to make their own decisions, including choosing whom they wish to support them in the decision-making process. However, w here persons with capacity difficulties are unable to take decisions themselves, it is likely that, in many cases, family members will be centrally involved in the decision-making support options available under the Bill. Under the co-decision-making option in particular, where decisions are made jointly by the person with capacity difficulties and by the co-decision-maker, it is anticipated that the co-decision-maker will often be a family member as it is a requirement of this support option that the co-decision-maker should know the person and understand his or her will and preferences. It will also be possible for a family member to apply to the court to be appointed as a decision-making representative for a person with capacity difficulties where that person lacks decision-making capacity.
The Bill, when enacted, is intended to be of direct assistance in setting out guiding principles and levels of intervention which should be of considerable help to persons and their supportive families. In addition, the Office of the Public Guardian which will be set up under the Bill, will be able to provide advice and support to persons with capacity difficulties and families who help them.
I intend to propose a range of amendments to the Bill at its forthcoming Committee Stage to strengthen the safeguards in the Bill aimed at respecting the person's autonomy, dignity and bodily integrity. These amendments should address some of the other concerns raised by the Deputy. The Bill is expected to go through Committee Stage in the current session