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The Mental Capacity Act 2005

DescriptionThe Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is a law that makes it clear what happens when someone is unable to make a decision or decisions, and it provides protection and support for people in these situations.

If someone has mental capacity, they are able to make decisions for themselves. If someone is not able to make decisions for themselves, we say they don't have the mental capacity to decide.

This could be anything from everyday decisions about, for example, what to wear or eat, through to significant decisions such as where to live, deciding about health care, or what to do with money or property. However, some decisions can never be made by someone else for you, even if you lack capacity. Examples of decisions that can't be made for you include decisions about marriage, divorce, sexual relationships, adoption and voting. Anyone who works with or cares for an adult who lacks capacity must comply with the MCA when making decisions or acting for that person.

Someone may lack the capacity to make particular decisions at particular times. But this doesn't necessarily mean they lack the capacity to make any decisions at all, or to make that decision at another time. The underlying philosophy of the MCA is to ensure that those who lack capacity are empowered to make as many decisions for themselves as possible and that any decision made, or action taken, on their behalf is made in their best interests.

The MCA covers various things, including:

- The definitions of mental capacity
- What must be considered if someone doesn't have capacity
- Ways of protecting people who lack capacity, such as Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
- What happens if someone hasn't planned ahead
- How to plan ahead, in case someone lacks capacity in future, such as appointing someone to make decisions for you using a Lasting Power of Attorney.


Visit the GOV.UK page about mental capacity or download the guide "Who decides when I can't?".

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Record last updated: 12 October 2015