Mental Capacity Act

There are people who may have difficulties making some decisions either all or some of the time about their health, welfare and finances. The Mental Capacity Act enables people to plan for these situations.

Mental Capacity Act 2005

The the Mental Capacity Act 2005 can help, if you:

  • have an illness, injury or disability that may cause you difficulties in making decisions;
  • care for, work with, or know someone who has difficulties in making decisions;
  • want to plan ahead in case you are not able to make important decisions for yourself in the future?

For more on the Act, visit: Mental Capacity Act: making decisions .

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;
  • dementia;
  • a mental health problem;
  • or a head injury, or a stroke.

Anyone plan ahead in case we lack mental capacity in the future, because of an accident, for example.

The Act gives the legal framework for anyone who lacks mental capacity. It also concerns their families, carers, health and social care staff and other people who may have contact with them. It can have a bearing on all sorts of major decisions, where a person may lack capacity about things, like:

  • finance;
  • social care;
  • medical treatment;
  • research arrangements;
  • as well as everyday decisions.

Note: The Act generally affects people aged 16 or over.

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;
  • an assessment of capacity should be made about whether you can make a particular decision, at a particular time;
  • if you do not have the capacity for complicated decisions, you may still be able to make simpler ones;
  • if a decision is made on your behalf, you must still be involved in this as much as possible;
  • anyone making a decision on your behalf must do so in your best interests;
  • there is a new safeguard, the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) to represent you. They can help if you lack capacity to make certain important decisions. This is when there is no one else who can be consulted.

If you want to plan ahead for the future

The Act:

  • lets you make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This lets you name someone to make decisions for you, if you ever lack the capacity to make them yourself. This can be finances and property or your health care and welfare;
  • lets you make an 'advance decision to refuse treatment'. There may be a particular medical treatment that you do not want to have at a time in the future. This could happen when you may lack the capacity to refuse it.

If you are a family or other unpaid carer

The Act:

  • can help you understand how and when you can act on behalf of someone who lacks capacity to make decisions. It also covers the safeguards and limitations, if you are doing this;
  • says that you should be consulted by professionals. For example, if a doctor makes a decision about treatment for a family member who lacks capacity.

If you work in health and social care

The Act:

  • gives a framework for assessing a person’s mental capacity. Also for determining their best interests, if they lack the capacity to make a decision;
  • has safeguards and limitations. This is for when you are working with someone who lacks the capacity to consent to having care or treatment.

If you work in the legal, banking or advice sectors

The Act:

  • creates a single, coherent framework for dealing with mental capacity issues. It also has an improved system for:
    • settling disputes;
    • dealing with health and welfare issues;
    • and the financial affairs of people who lack capacity.