The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, and Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte, announced that 26 April would be set as the day for the abolition of wardship, the operationalisation of the Decision Support Service, and the introduction of a new system of tiered decision-making supports.

The announcement follows the enactment of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Act 2022, which was signed into law by the President on 17 December last.

The 2022 Act amends the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which provides the legal basis for the abolition of wardship. The Act replaces the wards of court system with a new, progressive, rights-based system of assisted decision-making.

The Act will lead to 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. Wardship, which has long been recognised as a blunt instrument, will now be replaced by a new graduated framework of supports aligned to a person’s need.

The Act provides a legal basis for people who may have difficulty with their decision-making capacity. There will be a regulated system that will match people with support that meets their needs.

It means that from 27th April 2023 the Decision Support Service will be able to process applications for new decision support arrangements. According to the ministers, the act will raise the minimum target percentage of people with disabilities to be employed in the public sector from 3% to 6% on a phased basis by 2025.

Ms Rabbitte described it as “a significant advancement for the rights of everyone in Ireland”. In a statement, Mr O’Gorman said the scale of the reform involved, particularly the abolition of the “archaic” wardship system, “cannot be overstated”. “Wardship as a legal system is older than the Irish State. Its abolition is a landmark step forward in modernising our laws and better supporting our citizens.”

He also said the assisted decision-making system “will move away from an outdated and paternalistic ‘best interests’ model and allow people far greater control over basic decisions in their own lives”.

The Director of the new Decision Support Service, Áine Flynn, welcomed the announcement by the Minsters. She said many people had been waiting on the service and they could justifiably celebrate knowing “there is a definite date to start the new service”.

“The DSS is ready to open its doors and we look forward to beginning to help people access the new service and all of the supports set out under the act”, Ms Flynn said.

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