As the mother of a ward of court and co-founder of Justice for Wards I am appalled by the front page headline published by the Irish Mail on 26th April suggesting that the legislation enacted that day to replace the outdated 19th century lunacy act was done to save vulnerable people from abuse by their families.
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act finally became law on 26 April 2023.
The Mail implies throughout the report that families abuse Wards of Court.
There is nothing written about the suffering and losses that many wards of court have suffered under the old system of wardship that was the subject of an RTÉ Primetime Investigates documentary in November 2019.
It is an extremely unbalanced article where no Wards or their families were asked for their views.
The rights of Wards are protected under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Wards and their families weren’t given a voice or a platform to express their concerns when the recently enacted legislation was being drafted.
This is not compliant with the UN Convention which clearly states that their voice must be heard.
In this regard Wards and their families have been failed once again.
Justice for Wards has contacted the Irish Daily Mail to retract that headline, apologise to those who have been upset by it and to publish a more balanced view in keeping with the injustices inflicted on Wards and their families that has been highlighted by other mainstream media outlets in recent years.
Families who have a loved one involved in the archaic Wardship System in Ireland are undoubtedly glad to see the end of it with the recent commencement of the Decision Support Service.
Under the old system Wards of Court lost all their rights on entering Wardship (many against their will and preference). It will be a number of years before all of the 2000+ Wards of Court transfer over to the new system.
Meanwhile, their decisions are made by others – about where they will live and with whom; their personal care and healthcare; their financial decisions; the right to travel abroad and other decisions that people regularly make for themselves.
Decisions about their property are made without their knowledge, nursing home or residential care fees are paid out of their funds.
Their property is basically tied up in the Wardship system and frequently then sold to pay for their expenses and care.
They have no say in this and neither do some of their families as these decisions are made by officers appointed by the High Court.
In my experience over several decades I have observed that Wards who have these decisions made by family members enjoy an abundant amount of love and support from their loved ones who act with the best of intentions.
In many cases Wardship applications have been made via the HSE or others who have no relationship with the person.
Vulnerable people have been exploited and have lost property and funds needlessly in such circumstances and many have come to Justice for Wards for support.
Those who come under the remit of the General Solicitor have no family or external advocacy or representatives.
Families are not allowed any input or information and are denied accounts and statements.
This even occurs in cases where a mother may have fought a legal battle for years in the Courts for a settlement for a disabled child – only to find they are excluded from their lives to the point that the General Solicitor has to approve everything.
Families have spent thousands of euros on legal fees trying in vain to have these Orders reversed and family re-instated.
There have been a number of cases where the Court/Office of Wards of Court have appointed a Committee who is not fit for purpose and not monitored.
Wards have lost substantial sums of money in such cases.
In one case the Ward was not allowed to make a statement to Gardai after his PA had stolen money from his bank account because he lacked capacity – so the case stalled.
In another case distant relatives of a Ward were appointed Committee and a large sum of money was not accounted for.
In these cases the Wardship system failed the vulnerable individual.
The RTÉ documentary ‘ The people caught in Ireland’s wardship system’ is available on this link
Mary Farrell is co-founder and Spokesperson for Justice for Wards who has spoken at a number of Oireachtas Justice Committee meetings