Mental capacity and decision making

What is mental capacity?

Every day we make decisions about our lives. These decisions could be about simple things like what we eat and what we wear. They could also be about more major things like our health, our care and our finances. Our mental capacity affects how easily we are able to make such decisions. Some people may lack the mental capacity to make certain decisions because they have:

  • a learning disability
  • dementia
  • a mental health problem
  • suffered a brain injury or stroke

What is the Mental Capacity Act?

The Mental Capacity Act is a law which came into force in 2007. It covers all sorts of decisions where people aged 16 or over may lack capacity. It also allows for people to plan ahead if they think they may lack capacity in the future. For further information about the Mental Capacity Act 2005 please read the code of practice provided by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

The Mental Capacity Act has been amended to include safeguards for persons who lack mental capacity, who may need to be deprived of their liberty to protect them from serious harm. This has been called the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS).