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Mental Capacity Act

'Mental capacity' is the legal way of describing someone’s ability to make a decision or act for themselves.

Some people may find it difficult to make decisions due to:

  • A learning disability

  • A mental health problem

  • A head injury or stroke

  • Senility or dementia

  • Substance misuse

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) has been put in place to ensure that those people who are unable to make decisions for themselves are protected.

At the same time the Act promotes the rights of people who can make decisions for themselves to do so.

The Act applies to people aged 16 years and over.

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Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice

The Code of Practice supports the MCA and provides guidance to all those who care for and/or make decisions on behalf of adults who lack capacity. The Code includes case studies and clearly explains in more detail the key features of the MCA

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The Main Principles

  1. Every adult is legally able to make their own decisions unless it can be shown they are not able. It is not acceptable to judge a person’s ability based on appearance, age or medical condition.

  2. People should be given all the support they need to enable them to make their own decisions. For example providing information to help them make a decision in a format they can understand. This could be information with symbols or photographs for people with a learning disability or information in Braille for a blind person.

  3. People have the right to make decisions which appear to be eccentric or unwise. In itself this does not mean that the person is not fit to make a decision.

  4. Any action or decision taken on someone else’s behalf must always be in their best interests. Additionally when making a decision on behalf of someone else it is important to consider their beliefs and preferences and involve them as much as possible.

  5. Any action or decision taken on behalf of someone else must be the least restrictive of that person’s freedom and rights.    

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Who assesses someone’s ability to make a decision ?

If you are a carer, relative, health or care professional you might need to assess whether someone is able to make a particular decision.

  • According to the Act you should consider whether they can:

  • Understand the decision that needs to be made

  • Understand the consequences of making a particular choice

  • Retain information

  • Weigh up information and use it to make a decision

  • Communicate their decision, or be helped to do so 

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Safeguards

The Mental Capacity Act established a number of new safeguards including:

  • A criminal offence of ill treatment or wilful neglect of a person who cannot make decisions for themselves.

  • Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA). If someone has difficulty making decisions for themselves and has nobody to help them or act on their behalf they will be represented by an IMCA. In Poole this is run by Dorset Advocacy.

  • A Court of Protection which will have the power to appoint deputies, make declarations about someone’s ability, or make decisions on someone’s behalf. 

  • The Act has also been amended to include Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

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Further Information and Useful Resources

For more detailed information about the Mental Capacity Act you can log onto the Ministry of Justice website also you can contact Dorset Advocacy IMCA on 01305 251033 or email them enquiries@dorsetadvocacy.co.uk

Below are a series of Mental Capacity Act booklets which you may also find helpful

About your health, welfare or finance – who decides when you can’t?

A guide for family, friends and other unpaid carers

A guide for people who work in Health and Social Care

The Mental Capacity Act – Easy Read

The Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy Service

Money Matters

Help with managing money if you or someone you care for lacks capacity

Help looking after your money

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Contact us

 Email
sshelpdesk@poole.gov.uk

 Telephone
01202 633902

 Text Relay
18001 01202 633902

 Address
Adult Social Care
Civic Centre
Poole
BH15 2RU