2. What are the five principles of the mental capacity act?
When considering and confirming whether someone has mental capacity, you must first consider the five principles before making any decisions under the Act. These five principles include:
1. Presumption of mental capacity
Presumption of capacity outlines that everyone should assume that people have capacity until proven otherwise. Therefore, it means that someone can’t assume a lack of capacity based upon someone’s age, physical appearance, behaviour, among others. Furthermore, just because someone has lost capacity in one respect doesn’t automatically mean they cannot make any decisions. For instance, someone may lack the capacity to control their financial affairs. However, they may still have the capacity to make decisions over where they live.
2. Support to make a decision
This principle outlines that you take all necessary steps to help the person make decisions for themselves before treating them as unable to make decisions. In practice, this means that you have made every effort to help the person make the decision. Therefore, you must ask questions such as:
- How can we best communicate with them?
- Is there a time of day when they’re more aware?
- Do they need any form of assistance when making a decision?
3. Ability to make unwise decisions
This principle outlines that someone isn’t automatically labelled unfit to make decisions because they make an unwise decision. Therefore, this principle ensures that someone’s ability to make decisions isn’t assessed on their decision but on how they make that decision.
4. Best interest for the person who’s lost mental capacity
This principle is relevant when there’s confirmation that someone has lost mental capacity. This principle outlines how you should always make decisions in the best interest of the person who lacks mental capacity. The difficulty with this principle is there’s no set definition for best interest as it depends entirely on the circumstance.
5. Least restrictive
The final principle also is only a consideration after someone has been determined not to have mental capacity. This principle ensures that any decisions made on behalf of the person lacking mental capacity should always be the least restrictive option. Therefore, the person lacking mental capacity will always best maintain their rights and freedoms.