Mental Capacity Act 2005
In 2007 the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 became law. The Act
states that everyone aged 16 and over must be treated as able to
make their own decisions until it is shown that they are not.
'Mental capacity' is the term used for a person's ability to
Some people may have difficulty making decisions because of a
health condition that affects their thinking, or because of a
condition they were born with, such as a learning disability.
The MCA 2005 puts in to law the steps that professionals and carers
alike must take if they think someone needs a decision taking for
them, but most importantly it protects the right of people whose
capacity may be questioned to make their own decisions as much as
possible. It also enables people to plan ahead for a time when they
may lose capacity.
What does the act do?
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 sets out five key
principles, which underpin the legislation and apply to all:
- A presumption of capacity - it must be assumed that a person
has capacity to make decisions unless it is proved otherwise;
- The right for individuals to be supported to make their own
decisions - before anyone concludes that they cannot;
- Individuals retain the right to make what appear unwise
- Any decision made or action taken on behalf of people without
capacity must be in their best interests;
- Anything done for or on behalf of people without capacity
should be the least restrictive of their rights and freedoms.
The Act introduced a Code of
Practice (PDF 1.3 MB), which was written by the
Department of Health. This sets out how professionals, carers
and others should work with people who are thought to lack
capacity. Carers and staff acting for someone who is thought
to lack capacity must always follow this guidance.
Download the Mental
Capacity Act 2005 information (PDF 97 KB) which
- The five key principles
- Advice if you are family member, friend or other unpaid
- If you work in health and social care
- If you want to plan ahead for the future
- Safeguarding vulnerable adults
The Act as a whole is explained as an easy read format in
Making decisions about your health, welfare and finances. Who
decides when you can't? (200 KB)
If you are family member, friend or other unpaid carer see the
Making decisions. A guide for family, friends and other unpaid
carers (PDF 560 KB).
The Act allows you to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
enabling you to appoint someone to make decisions about your
finances and property or your health care and welfare should you
ever lack the capacity to make these decisions yourself. For more
information, please go to the website of the Office of the Public
The Act also enables you to make an ‘advance decision to refuse
treatment’ if there is a particular medical treatment you would not
wish to receive at a time in the future when you may lack capacity
to refuse it. View the guidance at
The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service was
created to represent you if you lack capacity to make certain
important decisions and there is no one else who can be
The booklet: Making
decisions. The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) Service
(PDF 594 KB) contains more detailed information about the
The 'Making Decisions' booklets and information is also
available in alternative languages on the
Department for Constitutional Affairs website.
Links to useful organisations
Some independent organisations have produced their own booklets
about the MCA, which can be found on their websites. For
This page was last reviewed 16 January 2014 at 12:08.
The page is next due for review 15 July 2015.