Mental Capacity Assessment

What is a mental capacity assessment?

A mental capacity assessment is requested when there is uncertainty about an individual’s ability to make their own fully informed, balanced decisions about a particular aspect of their life. In England and Wales, mental capacity assessments apply to adults aged 16 and over.

A mental capacity assessment should follow the legislation and code of practice and provide a clear record of whether the person has capacity for the decision, and if they do not, why this is the case.

Why would you need a mental capacity assessment?

At its heart, the Mental Capacity Act is all about protecting our rights to make our own choices and decisions, and to safeguard against abuse and improper treatment if and when we are no longer able to do so.

The law states that we must start on the basis that the person has capacity. The need for a mental capacity assessment is triggered when there is a concern that the person may not be able to fully understand & process the information that is related to the decision they are making, and/or they are unable to communicate their decision.

What happens in the assessment?

The assessment itself takes the form of a structured conversation or interview with the individual, with questions specifically tailored to the question of capacity being assessed. The assessor may also wish to read reports and documentation, as well as speak to others involved in the individual’s life and care. Assessments can take place in person or using virtual platforms, such as Zoom or Teams. It is important that the assessment supports the individual to be at their best, so consideration is given to where and when the meeting takes place, and what can be done to support understanding and communication.

Who can request a mental capacity assessment?

Anyone can request a mental capacity assessment, but commonly they are requested by a legal professional (solicitor, Deputy), a health or social care professional or the individual’s next of kin or family member.

Why are there different types of assessments?  Why can’t one assessment answer all capacity questions?

Mental capacity assessments can be completed for a wide range of questions and each question must be considered separately. This is because different decisions rely upon different types of knowledge and understanding. For example, the knowledge required to make decisions about where you live, or what care you need is very different from knowledge about how to manage daily finances, or a current account. It is not lawful to complete just one assessment to cover all scenarios.

Mental capacity can fluctuate, so it is also important that assessments are completed in a timeframe that is appropriate to the question at hand. This ensures that the individual’s rights to make their own decisions in all aspects of life are upheld wherever possible.

Posted by Circle Case Management on May 20th 2021

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