Preparing to make your own decisions

Being able to understand and make decisions (mental capacity)

Some young people do not have the ability to understand and make a decision when it needs to be made.

This is known as their 'mental capacity' to make certain decisions, for example, decisions about their money, care, treatment or welfare.

A person's rights

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 focuses on the rights of people to make their own decisions.

It sets out 5 principles which must be used in every situation when deciding if someone lacks the capacity to make a decision.

These principles should be used by the people who support the individual before a mental capacity assessment is carried out.

The 5 principles are:

  1. Everyone can make their own decisions unless it is proved otherwise
  2. A person should have all the help and support possible to make and communicate their own decisions before anyone concludes that they are not able to
  3. A person should not be treated as lacking capacity because they make what someone else feels is the wrong decision
  4. Any actions or decisions made on behalf of someone should be in their best interests
  5. Actions or decisions made on behalf of someone should limit their rights and freed of action as little as possible

Deciding if someone lack capacity to make their own decisions

Mental Capacity Assessment

To decide if someone lacks capacity a social worker must carry out a Mental Capacity Assessment.

The social worker carrying out the assessment will also test the 5 principles shown above.

There is guidance for people working with or caring for adults who lack capacity to make decisions for themselves.

See GOV.UK: Mental Capacity Act: Making Decisions.

Applying to the Court of Protection

A parent or carer can also apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a 'deputy' to help them with decisions.

The Court of Protection is responsible for:  

  • deciding whether a person has the mental capacity to make a particular decision for themselves 
  • appointing a deputy / deputies to make decisions for people who lack mental capacity 
  • give permission for one-off decisions to be made on behalf of someone who lacks mental capacity 
  • making decisions about lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney 
  • making decisions about applications to make statutory wills or gifts 
  • make decisions about when someone can be deprived of their liberty 

See GOV.UK: Court of Protection

Making decisions

It must not be assumed that a person lacks capacity for making all decisions.

They may be able to make some decisions, and should be encouraged and allowed to do so.

A person's metal capacity does not need to be re-assessed each time a decision is made.

If there is a reasonable belief that the person lacks capacity, based what is already known about them, then the parent or deputy can make a decision for them.


SEND Code of Practice

GOV.UK: Making decisions on behalf of someone