Decision Support Service marks one year in operation

26 Apr, 2024

News

Almost 10,000 people across the country have been actively and positively engaging over the past 12 months with the Decision Support Service (DSS), a new State service established by the Mental Health Commission (MHC).

Set up for adults who may require help, now or in the future, to exercise their right to make decisions about their personal welfare, property, or affairs, the DSS was launched to the public one year ago, on April 26, 2023.

Provided for under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 - and established by and operating under the remit of the MHC - the DSS is an essential service for all adults who may have difficulties with decision-making capacity, and who wish to ensure their wishes are understood, protected and respected should they ever lose capacity in the future.

The 2015 Act has introduced a number of significant rights-based reforms, bringing an end to the wards of courts system for adults under the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act of 1871 and replacing it with a tiered framework of decision support arrangements. The Act also provides for advance planning by way of a new form of an enduring power of attorney and a statutory advance healthcare directive. All these arrangements are underpinned by guiding principles which emphasise the presumption of capacity for adults and a person’s right to autonomy, dignity, minimal interference with their freedom of action and respect for their will and preferences.

The service has seen almost 10,000 people open an online ‘MyDSS’ account over the past 12 months with 2,800 currently actively applying to register a support arrangement, having completed the relevant online forms and proceeded to download the required supporting documentation.

 

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see almost 10,000 people engage with the Decision Support Service over the past year. The establishment of the DSS, and the abolition of wardship, mark a significant step forward, replacing an outdated system with one that emphasises autonomy, dignity, and respect for individual will and preferences. I want to commend the DSS and the Mental Health Commission for their work over the past 12 months, and look forward to them continuing this vital work in the years ahead.”

Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte, said: “It's great to see the progress that has been made since the Decision Support Service opened its doors to the public one year ago. The work of the DSS is so important and the volume of work done in that time shows how people experiencing diminished capacity are actively trying to access a range of decision supports. This is all on top of the fact that through its very existence, we are making progress in getting rid of the archaic wardship system, which is of course a huge step forward for Ireland.”

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler said: “As Minister for Mental Health and Older People, I believe it is especially important that everyone - including people with mental health challenges and older people - engage in advance planning to ensure their will and preferences are heard in making decisions about their future. I would like to thank the Decision Support Service for playing a vital role in registering and regulating decision support arrangements and for providing information to the public.

The Chairperson of the Mental Health Commission, Dr John Hillery, said: “Twelve months is a relatively short time in the lifespan of a new State service, but we can clearly see that Irish adults are actively engaging with the DSS and importantly, that people who currently require assistance with decision-making are being supported in a manner that is consistent with a modern and progressive society.

“The Mental Health Commission has invested significant time and resources over the past few years establishing, and now running the service. We can clearly see now that the legislation and the DSS are working, and that means that we are rapidly moving away from the old-fashioned and paternalistic approach and are now supporting people to make their own decisions. There is plenty more to be done, but thanks in no small part to our collaborative approach with Ministers O’Gorman, Rabbitte and Butler and their departmental officials, the HSE and the Courts Service, we have made major strides forward over the past 12 months.”

The Director of the Decision Support Service, Áine Flynn, said that more and more people are using the service and are increasingly understanding of its benefits.

“The DSS has a mandate to promote understanding and confidence in the new framework. We have engaged extensively with thousands of diverse stakeholders to provide information and support and counter some myths and misunderstandings. We have answered 20,000 queries from the public since last April. Our most important stakeholders are our service-users and we are committed to ensuring that our service meets their needs. The 2015 Act has been described as an act of emancipation and the Decision Support Service will continue to play its part to deliver on that promise.”

The DSS team is also now receiving decision-making representation orders made by the Circuit Courts across Ireland and orders made from the High Court in respect of former wards of court who have been discharged from wardship. Under the Act, all adult wards must be discharged from wardship within the next two years.

The MHC provides information, guidance and accessible DSS resources to support individuals and relevant organisations and bodies. It promotes public awareness and confidence in the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act and the support framework, and consults with users of services and experts to ensure that information is reaching those who require it.

 

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