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Mental capacity & safeguarding

Example/template of a mental capacity assessment

Here is a worked example/template of a mental capacity assessment, devised by one of our senior social worker colleagues.

You will see suggested prompts to complete an effective assessment.  This is an example only, and you can delete the guidance and use as a template.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) came into practice in 2007 but NSAB recognises that it remains a piece of law that is often confused with the Mental Health Act or used to make generalisations about an individual’s ability to understand situations or the actions that they take. There is also a Code of Practice which was published in 2013 which gives more detail on how to apply the law in day to day work.

The Code of Practice has been in the process of being revised, and the draft version has been shared for consultation in 2022. For a quick guide to some of the changes, have a look at this Community Care article published 22 March 2022.

However, with the ongoing delay in the amendment to the MCA being implemented, there is a similar delay in publishing the updated Code of Practice. Therefore the original remains in use.

Here we have developed some guidance to support multi-agency understanding:

NSAB MCA guidance - links with safeguarding adults

This will also be updated once the Code of Practice is in final form.

‘Capacity assessment is not some kind of scientific process when capacity is ‘measured’, it is a social interaction – often with hugely high stakes for the person being assessed.’ 

From The Small Places blog written by Lucy Series

How to use legal powers to safeguard highly vulnerable dependent drinkers

Alcohol Change UK has a useful guide available which aims to help practitioners to improve the well-being and safety of adults who are highly vulnerable, chronic, dependent drinkers.  

You can download the guide, and find more information here

MCA Toolkit

An MCA toolkit has also been launched from Bournemouth University, in October 2021, created with the Burdett Trust for Nurses.

It’s a free online learning tool to support nurses and other practitioners in their understanding and duties under the Human Rights Act and MCA. It is easy to use and helps you to think through the process in a structured way.

You can access it here:

Mental Capacity Toolkit

 There is also a Competency Framework also from Bournemouth University:

 Competency Framework

'Has capacity' and 'No reason to doubt capacity'
Why is there a difference

Lorna Warriner (LW Independent Consultancy) writes ... there really is a huge difference in what the statements mean.

When you say 'has capacity' it implies that the person's capacity has been assessed, and they are found to have capacity.

If you've not assessed their capacity and have no intention to, it should be replaced by 'no reason to doubt capacity' as this explains that you've not applied the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) because you don't need to.

The slight change in that language is much more aligned to the MCA and more respectful of the person's autonomy.

As part of the Mental Health & Justice project, a website has been launched with guidelines for clinicians and social workers in England & Wales (Gareth Owen / Alex Ruck Keene / Scott Kim / Kevin Ariyo). It includes things like:

  • Capacity guide | Guidance for clinicians & social workers on the assessment of capacity
  • Capacity Guide: Practical legal guidelines

Capacity guide | Guidance for clinicians and social workers on the assessment of capacity

This video created by Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust shows how the MCA can be used in practice - it is designed for health and social care colleagues but the principles are the same for all of us. The video shows some particular decisions to be made and how different factors change the approach of the person assessing capacity, and the outcomes; it includes examples of how to record your assessment too.

It is 28 mins long, is engaging and the scenarios are clear and well acted by H&RCH staff, service users and family carers.


"The MCA is mainly concerned with people who are unable to make decisions, whether wise or unwise. The MCA is not about the right to make decisions more generally. It tells social workers and others how to recognise when a person lacks capacity and how they may make a decision for the person which will incur no more liability than they would have incurred if the person had capacity and consented. Our right to make whatever decision we wish, provided it is not prohibited or otherwise legally overridden, is not given to us by the MCA but is a fundamental constitutional right."

Community Care article June 2019 How misinterpretation of ‘unwise decisions’ principle illustrates value of legal literacy for social workers

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

There are two types of lasting power of attorney 

  • LPA for Health and Welfare
  • LPA for Property and Financial Affairs

These are legal documents where one person has given another person the legal power to make decisions on their behalf, in the event the first person no longer has the mental capacity to make their own decisions. 

There is lots more information on the government website:

 Make, register or end a lasting power of attorney

To check if someone holds LPA for another person, and also to check what type of LPA:

Check if a person has appointed an LPA

 If you have a serious concern that someone holding LPA is not acting in the best interest of an adult at risk, causing harm or neglect, raise your concern with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).

Report a concern about an attorney

Court of Protection

What the Court of Protection does

They make decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who can’t make decisions at the time they need to be made (they ‘lack mental capacity’).

They are responsible for:

  • deciding whether someone has the mental capacity to make a particular decision for themselves
  • appointing deputies to make ongoing decisions for people who lack mental capacity
  • giving people permission to make one-off decisions on behalf of someone else who lacks mental capacity
  • handling urgent or emergency applications where a decision must be made on behalf of someone else without delay
  • making decisions about a lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney and considering any objections to their registration
  • considering applications to make statutory wills or gifts
  • making decisions about when someone can be deprived of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act

The Court of Protection is based in London. Most cases are heard by district judges and a senior judge but can sometimes be heard by High Court judges. Cases can sometimes be transferred to a local court for hearing.

Court of Protection
PO Box 70185
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
United Kingdom

Email: [email protected]
Enquiries: 0300 456 4600
DX: 160013 Kingsway 7

Opening hours and facilities:

For more guidance and case examples see also 39 Essex Chambers: Mental Capacity Law section

The Liberty Protection Safeguards had been due to be implemented from April 2022, but as we know there is no current date until a decision has been made by a new government.

In the meantime, Alex Ruck Keene added this video to his Mental Capacity Law and Policy page, about how to prepare for changes - although there is every possibility things may change again:

Waiting for LPS – video – Mental Capacity Law and Policy

Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS)

Useful articles on Mental Capacity

Executive functioning and the Mental Capacity Act 2005: points for practice.
Community Care, Gemma Balmford, 19 December, 2023