On Thursday evening (July 4th), the Dáil will debate a motion on a 'Report on the Wards of Court’ by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality.
The report was published in February 2018 following an Oireachtas Committee hearing which heard from representatives of the Courts Service and the Justice for Wards group.
The report made several key recommendations, including that a comprehensive audit be carried out of the cases identified by the Justice for Wards group. These cases involve funds which have been significantly depleted during the years of the financial crisis – 2007-2009. The report also called for a fully independent review of the Courts Service’s disposition towards and interaction with Wards and their families/guardians.
Many people who are wards of court do not know what is left in their fund or their fund is running low. For this reason, the Committee also called for various State agencies including the HSE to draw up contingency plans to provide for their essential needs, including health care and accommodation.
In February 2018, Inclusion Ireland welcomed the report and the fact that it recognised the need for a culture change in the Courts Service to ensure that families are more involved and informed in relation to the affairs of Wards of Court. We also called on the Minister for Justice to amend the relevant legislation to allow the Comptroller & Auditor General to audit the Wards' Funds and for the urgent repeal of the Lunacy Act 1871, which is an out of date, Victorian-era law that is no longer fit for purpose and which allows for the Ward of Court jurisdiction.
Inclusion Ireland hopes that the debate on Thursday evening will further demonstrate the urgent need for the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the repeal of the Lunacy Act. It is essential that the upcoming Budget process makes the necessary resources available to ensure the speedy commencement of the Act and operation of the Decision Support Service.