On 21 January 2022, the Decision Support Services ("DSS") launched its recruitment drive for Decision Making Representatives ("DMRs").
The DSS was established by the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the "Act"). The Act provides for a new human rights-based framework for people with capacity issues. The Act also abolishes the current wards of court system and replaces it with a modern, person-centred framework to maximise autonomy for people who require support to make decisions about their personal welfare, property and financial affairs.
Reforms in this area include concepts such as "co-decision making" and "assisted decision making", wherein an individual with diminished capacity can grant someone legal authority to assist them with important decisions or to make decisions with them on a joint basis. These arrangements are given formal footing in written agreements, which are given oversight and regulated by the DSS and the Courts.
Decision Making Representatives
However, even with the support of a Decision Making Assistant or a Co-decision Maker, a number of people will still not have sufficient capacity to make important decisions. In these circumstances, the Court will appoint a "Decision Making Representative" to make decisions on that person's behalf. This mechanism operates more similarly to the Ward of Court system. A Decision Making Representative is someone appointed by the Court to make specific decisions on behalf of a person in relation to their personal welfare and/or financial affairs. In circumstances where no one known to that person is willing and/or able to be appointed as that person's Decision Making Representative, the Court can appoint one from the DSS's expert panel.
The types of decisions that these representatives make on behalf of a person can vary depending of the specific needs of that person. The person may require a Decision Making Representative for decisions relating to financial matters or their property. They may also require a representative to make decisions on other matters relating to their wider well-being (accommodation, healthcare, social services etc.).
Anyone wishing to apply for membership of the expert panel can access the online application form (here). The deadline for applications is 12:00pm on Wednesday 16 February 2022.
The DSS have prepared a very helpful guide titled 'Candidate Information Booklet' in relation to their recruitment requirements. The Candidate Information Booklet can be accessed downloaded from the DSS website here, and we have summarised the key points from the Booklet below:
- Eligibility: Suitable candidates for the panel should possess a level 7 qualification, which is to the satisfaction of the DSS appropriately aligned to the statutory role and functions of a DMR and the range of property and affairs and/or personal welfare decisions that may be included in a DMR order. The candidate must be registered with an Irish professional regulatory body and must hold professional indemnity insurance cover for continued membership of the Panel. The candidate must also demonstrate the competencies as set out in Appendix 1 to the Candidate Information Booklet. Examples include "Expert Knowledge", "Resource Management", "Integrity", and "Interpersonal skills". In line with sections 39 and 40 of the 2015 Act, the DSS have also listed a number of categories of persons who are ineligible to be on the panel.
- Training: All panel members must complete training prior to being place on the Panel. It is expected that training for decision-making representatives will take place in May 2022. Panel members must be available to attend virtual training for a duration of two days.
- Assignment to Areas: Initially, the DSS is seeking to appoint approximately 125 panel members. The DMR panel will operate nationally, divided into eight geographical areas aligned to the Circuit Court areas and panel members are required for all areas.
- Duration: The duration of a DMR appointment in a specific case will vary with each court order. The court order will provide for the specific duties of the DMR and the period of time for which the order will have effect.
- Additional matters: The Candidate Information Booklet also details the circumstances in which DMRs will be remunerated and specific requirements DMRs must comply with (e.g. report any conflicts of interest, sign annual declarations, adhere to abide by DSS code of conduct etc.).
Appointment to the expert panel does not automatically lead to appointment as a Decision Making Representative. The Court still has ultimate discretion over appointments. The DSS will nominate members of the panel to be considered by the Court on a rotational basis, subject to the unique requirements of the case and any criteria put forward by the Court. If the Court does not deem any of the nominated panel members suitable, they can request that further nominations be put forward by the DSS.
The recruitment drive for the panel of DMRs is clearly a welcome development and represents the ongoing commitment of the DSS to bring Ireland closer to becoming compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by the State in March 2018.
Written by Eimear Burke, Hannah Unger and Paul Bruun-Nielsen.
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