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Mental Capacity Act and young people

You may need to support the removal of a young person’s right to make certain decisions themselves if they lack the mental capacity to do so.

What is the Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Mental Capacity Act is a law that applies to people aged over 16. It is designed to protect and empower individuals who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions.

If a young person lacks the mental capacity to make a particular decision, then the Mental Capacity Act allows a decision to be made in the young persons best interests by someone else. The decision should take into account the young person’s wishes and feelings among other things.

Often the person making the decision will be the young person’s care giver - including parent or carer - but could also be a doctor or social worker or other person involved in decisions about care and treatment.

Sometimes decisions will be made by a person appointed by the court. For example, a deputy to manage the young person’s money or by a Court of Protection judge where an application has been made to the court of protection, however most decisions will not require a court decision.

Key principles of the Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act sets out 5 key principles that promote supporting decision-making, whether by the young person themselves or where they lack the capacity to do so. These principles inform how caregivers and others who support and work with the young person:

  • It should be assumed that everyone can make their own decisions unless it is proved otherwise.
  • A person should have all the help and support possible to make and communicate their own decision before anyone decides that they lack capacity to make their own decision.
  • A person should not be treated as lacking capacity just because they make an unwise decision.
  • Actions or decisions carried out on behalf of someone who lacks capacity must be in their best interests.
  • Actions or decisions carried out on behalf of someone who lacks capacity should limit their rights and freedom of action as little as possible.

Working with young people with limited mental capacity

The Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice contains guidelines for people working with others with limited mental capacity.

See the Mental Capacity Act for more information.

CAMHS - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

You may be able to get help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

CAMHS is an NHS mental health service that diagnoses and treats:

  • mental health problems – for example depression and eating disorders
  • developmental disorders – for example autism and dyslexia

Telephone the CAMHS Advisory Service for Professionals for advice about: 

  • how to refer a child to CAMHS
  • other services available for children and young people with mental health problems or developmental disorders

Telephone: 0116 295 5048
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 3pm.

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