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Assessing mental capacity and planning ahead

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects vulnerable people who can't make decisions. It outlines how to assess a person's capacity to make decisions.

The act applies to people over 16 years of age who cannot make decisions for themselves.

Two stage test of capacity

The act says that a person's capacity can vary depending on the decision. The act also says that capacity can be temporary or permanent. This means that someone being unable to make one decision does not mean they will not be able to make the next.

The act outlines a two stage test to judge someone's capacity to make a decision.

Stage 1: Does the person have an impairment of, or a disturbance in the working of their mind or brain? If so, move to stage 2.

Stage 2: Does the impairment or disturbance mean that the person cannot make the decision?

The person is unable to make a decision if, with appropriate help, they cannot do any of the following:

  • understand the information given
  • remember the information long enough to make the decision
  • weigh up and use the information
  • communicate their decision in any way

If the person cannot make a particular decision, then someone must decide for them based on their best interests. This person is called the decision maker.

Making decisions for someone without capacity

Planning for the loss of mental capacity

In some cases you will become aware that you, or someone you care for, will lose mental capacity in the future.

You can appoint people you trust as attorneys, who will have the power to make decisions for you when you can't.

Learn more about powers of attorney on the NHS's website.

Make, register or end a lasting power of attorney on GOV.UK.

Someone I know does not have mental capacity to look after themselves

If you think someone does not have mental capacity, speak to us to have them assessed.

Contact us to discuss an assessment of someone's mental capacity.

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