Greater urgency needed for assisted decision-making for vulnerable people – Seery-Kearney

22nd April 2021 - Mary Seery-Kearney

A confirmed timeline for the full commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act is progress but greater urgency is needed for the protection of vulnerable people, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Seery-Kearney said: “Elements of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act have yet to be commenced and this is having a serious impact for a great many people in this country. I raised the matter with the Government in the Seanad recently and took part in discussions about it at the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters this week.

“The Act sets out ways to support people who lack capacity in making decisions. It is designed to support and protect persons with intellectual disabilities, people whose decision-making ability has been affected perhaps by traumatic brain injury, and older people with diminished capacity or dementia.

“Women tend to live to old age in greater numbers and so have a particular need for this legislation as they disproportionately comprise an older age cohort and are more likely to be affected by diminished capacity as a result.

“The Act states that everyone is presumed to be able to decide for himself or herself, unless the opposite is shown, which is really important. The Act also provides for a move away from the idea of best interests and a move towards a rights based decision-making capacity.

“While it is positive that the Government has commenced important elements of this Act, it really needs to be fully commenced as soon as possible to ensure that vulnerable people who need support with assisted decision-making can avail of it.

“After I stressed the importance of this matter to the Government in the Seanad recently, I received a timeframe from the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Anne Rabbitte, who confirmed that everything is being done to ensure the commencement of the Act by June of next year.

“I understand that with a complex Act such as this it can take time to fully commence, that amendments are still needed in this case and that the Minister is prioritising it. But it is so important this hugely impactful and reforming legislation be fully commenced as soon as possible so that we can fully protect the people who need assisted decision-making.

“I also believe that when the Act is fully commenced, we will need an information campaign to ensure everybody is fully informed about the implications and clear on the nature of enduring power of attorney and other relevant matters”, Senator Seery-Kearney concluded.

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