Decision Support Service
The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act), became operational on 26th April, 2023. The Decision Support Service (DSS), provided for under the act, is a new State Service for all adults who may need support with their decision-making capacity, and anyone who wishes to plan ahead by way of an enduring power of attorney or an advance healthcare directive.
Adults who may have difficulties with decision-making capacity could include adults with an intellectual disability, a mental illness, an acquired brain injury, or those with neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.
Estimates suggest that there could be as many as 220,000 people living in Ireland who have capacity-related difficulties and who may become users of the DSS.
A core principle of the Act is that all persons have the presumption of capacity and should be supported to make their own decisions as far as is possible. The Act emphasises minimal restriction of a person’s rights and freedoms and the importance of respect for will and preferences.
Key reforms include the abolition of the wards of court system for adults under the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act of 1871, and the discharge of adults from wardship within three years. The Act will provide a new tiered framework of formal supports for those who need them, with supervision by the DSS.
Codes of practice
The Director of the DSS has published 13 codes of practice to provide essential guidance in relation to the practical implementation of the 2015 Act. https://decisionsupportservice.ie/resources/codes-practice
These codes are intended to guide the new ‘decision supporters’ entering into formal legal arrangements under the 2015 Act, and also healthcare, legal and financial professionals, and independent advocates and all those engaging with persons who may need support to exercise their right to make decisions.
The Director of the Decision Support Service, Áine Flynn, said that the codes have been designed to provide practical guidance to those who have statutory obligations under the 2015 Act, including persons providing support as part of the new legal framework. It also provides best practice guidance for professionals interacting with a person with decision-making capacity challenges.
In addition to the codes of practice, the DSS has also developed a range of accompanying materials, including a plain English guide to the codes; plain English leaflets; informational videos on each code delivered by DSS staff; accessible guidance documents for people who want to make a decision support arrangement or use other DSS services; an easy-read guide to the 2015 Act and the DSS; and materials setting out approximately 60 different scenarios to help to explain how each code could apply in real-life.
For further information see: https://decisionsupportservice.ie