Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) (external website) is designed to protect and empower individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment. It is a law that applies to individuals aged 16 and over.

Why do we need a Mental Capacity Act?

The MCA sets out in law what happens when people are unable to make decisions, for example, when they lack capacity to make a particular decision. The MCA provides protection and support should you find yourself in any of these situations.

The MCA applies to situations where you may be unable to make a particular decision at a particular time. It should not be assumed that people living with dementia, mental health issues, learning disabilities lack capacity in all aspects of their daily living.

The types of decision that are covered by the MCA range from day-to-day decisions about things such as what to wear or eat, through to serious decisions such as where you live, deciding if you need to have an operation or what to do with your money and property.

The MCA is there to:

  • strengthen the right of people to make their own decisions and to be supported to do so;
  • protect those who may lack capacity to make a particular decision;
  • set out in which situations other people can make decisions and act on your behalf if you are unable to do so;
  • ensure you are to be involved in decisions that affect you by promoting your best interests; and
  • help resolve disputes

The Five Principles of the MCA

The Act sets out 5 key principles that must be followed when trying to determine whether someone has capacity to make a particular decision:

  • a person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity
  • a person must not be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help them to do so have been taken without success
  • a person must not be treated as unable to make a decision merely because they make an unwise decision
  • an act done or a decision made under the Mental Capacity Act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done or made in their best interests 
  • before the act is done or the decision is made, it must be considered whether it is possible to act or decide in a way that would interfere less with the person’s rights and freedom of action

If you would like more information or advice, you can visit a Talking Point or contact the Single Point of Access.