The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) allows decisions to be made or actions to be taken on behalf of people who are unable to make decisions for themselves, perhaps because of:
- a learning disability
- a mental health problem
- a head injury or a stroke
- a drug, alcohol or substance addiction or intoxication
- an acute illness, or the treatment of an acute illness
The Act covers a wide range of decisions made, or actions taken, on behalf of people who may lack capacity to make specific decisions for themselves. These can be decisions about day-to-day matters, like what to wear, or what to buy when doing the weekly shopping, or decisions about major life-changing events, such as whether the person should move into a care home or undergo a major surgical operation.
There are certain decisions which can never be made on behalf of a person who lacks capacity to make those specific decisions. This is because they are either so personal to the individual concerned, or governed by other legislation.
Sections 27–29 and 62 of the Act set out the specific decisions which can never be made or actions which can never be carried out under the Act, whether by family members, carers, professionals, attorneys or the Court of Protection.
As well as the person lacking mental capacity, the Act also applies to their family, friends, health and social care staff and anyone else who has contact with them, in respect of making decisions on the person’s behalf.
The Mental Capacity Act allows anyone to plan ahead in case they lack mental capacity in the future.
The key values that underpin the Act are set out in five statutory principles:
- A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity.
- A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him to do so have been taken without success.
- A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because s/he makes an unwise decision.
- 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.
- 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.
Sheffield City Council has lead responsibility for implementing The Mental Capacity Act 2005 in Sheffield.
Further details about the Act and its implementation can be found on the Sheffield City Council’s website.