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Question

185. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the full commissioning of the decision support service; and the achievements to date. [11659/19]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced.  The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health). 
The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020.  This lead in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively.
A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. There are many complex strands to this work, including involvement of multiple organisations. The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service.
A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016) commenced provisions of the Act to enable the recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the Decision Support Service on 2 October 2017.
The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.  On 17 October 2016 the Minister for Health established a multidisciplinary working group to assist in the development and preparation of the code of practice for the AHD provisions of the Act. The role of the working group is to prepare a detailed series of recommendations for the Director of the Decision Support Service in relation to codes of practice.
In anticipation of the completion of that process, the Minister for Health commenced the remainder of section 91 on 17 December 2018 (S.I. No. 527 of 2018). This will enable the Director of the Decision Support Service to progress the preparation of the code of practice on the AHD provisions, based on the working group’s recommendations, and in accordance with the specific process outlined in the Act. The multidisciplinary working group submitted its recommendations on the code of practice to the Director of the Decision Support Service on 21 December 2018. Once completed, the final code of practice can be published by the Director with consent of the Minister for Health. The preparation of the code of practice will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Part 8 of the Act, pertaining to AHDs, in its entirety.
In April 2018, the Mental Health Commission engaged the consultancy firm BearingPoint to support the development of a detailed, costed plan to establish a fully operational Decision Support Service. The contract also includes ongoing project management support for the design and establishment of the organisation, business processes, IT systems and risk management framework.
The Mental Health Commission has also received sanction for the recruitment of a number of staff for the Decision Support Service and also a number of staff to provide shared services for the Mental Health Commission and Decision Support Service. These staff are being recruited on a phased basis by the Mental Health Commission.
The National Disability Authority is currently finalising its work on the suite of draft codes of practice in relation to non-healthcare matters which are required to be prepared under section 103 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
In June 2018, my Department recruited an external legal expert to assist in the preparation of draft regulations in relation to decision-making assistance agreements, co-decision-making agreements, certain matters relating to decision-making representatives, and enduring powers of attorney.  These regulation-making powers are provided for in sections 10(4), 31, 45(3), 45(4), 46(3) and 79 of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Work on the draft regulations is ongoing.