Funding call for ‘long-awaited’ assisted decision-making service

Aine Flynn, Director of the Decision Support Service.

A long-awaited service to assist people with limited capacity to make decisions about their personal welfare, property and financial affairs has urged political parties to prioritise funding and legislation to enable the service to finally open in 2022.

The appeal by the Director of the Decision Support Service (DSS) comes almost five years after legislation was enacted to roll out a new model of assisted decision-making, replacing the outdated ‘ward of court’ system.

DSS Director Aine Flynn has written to all political parties this week asking that the service, which was set up under the 2015 Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, be prioritised in the next programme for government.

“The 2015 Act is long-awaited, reforming, human rights-based legislation. However, we are now approaching four-and-a-half years since the legislation was signed into law,” Ms Flynn said.

There is now an opportunity, which should not be lost, to uphold the human rights of some of the most vulnerable and most overlooked members of our community in the next programme for government.

Ms Flynn said the service will need additional funding and draft legislation will also need to be passed to enable the organisation to implement its 24-month plan to open in 2022.

In 2018 the DSS sought €9m in funding but was only allocated €3m and annual funding has remained static since then. Ms Flynn said that without an “uplift” in funding, plans to open the service in 2022 were at risk of falling behind.

“If adequate funding isn’t made available in the coming budget we won’t be able to open our doors in 2022,” Ms Flynn said, adding that a costed project plan had been submitted to the Department of Justice.

The service is being set up as part of the Mental Health Commission and will offer three tiers of support, from assistance, to co-decisions, to support in court to help adults with capacity issues to make decisions about their welfare, health and wealth.

The service will be of assistance to the 220,000 adults with intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury, mental illness and age-related degenerative disorders but will benefit everybody, Ms Flynn said.

Any one of us could end up with impaired decision making capacity.

She said the service was needed “for a long time” and that while the legislation was “far reaching”, “complex” and “ambitious” it must be delivered to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

“The political will is going to have to be found. Our recent experience in this country has really focused our minds on who we look after,” Ms Flynn said.

“If we want to be compliant with international human rights standards we’re going to have to give the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act the necessary support to get it over the line and operating,” she added.

Chairman of the Mental Health Commission, John Saunders, who co-signed the letter to political parties this week, said amending legislation, drafted in 2018, was also a matter of priority.

“These amendments will facilitate the more effective delivery of the service under the Act and will also provide a more equitable review process for current wards of court. The amending legislation has been in drafting since 2018 and must now be expedited,” Mr Saunders said.

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