If you have mental capacity you understand the impact of a decision.
We must always assume that a child or young person has mental capacity. An adult (this includes young people aged 16 or over) has full capacity to make decisions themselves. This is known as the right to autonomy.
A young person or adult may need a mental capacity assessment. This should happen if there is reasonable doubt that your child has the mental capacity to make decisions. An assessment can happen from the age of 16. The Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice Chapter 1.2, states that people must be given all appropriate help and support:
A mental capacity assessment may be needed when important decisions have to be made and the person’s capacity may be challenged by someone. For example:
Some decisions can never be made on someone else’s behalf. For example decisions about:
A person may lack mental capacity if they have an impairment or disturbance that affects the way their mind or brain works. This could be a disability, condition or trauma. This stops them from being able to understand, retain and weigh up information as part of decision-making and communicate their decision. In order to make a decision, a person needs to be able to:
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is there to help and support people who lack mental capacity. It is not there to stop people from making decisions about their lives. It aims to protect people who lack capacity but also to support them to make decisions, or to take part in decision-making, as far as they are able to do so.
The five statutory principles described in the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, Chapter 2 are:
Anyone may be in a position where they need to make an assessment of capacity. For example:
It is the responsibility of everyone who makes decisions on behalf of others, to recognise their role and responsibilities under the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has a ‘presumption of capacity’ principle. Most people are assumed to have mental capacity unless it is proved otherwise.
Using a mental capacity assessment form, the assessor will write down the details of the assessment including:
If your child is assessed as having mental capacity, you may still be concerned that they may wish to make an unwise decision. In this situation, your child should be supported with risk assessment planning. This is so that they are supported to maintain their safety as far as possible. If needed, a plan should be agreed to seek additional support or to reassess their mental capacity in the future.
The assessor should tell you why they believe your child lacks capacity. This might be around their understanding of money or contracts e.g. signing a tenancy agreement, or their ability to make decisions about their health care and the ability to keep themselves safe.
If the assessment indicates that your child has difficulty understanding financial matters, then you can apply to the Department for Work and Pensions to become their appointee. This gives you the power to deal with any benefits they may receive on their behalf. It does not mean you can choose how to spend their money.
If you feel your child needs more help than an appointeeship allows, then you will need to apply to the Court of Protection to become their deputy. A deputyship enables you to make decisions on behalf of an adult regarding their finances, where they live and their personal welfare. The application process takes several months. If you think that your child would not be able to sign a tenancy agreement, for example, you should apply before they start to look for accommodation.