FAQ General

Frequently asked questions

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act was signed into law in December 2015. The Act recognises that, as far as possible, all adults have the right to play an active role in decisions that affect them. These decisions can be about their personal welfare and property and affairs.

The 2015 Act brings about important changes for people who require support to make decisions and for anyone interacting with them. The 2015 Act:

  • Introduced new guiding principles about interacting with a person who has difficulties with their decision-making capacity.
  • Established a tiered system of decision support arrangements for people who need help with making decisions
  • Abolished the current wardship system and requires all wards of court to be discharged from wardship within three years of 26 April 2023.
  • Established the Decision Support Service

You can find out more about the 2015 Act on our Legislation page.

The Decision Support Service is a new service for all adults who have difficulties with their decision-making capacity.

The Decision Support Service is a public body established within the Mental Health Commission by the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Our job is to register the new decision support arrangements and supervise the individuals who are providing a range of supports to people with capacity difficulties.

Any adult who needs support to exercise their decision-making capacity could need the Decision Support Service. This may include but is not limited to people with an intellectual disability, mental illness, dementia or acquired brain injury, as well as people with age-related conditions. People may require the Decision Support Service when a third party such as a bank, lawyer, or hospital questions a person’s capacity to make a decision or give consent.

Any person who wants to plan ahead for a time in the future when they may lose capacity could also need the Decision Support Service.

No, the Decision Support Service will not make decisions for you. If you need help with certain decisions, you may appoint a 'decision supporter' to help you. The type of help your decision supporter can provide will depend on the decision support arrangement that is in place.

In some cases, the court may ask us to provide a decision-making representative from our panel of trained experts to act as your decision supporter. A decision-making representative can only be assigned to you by a court order.

When the 2015 Act refers to a ‘relevant person’, it means a person whose capacity to make one or more decisions is, or may shortly be, in question. Under the new law, a person’s capacity must be assessed based on their ability to make a specific decision at a specific time.

Section 8 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 sets out nine guiding principles. You can read more about the guiding principles by clicking on the link to our Legislation page.

There are five different decision support arrangements available. These arrangements are based on the different levels of support that a person requires to make a specific decision at a specific time.

There are three tiers of decision support available for people who currently, or may shortly, face challenges when making certain decisions. These are:

  • Decision-making assistance agreement (the person makes their own decision with support from their decision-making assistant. Their decision-making assistant helps them to access and to understand information and to communicate their decision)
  • Co-decision- making agreement (the person makes specified decisions jointly with a co-decision-maker)
  • Decision-making representation order (the court appoints a decision-making representative to make certain decisions on the person’s behalf).

There are two types of decision support arrangement for people who wish to plan for a time in the future when they might lose capacity. This includes:

  • advance healthcare directive
  • enduring power of attorney.

You can find out more by clicking on the link to our Services page.

Yes, you can register a decision support arrangement with us via our MyDSS portal. You can access our portal through the portal link on the Decision Support Service website in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You can find out more on our Useful Links page.

At present, there is no legal basis for a family member or ‘next-of-kin’ to take on an automatic decision-making role or to give or withhold consent on behalf of another adult. Every adult is presumed to have decision-making capacity and may choose whether or not a family member is involved when they are making decisions. They may also decide whether or not their information is shared with a family member.

A person who faces challenges when making decisions may give someone they know and trust, such as a family member or carer, the legal authority to act as their decision supporter.

The person’s need for a decision support arrangement will depend on their circumstances and the decisions that they need to make.

At the upper tier, where the court appoints a decision-making representative to a person, it will appoint someone known and trusted by them where possible. The court must consider the wishes of the person when appointing a decision-making representative.

We recommend that service providers consider what measures they have in place to support service users. This includes, for example, policies and processes around consent procedures, communication with supporters, and assessing capacity.

The Codes of Practice are published on our website and provide a number of resources to help organisations fulfil their legal and professional obligations under the 2015 Act.

Under the new law, people are no longer able to be made a Ward of Court. Any ward of court or someone on their behalf can apply to the wardship court to have their case reviewed.

All current Wards of Court will be reviewed by the wardship court and discharged from wardship within three years after 26 April 2023. The courts will decide whether or not a current Ward of Court needs formal support under the new Act. For more information click on the link Wards of Court page.

If there is a medical emergency, and you do not have a decision supporter or an advance statement (for example an advance healthcare directive or an enduring power of attorney), a healthcare professional may need to provide you with necessary treatment without your consent. If you do have a decision supporter or an advance statement and the healthcare professional has access to it, they will have to consult your supporter or statement, unless the delay in doing so might cause you serious harm.

It is important that, if you decide to make an advance healthcare directive or an enduring power of attorney, which includes your wishes about healthcare and treatment, that you let important people know, like your family, your friends and your general practitioner. In this way, you can help to make sure your medical wishes are respected even in an emergency.

Adults with an intellectual disability are presumed to have the capacity to make decisions, like everybody else. This includes the decision to get married. This is already the law.

As in every case, the registrar must be satisfied that both adults have the capacity to marry. If necessary, a person with a genuine interest in the adult’s welfare will be able to make an application under Part 5 of the 2015 Act to ask the court to declare whether they have capacity to marry. The person who applies to the court could be the registrar.

A decision supporter will not have the authority to consent, or withhold consent, to marriage on a person’s behalf.

The 2015 Act also repeals a very old law which said that a person could not get married if they were a ward of court. This came into effect in February 2021. This means that a ward of court may now get married if they have capacity to do so.

We have the authority to investigate complaints about decision-making arrangements and decision supporters. You will find our complaints form on the forms section of the website. You can email or post this form to us.

You can also contact the complaints team on 01 211 9750 or email complaints@decisionsupportservice.ie.