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

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?

Sheila Scott
Answered by Sheila Scott


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.



About Sheila Scott

Sheila Scott OBE from 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. 3. Read more

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