Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 provides a legal framework to empower and protect people aged 16 and over who lack, or may lack, mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves because of illness or brain injury, a learning disability, or mental health problems.

The Act introduced a number of rights for people who have difficulty making decisions.  It also introduced some responsibilities for people who work or care for others and provides clear guidelines to carers and professionals about:

  • how to help someone who may lack capacity to make their own decisions
  • what to do if the person is unable to make a particular decision
  • who can take decisions for those who may lack mental capacity
  • what type of situations and decisions the Act applies
  • legal requirements for those who are taking decisions on behalf of someone who lacks capacity.


The Act is relevant to everyone who makes decisions on behalf of people who lack capacity including family, friends or professionals.  It also introduced:

  • a formal test of capacity
  • a Code of Practice for the operation of the Act
  • new types of legal authority for the management of a person’s financial and welfare circumstances
  • new criminal offences of "ill-treatment" and "wilful neglect" with a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.


A person is regarded as having mental capacity if they are able to understand, retain and weigh up relevant information relating to the specific decisions. In addition, they must be able to communicate their decision.

The Mental Capacity Act also makes provision for adults who have capacity to make plans for the future when they may lack capacity.  Please read the information in the sections on Making decisions and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS).

Information about your rights under the Mental Capacity Act is available.

Further information is available in the Gov.UK website.

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