Ask Sheila - Archive England

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and therefore is no longer available to answer your social care questions. However, you might still find the answer you’ve been searching for down below.

20th June 2018

What are the four characteristics in the MCA, where you must never assume a person lacks capacity?

Hi Sheila, can you tell me what the four characteristics in the Mental Capacity Act are, where you must never assume a person lacks capacity?


Dear C,


Thank you for your question.


These are the principles of the Mental Capacity Act:


When looking at capacity you must always:

  1.  Assume that a person can make their own decisions unless there’s reason to question it.
  2. Do everything possible to help a person to make their own decision.
  3. Someone can’t be assumed to lack capacity for a decision simply because other people think it’s unwise, or not what other people might do
  4. Anything we do relating to someone who lacks capacity must be in that person’s best interests
  5. Before you act, think about whether the purpose you want to achieve can be achieved in a less restrictive way.


These are the four questions you must ask when assessing capacity:


Does the person:

  1.   Understand the information related to a decision
  2.   Retain the information long enough to be able to make a decision
  3.    Use or weigh the information to reach a decision, and
  4.  Communicate this decision (by any means that can be understood).


You can find all of this information in the Mental Capacity Code of Practice at:


I hope this is helpful.


Best wishes.



*All information is correct at the time of publishing.

About Sheila

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and over the years , prior to her retirement she has answered thousands of your social questions. You can still access the many questions below.

For Sheila Scott OBE as the former CEO of National Care Association (NCA), care is Sheila's life. She possesses a strong command of the issues facing the care sector informed by her long career as a nursing professional, the owner and manager of a care business, and as a leader in the care sector.

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