Date set for wardship hearing for young care leaver with intellectual disability – 2022vol2#57

The judge fixed a date for an application to admit a young person to wardship who had been in the care of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and the subject of a full care order. He had now turned 18.

This matter concerned a young man who was over the age of 18 years. He had been subject to care orders since 2007 and was now in aftercare. On the discharge of the full care order the CFA had made an application to admit the young man to wardship.

The wardship inquiry was due to be heard the day of the hearing, but the report from the medical visitor had not been served on the young man. (Prior to any wardship inquiry, a medical visitor, appointed by the court, visits the intended ward and produces a report. This report is then served on the intended ward, it must be read to the intended ward and all efforts must be made to ensure the intended ward understands what has been proposed. The intended ward then has seven days to object to the wardship application if they wish). The medical visitor had visited the young man and produced a report, but this report had not yet been served on the young man.

This matter had previously been before the court and the court was familiar with the case. The lawyer for the CFA informed the court that the reports of the CFA described the young man as having moderate intellectual disabilities whereas the reports of the HSE described him as having mild intellectual disabilities. He said these differences remained, although the CFA and the HSE had had discussions regarding these differences.

The lawyer for the HSE said that if the young man had moderate intellectual disabilities, he would be eligible for residential care, however, if his disabilities were mild, he would be eligible for educational, vocational day care only. He said that across all fields of assessments that had been undertaken by the HSE the young man had scored in the mild range.

The lawyer for the CFA said in their assessments he had scored in the moderate disability range and hence they had made the wardship application. The CFA were still funding his aftercare placement. The placement with his relative was not secure and there had been issues of safety. A safety plan for the placement had been established. This was under continual review. The CFA were anxious to secure long-term plans for the young man. The representative from the CFA said the young man would be likely to oppose the application to wardship.

The lawyer for the GAL said the GAL was supporting the application for wardship. It had been arranged that the GAL would be present when the CFA served the medical visitor’s report on the young man. He said the GAL believed the young man would oppose the application. He said that because the GAL was supporting the application it was important the young man be given independent legal assistance which could not be given by the GAL because she supported the application.

There were court orders in place with regards to the young man’s finances. He had been given €100 per week in cash by his aunt from his disability allowance. The CFA had liaised with a bank and the young man had been issued with a bank card to avoid having to carry cash. Limits had been established for this bank card.

The court was anxious this inquiry be heard and agreed to hear it during the court vacation. The judge said all orders were to remain until the inquiry was heard. The judge urged all parties to ensure that the young man be given every legal assistance and he be clearly informed of his right to attend the hearing and oppose the application if he wishes.

Subsequent hearing

When the matter came back before the High Court the judge extended the time the young man had to object to a wardship application. The court had updated reports from the social worker on behalf of the CFA, from the disability manager on behalf of the HSE, from the GAL and a report from the court appointed medical visitor.

The lawyer for the CFA informed the court the young man currently resided with his aunt, was in receipt of disability payment and had accrued a significant amount of money. A previous direction of the court was that the young man should have a bank card with access to some of that money that he could control, and it would avoid him having cash. The CFA said the bank had been contacted and the account arranged, it was hoped a card would be issued within the next few days.

The lawyer said that the young man remained opposed to the wardship application and he [the young man] had stated that he was 18 now, he could do as he pleased, and he wanted access to his money. He had limited education and his intellectual quotient (IQ) was 55 which placed him within the mild learning disability category.

The CFA lawyer stated that his needs were best met by the disability services of the HSE. The CFA said that given his learning difficulties and his overall needs he would be eligible for HSE residential care. The lawyer for the HSE said on their assessment the young man’s disability was within the mild learning disability category and he was not eligible for residential care, but for assisted vocational training and a vocational training centre and a three-year course had been identified.

The court was informed by the GAL she remained supportive of the warship application as the young man had little insight or understanding into the cost or value of money. He was vulnerable and in an attempt to be accepted would make poor choices and be open to being bullied or taken advantage of. The GAL said that although his IQ score placed him within the mild learning difficulty category, his presentation and ability placed him at a much lower level. He required a high level of support, and he had an unrealistic view of his ability. The medical visitor’s report had been served on the young man.

The GAL had been present when the medical visitor’s report was read to the young man. The GAL said she was aware the young man did not want to be admitted to wardship, wanted to object, and wanted access to his money. She had recommended that he be appointed his own legal representation to object to the application.

The judge said that he would adjourn the hearing of the wardship application, would appoint legal representation to the young man and extend the time for him to object to the application.