On 10 August 2020, the DSS launched its new website to provide up-to-date information about the ongoing implementation of the Decision Support Service (click here).
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 supports provided for, and monitored by the DSS, will ensure individuals with capacity issues are afforded their fundamental human rights to make their own decisions as far as possible about their personal welfare, property and finances.
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. It is estimated that 220,000 adults in Ireland could benefit from these reforms.
The launch of the website is a statutory requirement and a key milestone in the DSS establishment project, according to the Director of the DSS, Áine Flynn:
“It will go some way towards ensuring that future users, families, stakeholders and other key bodies understand and appreciate the benefits that the new service will deliver once it opens its doors…The website has been designed to provide straightforward information in an accessible way. It outlines, in plain English, the various arrangements that can be put in place once the Act commences to support people where necessary to make their decisions. These could be people with intellectual disabilities, brain injuries or a range of cognitive impairments.”
Although it is likely that the DSS itself will not be operational until at least 2022, the website will provide up-to-date information to the public about the ongoing implementation of the new service and will also inform relevant bodies of the steps they need to take to ensure they are ready for the full commencement of the Act.
Advance Health Care Directives
The website also provides guidance and information for individuals wanting to plan in advance for a time when they might lose capacity to make a decision by putting in place an enduring power of attorney or an advance healthcare directive.
“While it is estimated that more than 220,000 people would presently benefit from the reforms in the 2015 Act, to presume that it would only assist that cohort of people is to misinterpret its reach and potential,” said Ms. Flynn. “At any point in time, anyone of us could lose the capacity to make and communicate decisions for ourselves. Therefore, this is an Act for everyone.”
(click here for link to previous Fieldfisher blog on Advance Healthcare Directives).
The website also provides information about the review of current wards of court who will transition out of wardship and into the new support framework in line with their individual needs.
Mental Health Commission
Commenting in relation to this important landmark, Mr. John Saunders, the chairman of the Mental Health Commission - under whose remit the DSS is being established – said the following:
“the most pressing matter now is to ensure that the Commission is allocated adequate funding in the upcoming budget so that we can bring this important human rights-based approach to the people of Ireland as quickly as possible. …The 2015 Act is long-awaited, reforming, human rights-based legislation. However, it is now more than four-and-a-half years since the legislation was signed into law. It is critically important that those who will be most affected by the Act are provided with a clear roadmap for full commencement so we can all be assured, and continue with the job of getting the service ready for operation.”
The Mental Health Commission published a press release on their website in relation to the launch of the DSS website which can be accessed here.
The launch of the DSS website is clearly a welcome development in the DSS establishment project and reflects the ongoing commitment of DSS to bring Ireland closer to becoming complaint 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 Greta Siskauskaite
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