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Managing Your Affairs

Mental Capacity Act

What is Mental Capacity?


The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides a legal framework to empower and protect vulnerable people who are not able to make their own decisions.

The act is there to protect you if you cannot make a decision at a particular time due to your mind and brain being affected.

It makes it clear who can take decisions and in which situations and how they should go about this. It enables people to plan ahead for a time when they themselves may lose mental capacity.

If someone lacks capacity, then the act allows people to lawfully provide care and treatment as long as it is in their best interests.

The act has five key principles –

  1.  a presumption of capacity - every adult has the right to make his or her own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise
  2.  the right for individuals to be supported to make their own decisions - people must be given all appropriate help before anyone concludes that they cannot make their own decisions
  3.  that individuals must retain the right to make what might be seen as eccentric or unwise decisions
  4. Best Interests - anything done for or on behalf of people without capacity must be in their best interests
  5. least restrictive intervention – before a decision is made on someone’s behalf, consideration has to be made on how the outcome could be achieved in an alternative way which does not interfere with their basic rights and freedom

Download an easy read version of Mental Capacity Act 2005 here (PDF, 3mb)

The test of whether you are able to make a decision for yourself includes assessing whether you can understand –

  • in general terms the decision that needs to be made and why it needs to be made
  • the consequences of making or not making the decision
  • weigh up information that is relevant to the decision

The test often involves support from family, friends and care providers. If you have no one to support or represent you, you may be given the help of an independent advocate.

More on speaking on someone else’s behalf

Just because you cannot make a particular decision does not mean that you cannot make any decisions at all.

If someone cannot make a decision at one time, that does not mean they are incapable of making a decision at another time.

Download a copy of the Mental capacity act code of practice (PDF, 1mb)

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