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12th August 2016

How to “get” the Mental Capacity Act

“I just can’t get my head around the Mental Capacity Act – it’s too difficult!”

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard those or similar words, I’d be rich.  And yet the MCA truly isn’t difficult – it puts into law the intuitive knowledge that I know you have, because of the work you’ve chosen to do, and because you’re reading this.  And now you’re thinking, “Not difficult, huh?  She would say that, wouldn’t she!”

So this week I’ve set myself the task of convincing you of how the MCA puts into words your own deep feelings about how you’d like to be treated if you couldn’t make some of your own decisions.

Any of us might need the protection of the MCA

Think of the things that make you “you”: what do you like to eat or drink, how do you relax, what makes you giggle or be sad?  What music, and which people, are really important to you, and make your heart soar?

Now imagine having real problems with your memory – maybe not all the time, but when you’re a bit stressed or tired, or when lots of people seem to want to do things to you.  Wouldn’t it be awful if the people caring for you had no idea about any of the stuff that makes you special, and only seemed to see your disability?

Person-centred care made law

This is where the MCA comes to your rescue!  That’s because it says that staff must see past the disability to the unique person.

For example, they mustn’t assume you can’t make a decision just because of a diagnosis, or because you might sometimes laugh at something nobody else finds funny.  Indeed, the staff must bend over backwards to make it possible for you to make that decision for yourself, and they’re not allowed to assume you lack mental capacity just because you make a decision other people think is unwise or silly.

And, if they can’t find a way to enable you to make your own decision, the people who have to decide what’s in your best interests must focus on you (rather than what they might like in your situation, or what’s convenient for them).  To do this they should know as much as they can about what makes you tick, and what matters to you.  Incidentally, this is why I hate to see a row of identical care plans… no two people are going to look at life in exactly the same way, or find the same things important.

Use the Code

Next time you look at the MCA Code of Practice, as the law says you must, ( ) notice how you must go about decisions relating to people who might lack mental capacity, and just take a few seconds to apply what you’re reading to yourself.

You’ll see how naturally it comes to you, to think like this: you’re doing it already.



*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Rachel Griffiths

Mental Capacity and Human Rights Specialist

Rachel has huge experience and knowledge in the area of Mental Capacity, including how to recognise deprivation of liberty, when and how to assess capacity and how to go about making decisions in someone’s best interests. She is nationally recognised as a leading voice with regards to Mental Capacity, and is involved with setting the agenda as well as providing advice and information about Mental Capacity. The information, guidance and support that Rachel provides helps to ensure that the way people work is within the law and recognises that the person using services is always at the centre of any decisions made. Read more

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