Shropshire Council

Mental Capacity Act

What is a lack of capacity?

An individual (aged 16 and over) lacks capacity if they're unable to make a particular decision. An assessment of capacity must be based on a person’s ability to make a specific decision at the time it needs to be made, not their ability to make decisions in general. Someone can lack capacity to make one decision but be able to make others. Everyone must apply the five guiding principles of the Mental Capacity Act:

  • An assumption of capacity
  • Supporting people to make their own decisions
  • People have the right to make eccentric or unwise decisions
  • Where someone lacks capacity staff must act in the person's best interests
  • Where someone lacks capacity any action we take on their behalf must generally be the least restrictive option

How is capacity assessed (adults aged 16 and over)

Step 1 is diagnostic: there must be some proof that the person has an impairment of the mind or brain, or some sort of disturbance that affects the way their mind or brain works. This could include the following:

  • Conditions associated with some types of mental illness
  • Dementia
  • Significant learning disabilities
  • Effects of brain damage
  • Physical or medical conditions causing confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness
  • Delirium
  • Concussion, head injury
  • Symptoms of alcohol or drug use

Step 2 is functional, and can only be carried out if step 1 is confirmed. Does the impairment mean the person is unable to make a specific decision when they need to? This is tested in four areas; a person is unable to make the decision if they fail any one of the four. Can they:

  • Understand the information relating to the decision
  • Retain the information long enough to make the decision
  • Use and weigh the information
  • Communicate the decision

IMCA Service

If the person lacks capacity to make their own decision, a serious medical treatment or a permanent change of accommodation is proposed, and the person has no appropriate family or friends to support them with the decision, a referral to an IMCA must be made by the decision maker. Further information can be found on the POhWER website.

Mental Capacity Act training

The new MCA competency framework for staff identifies training courses which are necessary and relevant to your role. Bespoke training can always be arranged, and practice based workshops are offered throughout the year. Find out more from our Joint Training team.

New resources for assessing mental capacity and when to use them

We have a suite of tools to assist our staff with issues of mental capacity:

Mental Capacity Act booklets

We've published standard and easy read versions of the Mental Capacity Act booklet.

Contact us

Joint DoLS Team:

  • Email:
  • Phone: 01743 255850