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17 April 2024 - Law Reform Commission calls for Safeguarding Body to be set up to help protect at-risk adults

The Commission said statutory bodies currently have limited ability to intervene when an at-risk adult is at risk of abuse or neglect. Author Hayley Halpin

A NATIONAL SAFEGUARDING body should be set up to look after the health, safety and welfare of at-risk adults, a new report has recommended. 

The Law Reform Commission’s report calls for an overarching safeguarding framework in Ireland, which would set out duties and obligations to prevent and respond to harm of at-risk adults. 

The report notes that statutory bodies currently have limited ability to intervene when an at-risk adult is at risk of abuse or neglect. 

Taking this into account, the Commission is recommending the introduction of adult safeguarding legislation. It has prepared two draft Bills – the Adult Safeguarding Bill 2024 and the Criminal Law (Adult Safeguarding) Bill 2024. 

The Commission is recommending that safeguarding duties should be imposed on certain services, such as nursing homes, residential and day services for adults with disabilities, accommodation for people in the international protection process and people experiencing homelessness. 

The Commission is recommending that a social work-led adult Safeguarding Body be set up. The Body would have a statutory function to promote the health, safety and welfare of at-risk adults. 

In addition, the Commission is recommending expanding the remit of existing regulators, such as Hiqa and the Mental Health Commission. The Commission believes that the Safeguarding Body should not have regulatory functions.

The Safeguarding Body should, instead, provide social work-led multidisciplinary safeguarding responses using relationship-building skills to prevent harm, empower at-risk adults and, where necessary, protect them from harm, the Commission has said. 

The Commission is recommending that the Safeguarding Body should have statutory powers to receive reports of harm of at-risk adults and to respond appropriately to safeguard at-risk adults.

The Commission said that when necessary to assess the health, safety or welfare of at- risk adults, the Safeguarding Body should have a statutory power to enter relevant facilities.

The Body should also, in particularly serious cases, have a power to obtain a court order to remove an at-risk adult from where they are and take them to a specified safe place, the Commission said. 

“These powers would be available as a last resort, where all other actions to safeguard an at-risk adult have failed, and would be subject to strict thresholds and safeguards,” the Commission said. 

The Commission has also recommended that the courts should be able to make full, interim and emergency no-contact orders to protect at-risk adults from specific individuals in appropriate cases. 

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