On 1 October 2007, the Mental Capacity Act came fully into force. The act aims to protect people who cannot make decisions for themselves due to a learning disability or a mental health condition, for example Alzheimer's disease, or for any other reason. It provides clear guidelines for carers and professionals about who can take decisions in which situations.
The Act states that everyone should be treated as able to make their own decisions until it is shown that they can't. It also aims to enable people to make their own decisions for as long as they are capable of doing so.
The Act also intends to protect people who lose the capacity to make their own decisions. It will:
- Allow the person, while they are still able, to appoint someone (for example a trusted relative or friend) to make decisions on their behalf once they lose the ability to do so. Previously, the law only covered financial matters.
- Ensure that decisions that are made on the person's behalf are in their best interests.
- Introduce a Code of Practice for people such as healthcare workers who support people who have lost the capacity to make their own decisions.
People with no one to act for them will also be able to leave instructions for their care under the new provisions.
For more information on the act, and how it affects you, visit the Mental Capacity Act pages.