The journey from wardship to supported decision-making: An examination of the process and the experiences of people leaving wardship.
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and amending legislation passed in 2022 will end the wardship system over a three-year period from the April 2023 commencement date. Courts will determine whether a person leaving wardship can now make their own decisions, can make decisions with support or whether they need someone to make decisions for them on key issues. Relevant supports and oversight of these arrangements will be through a new service called the Decision Support Service.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is an international treaty that Ireland ratified in 2018. The current system of wardship is not aligned with the UNCRPD and therefore, the law that governs wardship which was enacted over150 years ago had to change.
A system of supported decision-making, which seeks to prioritise the will and preference of people that need assistance to make decisions, will replace wardship.
The process to exit wardship will involve a High Court hearing that will discharge the person from wardship, return his or her estate and either declare that the person who was formerly a Ward of Court does not need support to make decisions or put in place an appropriate decision-making support arrangement. The Decision Support Service will oversee decision-making support arrangements where these are put in place.
Our research will review this process to see how it is working for people who are or were Wards of Court and the Committees that act on their behalf and for professionals involved in the transition from wardship and in the new supported decision-making system. This will enable us to consider whether any improvements are necessary. We plan to talk to people involved including people who are Wards of Court, and Committees and a number of relevant key informants to get their views on how the process of ending wardship is going, to identify challenges for people who are Wards of Court and others, and to find out how life is after exiting wardship.
We are inviting people who were made Wards of Court and their Committees to participate in this research. You can find out more about the research by reading our Participant Information Leaflets.
You can also review the consent forms for the research.