Safeguarding Ireland has encouraged the public to get informed and ‘put into practice’ the newly commenced Assisted Decision-making law, to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness day which takes place on Thursday, June 15.
Safeguarding Ireland described the law as one of the most significant developments in social legislation for many years. The law is designed to uphold people’s rights and to safeguard from harm, including preventing and reducing elder abuse.
A RED C survey commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland last month found that two-thirds of a representative sample of adults (67%) had never heard of the new Assisted Decision-making law, or had any knowledge of what it is about. Just 4% said they had a good understanding of it.
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2023, Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the new law is about taking every possible step to assist people to continue making their own decisions about their health, finances, housing, work or personal welfare – even if there are challenges in doing so.
“The approach of the law is to always presume that each person has the ability to make decisions about their own life, and if a person has a challenge but with help can make their own decision, to provide that support.
“If a person has reduced decision-making capacity, then the Act sets out five new decision support arrangements which can be put in place – and have legal standing. It is very important that people understand and use these arrangements.
“This is of particular importance for people who have challenges with decision-making such as older people living with frailty or dementia; or people with an intellectual disability, an acquired brain injury, or mental illness.”
To coordinate these major changes, a new State Agency called the Decision Support Service (DSS) has been established which is responsible for promoting public awareness, to register the new decision support arrangements, to provide oversight and to resolve issues which arise.
The five new Decision Support Arrangements are:
- A Decision-Making Assistant can be appointed by a person to gather and explain information and communicate a decision for them. The agreement must be recorded with the DSS and certain people must be notified about it.
- A Co-Decision Maker can be appointed by a person to make decisions jointly with them. This arrangement can be used where a person feels unable to make decisions on their own. The agreement must be written down and registered with the DSS.
- A Decision-Making Representative can be appointed if a person is unable to make decisions, even with help. This person is appointed by the Court and can be someone trusted by the person, or from a panel maintained by the DSS. It is registered with the DSS and the Representative reports to the DSS.
- When a person has decision-making capacity they may legally appoint a person to make decisions on their behalf, if in the future they are unable to do so. This is known as appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) which can include financial, property and personal welfare decisions.
- For healthcare decisions, a person can appoint a Designated Healthcare Representative (DHR) for a time in the future when they may no longer have decision-making capacity.
Ms Rickard-Clarke also encouraged people to plan ahead to reduce elder abuse: “It is particularly important for all of us to plan for a time when we are older and put arrangements in place so that we have set out our wishes with regard to specific decisions.”
Safeguarding Ireland would also like to draw attention to WEAAD 2023 activities of the HSE National Safeguarding Office on the theme ofHear me, Support me, Challenge Elder abuse. Resource materials have been developed and are available at www.hse.ie/safeguarding. Also, a number of national heritage buildings are to light up in purple on June 15th to support WEAAD.
WEAAD is a United Nations (UN) led initiative and observed annually on 15 June. This year’s international theme is Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Older Age – Policy, Law and Evidence-based Responses.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
More information on Assisted Decision-making at:
· Decision Support Service: 01 211 9750 / decisionsupportservice.ie.
· HSE: assisteddecisionmaking.ie / 1800 700 700
· National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities: advocacy.ie / 0818 073000
· Sage Advocacy: sageadvocacy.ie / 01 536 7330.
Safeguarding means putting measures in place to uphold our rights, to support our health and wellbeing, to reduce our risk of harm – and to empower us to protect ourselves. Safeguarding involves ourselves, our families, services and professionals all working together to prevent and respond to adult abuse, neglect or coercive control. Safeguarding means empowerment – that if we face challenges with our capacity, ability or independence our decisions are supported and respected.