527. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for delays within the Office of Wards of Court which are impacting on the purchases of properties. [13422/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in wards of court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had inquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the President of the High Court is responsible for the affairs of each ward of court. This includes responsibility for the decision whether to purchase or sell property on behalf of a ward of court. In most cases the purchase of house property arises for wards who have specialised needs relating to their welfare and accommodation.
The Courts Service has advised that there is no significant delay in the processing of applications for purchase of property on behalf of wards of court. All applications are examined promptly and the proposed order prepared for examination by the President of the High Court. The President examines such proposals on a weekly basis. If there is any urgency to the matter the proposal is processed immediately by the case officer and the President will make himself available at short notice to deal with the application.
The Courts Service has further advised that when it is proposed to purchase a property, the Wards of Court Office will usually require an independent valuation and other relevant documentation such as an occupational therapist's report either confirming that the accommodation is suitable for the ward's needs or setting out the improvements or alterations which are required to make the property suitable. That application is put to the President of the High Court for his decision. A Court Order is drafted, approved and signed to allow the ward's guardian or committee to complete the purchase on the ward's behalf. As a result of these necessary procedures, it may take some weeks to approve the purchase of a property on behalf of a ward.