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The Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (the Act) provides a statutory framework to empower and protect people who may lack capacity to make some decisions for themselves, for example, people with dementia, learning disabilities, mental health problems, stroke or head injuries.

The Act makes it clear who can take decisions in which situations and how they should go about this. It also enables people to plan ahead for a time when they may lack capacity and covers major decisions about someone’s property and affairs, healthcare treatment and where the person lives, as well as everyday decisions about personal care (such as what someone eats), where the person lacks capacity to make the decisions themselves.

Who needs to know about the Act?

The act is relevant to everyone who makes decisions on behalf of people who lack capacity – family, friends or professionals.

What does it say?

The Act sets out five key principles that must be followed by anyone who is supporting a person who may lack capacity:

  • all adults have the right to make decisions for themselves unless it is shown that they are unable to do so
  • people should be supported as much as possible to make their own decisions before anyone concludes that they cannot make their own decisions
  • people are allowed to make a decision that may seem to other people to be an unwise or strange decision
  • if a person lacks capacity any decisions or actions taken on their behalf must be taken in their best interest
  • anything done on behalf of people lacking capacity should be the least restrictive of their basic rights and freedoms

The Act introduces a number of important safeguards to protect people who lack capacity including the requirement that an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) is in place to help people who lack the capacity to make important decisions about serious medical treatment and/or changes in accommodation.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate

All local authorities with social service responsibility, health trusts and primary care trusts are legally required to jointly commission an Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy Service.

The purpose of the IMCA service is to protect particularly vulnerable people who lack capacity to make important decisions about serious medical treatment and changes to accommodation where they have no friends or relatives that it would be appropriate to consult about a particular decision.

People who may require an IMCA are:

  • a person with severe learning disabilities
  • a person with Dementia
  • a person with a serious head injury
  • a person with a mental health problem

For further information about the Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy Service (IMCA) please see Mental Capacity Act: making decisions.

Contacting the IMCA service

VoiceAbility Camden, Islington and Hackney, 2c Falkland Road, London NW5 2PT. Tel: 0845 0175 198. Fax: 0208 330 6622. Email: imca@voiceability.org

MCA e-learning package

Our Mental Capacity Act course provides key information and describes the changes that will occur as a result of it. You will need a password to access this package. Please contact yatheesh.sivanandan@hackney.gov.uk or call 020 8356 5783.

Page updated on: 3 July 2019

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