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Local Offer: A Quick Guide to the Mental Capacity Act - WNC

Local Offer: A Quick Guide to the Mental Capacity Act - WNC logo


The Mental Capacity Act 2005 lays out the legal processes to be followed when a person over 16 years old lacks the capacity to make a decision. The law says that the person's incapacity must be due to "an impairment, or a disturbance in the functioning of their mind or brain." Families, carers, and healthcare or social care staff must assume that a person can make decisions unless it can be established otherwise. 

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has five statutory principles:

  1. A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity.
  2. A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help them to do so have been taken without success.
  3. A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because they make an unwise decision.
  4. 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 their best interests.
  5. 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.

People might lack the capacity to make some decisions but still have the ability to make others. Mental capacity can also fluctuate over time. Wherever possible, people should be helped to make their own decisions. They can be provided with information in a suitable format (at an appropriate time) to help them decide. Formats might include Easy Read guides, PECS, or discussions with trusted adults.

Individuals might also be eligible for support from an independent advocate.

 An individual might be capable of making decisions about some things (such as what they'd like to eat and drink, or what clothes to wear). However, they might struggle with more complex decisions (such as financial planning or healthcare treatment).

Each situation should be judged individually, and with consideration paid to the person's ability to understand. Where someone is deemed to lack the capacity to make a particular decision, then a 'best interests' decision can be made on their behalf. A 'best interests meeting' may be necessary if the decision is especially complicated. For example, if it concerns accommodation or medical treatment.

To make decisions, individuals need to:

  • Understand information
  • Remember it for long enough
  • Weigh up the information
  • Communicate their decision 

Individuals are allowed to make 'unwise decisions,' such as staying up late or smoking. While these may not be good for their health, it is something that they can choose to do. There may be some instances where an individual (aged 18+) who has mental capacity, makes an unwise decision that puts them at risk. These decisions might concern abuse, drugs, or homelessness. In these instances, Adult Safeguarding procedures (namely, the Adult Risk Management Framework) should be considered.

Please Note: The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is an extensive document, and the full version is available online. This guide gives a brief overview and should not be used as an alternative.


  • Brackley Area
  • Corby Area
  • Daventry Area
  • East Northants Area
  • Kettering Area
  • Northampton Area
  • Towcester Area
  • Wellingborough Area
  • North Northamptonshire
  • West Northamptonshire
  • Northamptonshire
Additional languages
Translation and/or Interpreting Available on Request
Age range
Suitable for ages from 16 years to 99 years
Referral route
No Referral Needed
For people with
Special Educational Needs or a Disability (SEND)
Eligibility criteria
Special Educational Needs or a Disability (SEND)
Provider category
Specialist Services - For those who require longer-term support


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United Kingdom


Publication on the Local Offer does not endorse a provider, so please take reasonable steps to ensure that any service found on the Local Offer is suitable for your family member. For more information, please read our disclaimer.

Last updated 10 June 2024