Mental Health Capacity

Gear Wheels Close UpPeople with severe mental disabilities are often unable to take full responsibility for their lives. That means that key decisions will sometimes need to be made for them, be it about work, medical treatment or their finances. In April 2005 the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) was introduced to develop this area of law.

It was established to protect vulnerable people over the age of sixteen who cannot make their own decisions. Under the Act, protection is given to individuals who fear they may lose the capacity to make decision in future. This is done by appointing someone else to make decisions for you if you lack the capacity to do so yourself. This person would be called an ‘attorney’, who has been given ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’ (LPA) to act on your behalf.

The MCA is based on five key principles that must be followed by if someone is considering making a decision for someone else:

  • it must be show that the person who lacks capacity can no longer make decisions for themselves
  • a person is not legally incapable to make decisions for themselves until you have exhausted all options available to help them make decisions for themselves
  • you cannot treat a person as unable to make a decision because they make an unwise decision
  • if you do an act or make a decision on behalf of someone else, it must be carried out in his or her best interest
  • before you make a decision on behalf of someone else, you must consider if there is an alternative way of making this decision, before you restrict the person’s rights and freedom of action

The main aim of the MCA is to ensure that the decision making power is not taken away from an individual with severe mental disabilities, but does allow you and other carers to make important decisions in the individual’s best interest. To assess whether an individual can make a certain decision, they must have the capacity to do so.

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