Key legislation - Mental Capacity Act 2005

The MCA has been in force since 2005 and applies to England and Wales. The principles of the Act support the promotion of dignity in care by ensuring that individuals are at the centre of decision-making and that they are safeguarded within a legal framework. The primary purposes of the MCA are to:

The Act is underpinned by five key principles.

Those who work with people who lack capacity have a legal duty to have regard for the Code of Practice. It is also relevant to unpaid carers who will be helped and guided by it. The Code explains how the MCA works on a day-to-day basis and provides guidance to those working with people who may lack capacity.

The new roles, bodies and powers supporting the MCA are as follows::

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

The MCA allows restrictions and restraint to be used, but only if they are in the best interests of a person who lacks capacity to make the relevant decision themselves. However, special extra protection is needed for a person if the level of restraint used goes beyond what is allowed under the MCA and amounts to depriving a person of their liberty.