The rights of people with disabilities are not adequately respected and upheld in Ireland, according to a survey commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland. The survey of 1,000 people carried out by RED C last month highlights the need for stronger supports for independent decision-making. 76% of people said stronger safeguarding laws are needed to ensure the rights of people with disabilities. 43% disagreed with the suggestion that people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland are supported adequately to make their own decisions. 40% disagreed that people with physical disabilities in Ireland are supported enough to make their own decisions. Safeguarding Ireland believes the survey highlights the need for progress on adult safeguarding legislation which aims to protect every citizen at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect.

Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the implementation of the Assisted Decision Making Act, which is due to come into effect next year, is of particular importance. Signed into law in 2015, the Act aims to maximise a person's right to make their own decisions, with legally recognised supports, whenever possible.

However, it has not yet been commenced.

A key part of the Act is the abolition of the current wards of court system which was established under the Lunacy Regulation Act of 1871. It will be replaced by a person centred framework, maximising the autonomy for people who require support to make decisions about their personal welfare, property and financial affairs. In June, Minister with responsibility for the implementation of the Act Roderic O'Gorman outlined the reasons for its delay in a written answer to the Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív.

He said the Decision Support Service had to be able to respond to the complex decision-making needs of people with capacity difficulties when it becomes operational.

Minister O'Gorman said amendments were required to the 2015 Act to "streamline processes, in the interests of those using its provisions" before full commencement could take place.

These he said would also strengthen the safeguards included in the 2015 Act.

A Steering Group, chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth which includes senior officials from the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, the Mental Health Commission, the Courts Service, the HSE and the Decision Support Service is working towards commencement of the 2015 Act in June next year.

The Confidential Recipient to the HSE for People with Disabilities and Older People, Leigh Gath, has said that despite improvements, the Safeguarding Ireland survey shows people with disabilities do not have equal rights in Ireland.

"Each person with a disability is different and has different needs. Each person should be supported to make their own choices, to take risks, and also to make life's mistakes as we all do."

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