My life as a Ward of Court

Claire Hendrick discusses the effect of the Ward of Court System and the Lunacy Act, and why it must change to satisfy Article 12 of the UNCRPD.

  • I was made a Ward of Court under the Lunacy Regulation Ireland Act 1871
  • I wanted to buy my own home but couldn’t as a Ward of Court
  • Being a Ward of Court meant I couldn’t make any decisions for myself
  • I wanted to get out of it, but that meant going to the High Court
  • I finally achieved my goal of getting out of wardship and buying my own home.

Claire Hendrick speaking about her experience at Inclusion Ireland AGM 2016)Claire Hendrick speaking about her experience at Inclusion Ireland AGM 2016

My mother died and the house we had lived in all my life was sold. I have an intellectual disability and people didn’t think I was able to make my own decisions. There was no way in law for me to have support to make decisions and so I was made a Ward of Court under the Lunacy Act of 1871.

I didn’t have any access to the money from the house and I had to live in homeless accommodation and had no say on where I lived. I wanted to buy my own home but it wasn’t possible, I wasn’t allowed to while I was a ward of court. I had to try to get out of wardship and had to get assessed by doctors and apply to court. I had to pay for all of these assessments myself.

Being a Ward of Court is horrible. You have no say, you’re a person but you’re not a person. You can’t make any decisions you have to run everything past the Ward of Court office.

Eventually I got out of Ward of Court because of the assessments and the support that I had from my family.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, I finally bought my own house.

Claire Hendrick's new house)Claire Hendrick’s new house

I don’t want people to have to go through the same things I did. I want people to be aware of the law and how the law is supposed to protect you but people don’t really know the implications of it.

I was lucky enough to get out of Ward of Court and there still some people stuck in it who don’t have the support that I do. I want my story to help these people.

They make out the law is there to protect you but there is another side to that and I want to tell that story.

In December 2015, Ireland brought in the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act which means that the Lunacy Act from 1871 is coming to an end. The new law will allow people to get support to make decisions if they wish. The new law means that the things that happened to me won’t happen to anyone else.

I am happy that the Lunacy Act is going so that people won’t be labelled lunatics anymore and people will get all their rights back. I’m glad because now people who are Wards of Court will get a say over their lives instead of being told what they can and can’t do.

Support is important but support isn’t someone telling you that you have to do something. Having support means that someone is there for you and you can come up with a solution together.

Claire Hendrick grew up in Beaumont with her family. She lived as a Ward of Court for 3 years until, with the support of her family, she got out of the system in 2012 and bought her new home on Valentine’s Day 2013. Claire is currently studying childcare.