Mental Capacity Act guidance

Thursday, 29 March 2018 - 12:27pm

Making the Act accessible to ensure we prioritise vulnerable people’s wishes, feelings and values.

a man with his head dissolving

In writing this guidance, it was really important to get one key message across: to anyone working with people who may have difficulties making their own decisions - the Mental Capacity Act is actually a simple series of steps to follow, which results in decisions being made that put vulnerable peoples' wishes, feelings and values first.  This idea is nothing new in homelessness services, where I often think staff are great at prioritising what the person wants and not being overly risk-averse.  

There is something a bit scary about using processes set out directly by the law, but it doesn't have to be that way, and I hope that the guidance will give you the confidence not to feel daunted. This is simply about having a focussed conversation with someone, and a chat with those who are involved or who are important in the life of that person, to find out what they would have wanted if they had been able to make the decision. The conversation outcomes then need to be recorded in a methodical but essentially common-sense way.  

It seems such a shame to me, that when a piece of law was specifically designed to allow anyone to use it, homelessness staff are still reverting to wanting 'experts' to use it on our behalf. As people often in a uniquely close working relationship with another person who requires support, it is almost inconceivable that someone else who maybe doesn't even know that person well, but happens to have different qualifications to us, would do a better job of figuring out what that individual would want to happen to them.  

Day in, day out, homelessness service staff help people to make some of the most fundamental decisions in their lives with huge potential to make life-changing differences. By using the Mental Capacity Act, staff can help make those life-altering choices possible for everyone, not just those who are able to make decisions for themselves.
I hope that you will take the time to read the guidance and that you find it helpful on a practical level. The aim of the guidance is to add to and enhance your skills and knowledge and to give you the confidence to put yourself forward as the best person to help your client make the decisions that are right for them.  

Using the Mental Capacity Act

An overview on using the Mental Capacity Act, aimed at staff supporting vulnerable people. This plain English guide takes you through key principles, assessment, decision-making, capacity assessments and Best Interests decision-making.


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Helen Kelsall

EASL Mental Health Assessor

Helen Kelsall worked for many years as a senior practitioner approved mental health professional and best interests assessor in adult mental health services. She now works for EASL part-time, helping with mental health assessments in No Second Night Out. Helen is also an independent supervisor and an independent trainer with a specialist interest in the Mental Capacity Act.