The Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force in England and Wales in 2007. The Act aims to empower and protect people who may not be able to make some decisions for themselves. The Act applies to anyone aged 16 or over in England and Wales. It protects people with mental health problems as well as people with dementia, learning disabilities, suffered strokes or brain injuries. These people may find it difficult to make decisions some or all of the time. In addition, anyone can use the Act to plan ahead in case they are unable to make decisions in the future.

The Act applies to situations where people may be unable to make a particular decision at a particular time. For someone with a mental health problem, this will depend on how they are feeling or the impact of their condition on them at that time. In some cases, they may be able to make the decision at a later date.

The Mental Capacity Act sets out in law what happens when people are unable to make a particular decision.

Mental Capacity Assessments

First, we must begin by assuming that people have capacity. “A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he/she lacks capacity.”

  • A person may lack capacity to make particular decisions at particular times. It does not necessarily mean that they lack capacity to make any decisions at all
  • A person with a learning disability may lack the capacity to make major decisions, but this does not necessarily mean that they cannot decide what to eat, wear and do each day
  • A person with mental health problems may be unable to make decisions when they are unwell, but able to make them when they are well
  • Capacity can vary over time, even over the course of a day
  • Where there may be an ‘impairment of or disturbance in a person’s mind or brain’ affecting their ability to make particular decisions. A mental capacity assessment must be carried out.

Salisbury Support 4 Autism believes in supporting all individuals with making choices throughout their daily lives, we do this by using BSL, Makaton and pictures that have meaning to that individual.

At Salisbury Support 4 Autism, our staff are trained in completing mental capacity assessments that are created using a person-centred approach. Salisbury Support 4 Autism staff follow the five main principles of a mental capacity assessment which are:

  1. We must begin by assuming that people have capacity: “A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he/she lacks capacity.”
  2. People must be helped to make decisions: “A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him/her to do so have been taken without success.”
  3. Unwise decisions do not necessarily mean lack of capacity: “A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he/she makes an unwise decision.”
  4. Decisions must be taken in the person’s best interests: “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/her best interests.”
  5. Decisions must be as least restrictive of freedom as possible: “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.”

Finally, when we support someone during a mental capacity assessment we make sure that all individuals have all the correct tools such as images which are relevant, the correct use of BSL or Makaton to best enable the individual to make a choice.