Making your own decisions (and help when you can’t)

Being able to make your own decisions about your life is important. When you can’t, there is help available to make decisions for you that are the same as what you would want, or would support you or protect you.

This is often called ‘mental capacity’, meaning the ability to understand or make decisions.

When others are making decisions for you, they should decide based on what they think you would want, or what is best for you. This is called deciding based on your ‘best interests’.

Sometimes the decisions are everyday things like what to eat, or what to wear. Sometimes the decisions are very important, about your health and welfare, or about your finances. A person can have the power to make decisions about your health and welfare, or about your finances and property, or both.

Sometimes you may be able to make decisions for some things but not all things. So you may be able to decide what you would like for dinner, but not how to spend your money.

There are lots of rules about how to work out if someone has mental capacity, and who can help someone to make decisions, based on Government law called the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

If you think you will need help making decisions in the future, you can choose someone to help you. This is called a ‘power of attorney’. The person you choose can have legal power for your health and welfare, or your finances and property, or both. You can choose one person or more than one person, and you can decide if they must agree each decision or if one person can decide for some things alone.

The Government gives people advice about this.

The Council has information about how it assesses mental capacity and how it makes a decision for you.

The Sheffield Advocacy Hub provides advocacy support for people who may lack capacity to take decisions.

There's more advice on the directory about getting help to manage your money – from a relative, the Council, a money management company, a Deputy, Appointee or Power of Attorney.

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