Mental Capacity Act

  1. Basic Introduction (You are here)
  2. Indepedent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
  3. Planning for the future

Basic Introduction

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 was introduced to protect and empower vulnerable adults aged 16 and over who are unable to make decisions for themselves, perhaps because of:

  • a learning disability
  • dementia
  • a mental health problem
  • head injury/ stroke
  • a drug, alcohol or substance addiction

The Act sets out a legal framework of how to act and make decisions on behalf of someone lacking capacity to make a specific decision. These may be decisions about day to day matters like what to buy when doing the weekly shop, or decisions about major life changing events, such as whether the person should move into a care home or undergo a major surgical operation.

It also allows people to plan ahead for a time when they may lack mental capacity in the future, following an accident for example.

The key values that underpin the Act are set out in five statutory principles:

  1. A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity.
  2. A person is to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him to do so have been taken without success.
  3. A person is not to be treated as unable to a make a decision merely because he makes an unwise decision.
  4. An act done, or decision made, under this Act, for, or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made, in his best interests.
  5. Before the act is done, or the decision is made, regard must be had to whether the purpose for which it is needed can be as effectively achieved in a way that is less restrictive of the person’s rights and freedom of action.

These principles should be followed and applied to any decision making to ensure the appropriate action is taken in individual cases.

If you need more information around how the Mental Capacity Act should be used in practice, consult the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.

MCA Code of practice

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