Mental Capacity Act
- Do you have an illness, injury or disability that may cause you difficulties in making decisions?
- Do you care for, work with, or know someone who has difficulties in making decisions?
- Do you want to plan ahead in case you are unable to make important decisions for yourself in the future?
If so, then the Mental Capacity Act 2005 can help. More information about the Act is available at Ministry of Justice: Mental Capacity Act|
Every day we make decisions about lots of things in our lives. The ability to make decisions is called mental capacity. People may have difficulties making some decisions either all or some of the time. This could be because they have:
- a learning disability
- a mental health problem
- a head injury or a stroke.
And any of us might plan ahead in case we lack mental capacity in the future, because of an accident for example.
The Mental Capacity Act came fully into force in October 2007 in England and Wales, and affects people in these situations. It also affects their families, carers, health and social care staff, and other people who may have contact with them. It can cover all sorts of major decisions where a person may lack capacity about things like finance, social care, medical treatment and research arrangements, as well as everyday decisions.
The Act generally affects people aged 16 or over.
The new Independent Mental Capacity Advocate Service in England and a new criminal offence came into force on 1 April; all other parts of the Act came into effect on 1 October 2007.
How the Act can affect you
If you are unable to make some decisions the Act explains:
- that you should have as much help as possible to make your own decisions
- how an assessment of capacity should be made about whether you are able to make a particular decision at a particular time
- that even if you do not have the capacity to make a very complicated decision for yourself this does not mean that you are unable to make more straightforward decisions
- that even if someone has to make a decision on your behalf you must still be involved in this as much as possible
- that anyone making a decision on your behalf must do so in your best interests
- that there is a new safeguard, the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate ( IMCA) to represent you if you lack capacity to make certain important decisions and there is no one else who can be consulted.
If you want to plan ahead for the future
- allows you to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enabling you to appoint someone to make decisions about your finances and property or your health care and welfare should you ever lack the capacity to make these decisions yourself
- enables you to make an "advance decision to refuse treatment" if there is a particular medical treatment you would not wish to receive at a time in the future when you may lack capacity to refuse it.
If you are a family or other unpaid carer
- can help you understand how and when you can act on behalf of someone who lacks capacity to make decisions - and the safeguards and limitations if you are doing this
- says that you should be consulted by professionals when, for example, a doctor makes a decision about treatment for a family member who lacks capacity.
If you work in health and social care
- provides a framework for assessing a person’s mental capacity and determining their best interests if they lack capacity to make a decision
- has safeguards and limitations for when you are working with someone who lacks the capacity to consent to receiving care or treatment.
If you work in the legal, banking or advice sectors
- creates a single, coherent framework for dealing with mental capacity issues and an improved system for settling disputes, dealing with health and welfare issues, and the financial affairs of people who lack capacity.