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Decision Support Service facing further delays

The introduction this year of a new service aimed at supporting individuals who have difficulties with decision making capacity appears in doubt, it has emerged.

The establishment of a Decision Support Service (DSS), set out in the 2015 Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act, was expected in 2018, but since this time has suffered several delays.

Mental Health Commission (MHC) meeting minutes from 30 January reveal the challenges faced in delivering the service, due to be established in 2020, and highlight ongoing concern at the slow pace of developments.

They reveal that key issues relating to funding, the ICT project and governance have “not yet been fully addressed”, indicating that the service may not be established in 2020 after all.

The meeting minutes show “reference was made to the impact the delayed commencement is having generally – on the wider public as well as the DSS team within the MHC. It was agreed that there is a potential loss of momentum.”

Ms Aine Flynn, DSS Director, in a recent statement following the Covid-19 health crisis, outlined how work on the project was continuing despite the challenges faced.

A new website will launch shortly, providing information on the legislation, as well as ongoing progress updates on the implementation of the service.

Details on how individuals can register a decision support agreement, how these agreements will be monitored by the DSS, and how you can make a complaint if you are unhappy with an agreement or a decision supporter will also be provided via the website.

2020 will also see the development of four distinct panels as set out under the Act to best support decision making, namely: court friends, decision-making representatives, special visitors and general visitors.

Furthermore, a communications plan, including a public consultation on draft codes of practice, is planned.

The statement added: “Following recent positive engagement with the Department of Justice and Equality, the DSS is looking forward to agreeing a comprehensive time-bound costed plan for the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 with a go-live date to which all stakeholders can commit”.

But meeting minutes reveal there are “a number of external obstacles to the DSS project” and that “the DSS is only part” of the Act.

“There is a lot for other parties to do in preparation for the 2015 Act and the DSS must operate within its remit and cannot be held responsible for the readiness of other parties.”

Furthermore, delays in the introduction of a new government following the election in February are obstructing progress, the minutes suggest.  

“It was agreed that once the new government is formed, that the Commission shall need to meet the new Minister as soon as possible.”

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