52. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she will take to ensure the 19 women who have received awards under the ex-gratia scheme for survivors of the Magdalen laundries receive payment promptly and notwithstanding the fact that assisted capacity legislation has not yet commenced; and if she will refer all cases to the national advocacy service for representation. [15665/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): To date, over €25 million has been paid out to 669 women under the Ex Gratia Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme administered by my Department. The Scheme remains open to new applications but it’s important to note that decisions have been made on all but two of the 821 applications received to date – the two refer to applications made only in recent weeks. The difference between that figure and the 669 payments made is accounted for by refusals and for other reasons including probate cases, applicants still considering provisional offers, and the application of the Assisted Decision Making Act, 2015 in relation to those women who lack the necessary capacity. In this latter respect, award offers have been made to 19 women who lack the necessary capacity to consider their offer.
Payment to these 19 women has been delayed until proper safeguards are in place. To cover these women and other adults whose decision-making capacity is at issue, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law on 30 December 2015. The Act provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. It is being commenced on a phased basis and it is intended that significant progress will be made in 2017 on the implementation of the new decision-making support options provided for in the Act. The specific decision making supports available under the Act to adults with capacity difficulties are decision-making assistants, co-decision makers and decision-making representatives who will be supervised by the Director of the Decision Support Service.
New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (which is a body under the Department of Health), must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the Act come into force. Careful planning and groundwork has to be put in place to ensure that the commencement of the Act is correctly, appropriately and effectively handled. A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from my Department, the Department of Health and the Mental Health Commission is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service.
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016), brought some provisions of Part 1 (Preliminary and General) and Part 9 (Director of the Decision Support Service) of the Act into operation on 17 October 2016. These provisions were brought into operation in order to enable the process of recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service to begin.
With regard to advocacy, it is important to note that a personal advocate has very limited powers with regard to a person who lacks capacity. A personal advocate does not have power of attorney, to make decision or otherwise to manage the affairs of the person. That is why the provisions of Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will be so important. As a general point, women who were in the Magdalen laundries are already covered under section 21 of the Nursing Home Support Scheme Act, 2009 which makes provision for persons to act as care representatives in respect of any person applying for support under that Act.