Delay on new wards of court laws slammed
Ten to 15 people are faced with being made wards of court every week without independent representation, the support and advocacy service for older people, Sage, has warned.
This comes after a High Court case earlier this year in which an elderly woman was made a ward of court against her perceived wishes, despite the objections of Sage representatives on her behalf. The current legislation focuses on whether the subject is capable of independent decision-making.
Manager of Sage Mervyn Taylor called the continued practice of making people wards of court under the 1871 Lunacy Regulations Act "shamefully outdated", and called for the new Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act, which the President signed into law on December 30 last year, to be commenced as soon as possible.
The legislation, which repeals the 1871 Act, is primarily aimed at assisting those with reduced capacity, such as the elderly, those with intellectual disabilities or acquired brain injuries and chronic mental health disabilities. It would support them in making decisions on issues such as their care, place of residence and assets, and would grant them an automatic right to independent representation when faced with being made a ward of court.
However, Sage warned that with no specific date or even a budget set for the legislation's enactment, and with the instability of the current minority Government, the legislation is now at real risk of being significantly delayed.
"The lack of a date and budget and the lack of a clear government commitment is extremely worrying," explained Mr Taylor.
"The danger is in an unstable political environment it just doesn't get commenced, so it could leave this legislation sitting on the shelf while people continue to be taken into wardship without the right to independent representation," he added.