Wards of Court system abolished in 2023

Mar 27, 2024

27th March, 2024

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, and Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte, announced that 26 April, 2023 as the day for the abolition of wardship, the operationalisation of the Decision Support Service, and the introduction of a new system of tiered decision-making supports.

That announcement followed the enactment of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Act 2022, which was signed into law by the President on 17 December 2022.

The 2022 Act amends the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which provides the legal basis for the abolition of wardship. The Act replaces the wards of court system with a new, progressive, rights based system of assisted decision-making.

From Commencement, on 26/4/2023:

  • the Decision Support Service will be able to process applications for new decision support arrangements
  • the Circuit Court will be able to process applications for Decision Making Representative Orders
  • there will be statutory provision for the making and recognition of Advance Healthcare Directives
  • wardship will be abolished and the over 2000 wards of court, which currently exist in the State will have a review of their circumstances undertaken by the wardship court and will exit wardship on a phased basis over the next three years

The 2022 Amendment Act also provides for key measures related to further compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In a headline measure, the Act will raise the minimum target percentage of people with disabilities to be employed in the public sector from 3% to 6%, on a phased basis, by 2025.

Commenting on the announcement Minister O’Gorman stated in early 2023:

“I am extremely pleased to be able to make today’s announcement setting a date for the abolition of wardship and for replacing it with a modern, fit for purpose, rights based system.

“Wardship is an archaic legal system that has been on the statute book for far too long. It has denied people basic control over the decisions which affect their lives. The new assisted decision-making system will move away from an outdated and paternalistic “best interests” model and allow people far greater control over basic decisions in their own lives.

“Every person in Ireland has, or will have, some experience of diminished capacity, whether that is personal experience or the experience of a loved one, and whether it is simply age related or whether it arises from a particular impairment. This Act ensures that when capacity issues arise, we address those issues with a fundamental respect for will and preference, for dignity, and for the rights of each of us to control our own affairs.

“The scale of the reform involved cannot be overstated. Wardship as a legal system is older than the Irish State. Its abolition is a landmark step forward in modernising our laws and better supporting our citizens.

“I am equally pleased that the legislation brings forward a suite of measures to advance disability rights, and in particular that the public sector will show leadership on the critical issue of employment.

“I look forward to the launch of the new system, and the abolition of wardship, at the end of April.”

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