Law Reform Commission proposes new adult safeguarding framework

Law Reform Commission proposes new adult safeguarding framework

The Law Reform Commission has proposed a new statutory and regulatory framework for adult safeguarding in a 1,000-page report published today.

Following extensive research and analysis of existing domestic law and policy and a comprehensive review of adult safeguarding legislative frameworks in other jurisdictions, the Commission has prepared two draft bills, the Adult Safeguarding Bill 2024 and the Criminal Law (Adult Safeguarding) Bill 2024.

Statutory bodies currently have limited ability to intervene where an at-risk adult is at risk of abuse or neglect, the Commission found, as highlighted by a number of incidents over the past 20 years, including failures of care at Leas Cross, Áras Attracta, and in the ‘Grace’ case, ‘Brandon’ case and ‘Emily’ case.

The Commission recommends that safeguarding duties should be imposed on providers of certain services including managing their services so as to prevent harm to at-risk adults, undertaking a risk assessment and preparing an adult safeguarding statement.

It also recommends the establishment of a social work-led adult Safeguarding Body with a statutory function to promote the health, safety and welfare of at-risk adults, as well as an expansion to the remit of existing regulators such as the HIQA and the Mental Health Commission.

Its other recommendations include the introduction of a statutory protection for all persons who report harm of at-risk adults in good faith, and the introduction of a duty on people working in certain occupations and professions to report harm.

It also recommends the introduction of four new criminal offences: (1) an offence of intentional or reckless abuse, neglect or ill-treatment of a relevant person; (2) an offence of exposure of a relevant person to a risk of serious harm or sexual abuse; (3) an offence of coercive control of a relevant person; and (4) an offence of coercive exploitation of a relevant person.

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