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Making Decisions


The ability to understand and make a decision when it needs to be made is called ‘Mental Capacity’. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) is a law that protects and supports those who can’t make some or all decisions for themselves. The act came into force in 2007 and applies to people aged 16 and over in England and Wales. 




Time and decision specific

The MCA applies to situations where someone is unable to make a particular decision at a particular time because of the way their mind or brain is affected. Assessments of capacity should be time and decision specific. You cannot decide that someone lacks capacity based upon age, appearance, condition or behaviour alone.


The MCA says that a person is unable to make a particular decision if they cannot do one or more of the following four things:

  • Understand information given to them

  • Retain that information long enough to be able to make the decision

  • Weigh up the information available to make the decision

  • Communicate their decision.

MCA - Five Key Principles

Principle 1: A presumption of capacity

Every adult has the right to make his or her own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise

Principle 2:  Individuals being supported to make their own decisions

A person must be given all practicable help before anyone treats them as not being able to make their own decisions

Principle 3: Unwise decisions

People have the right to make what others might regard as unwise decisions

Principle 4: Best interests

If a person has been assessed as lacking capacity then any action taken, or decision made for, or on behalf of that person, must be made in his or her best interest

Principle 5: Less restrictive option

Someone making a decision or acting on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must consider whether it is possible to decide or act in a way that would interfere less with the person’s rights and freedoms of action, or whether there is a need to decide or act at all.


Legal Capacity


Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables a person who has capacity and is over 18 (Donor) to choose another person or people (Attorney(s)) to make decisions on their behalf.

There are 2 different types of Lasting Power of Attorney; property and financial affairs and/or health and welfare.

An LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before it can be used. An unregistered LPA  will not give the Attorney any legal powers to make a decision for the Donor.

Apply online or seek advice from a CAN Member

A fee is charged for registration of each Lasting Power of Attorney application, registered with and administered  by The  Office of the Public Guardian. Tel; 0300 456 0300.

Enduring Power of Attorney

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal process in which a person (the Donor) hands over to someone else (the Attorney) the power to make decisions about their financial affairs and property.

An Enduring Power of Attorney signed by both the Donor and Attorney before Oct 2007 when Lasting Power of Attorney came into force with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 can still be used and registered as a legal document. You should make the application to register the EPA as soon as you have reason to believe the Donor is losing the mental capacity to manage their affairs.

An Attorney can use the power straight away if that is the Donors wish or the Donor can make it clear that the EPA is only to be used if they become mentally unable to manage their affairs in the future.

Court of Protection - Deputy

When no Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney exists and someone lacks the capacity to make their own decision the Court of Protection can appoint Deputies to make decisions in the best interests of those who lack capacity.  0300 456 4600   

HM Courts and Tribunal service


OPG guidance on professional Deputy costs



Department of Works and Pensions - Appointee

A DWP Appointee allows someone who is over 18 years old to manage another person's benefits if they physically or mentally unable to do this themselves.

An appointment to act is made under Regulation 33 of the Claims and Payments Regulations 1987 and ONLY applies to welfare benefits

Office of Public Guardian

The OPG is an agency that supports the Public Guardian in the registration of Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), and the supervision of deputies appointed by the Court of Protection.

It also helps attorneys and deputies to carry out their duties, and protects people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves

Two stage Capacity assessment toolkit

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