Advice Line: reviewing the impact of the Mental Capacity Act

Ilora Finlay, president of the CSP, looks at how the 2005 Mental Capacity Act has changed people’s lives 

Eleven years ago, the 2005 Mental Capacity Act was finally implemented, two years after passing through parliament. This landmark legislation was intended to ‘empower, protect and support people who lack mental capacity’ and to set out clearly the responsibilities of professionals, families and wider society towards those to whom the act applies.

In the last two years, a campaign has raised awareness of the act’s five principles, highlighted that capacity is decision and time specific, and that with support people can often make their own decisions. Blanket judgments about people with mental impairment are becoming a thing of the past. Lasting power of attorney is so popular that the process has been simplified and where abuse is suspected, the Public Guardian can investigate.

Banks and building societies are doing much to spot and support vulnerable customers. Take Janet, who went into her branch to withdraw £2,000. The cashier noticed that she seemed vague, gently questioned her and discovered a new ‘friend’ was waiting outside to take her money. Confident staff are spotting fraud and protecting people.

As more people are supported to live in the community, new types of predator have emerged. Emily’s catastrophic head injury didn’t kill her, but she is not the person that she was. A computer game enticed her into buying more ‘lives’ online. The price tag, 79.99 each time, looked to her like 79p – without the familiar £ sign, she couldn’t discern what she was spending. A bill of almost £1,000 devastated her family’s budget.

Along with impaired mental capacity comes potential social isolation, loneliness and difficulty reading danger signals in life. This vulnerability can make people susceptible to gambling, online fraud and financial scams. Innovative examples of good practice are presented at the Mental Capacity Action Day, advertised on There is much more to do, but the changes the act has brought about are all around us, enabling people to live well, get to work and socialise.

  • Baroness Finlay of Llandaff chairs the National Mental Capacity Forum
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, president of the CSP

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