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. You may not have mental capacity if you can't do 1 or more of these things.

  • Understand information given to you to make a particular decision.
  • Retain information given to you long enough to be able to make the decision.
  • Use or weigh up information given to you to make the decision.
  • Communicate your decision.

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.

The Government gives people advice about this.

Gov.UK: Assessing mental capacity.

Gov.UK: Make decisions for someone.

SCIE video on making decisions

This video by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) explains more about the Act and how it can protect the right to make choices.

Using the Mental Capacity Act.

Talking about this can be a difficult conversation. Independent Age has advice on talking about mental capacity – when to talk, how to start a conversation, the responsibilities for a Power of Attorney or Deputy, and how to look at the options.

Independent Age: Talking about... who will 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 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.

Sometimes the decisions are very important, about your health and welfare, or about your finances. You can give someone the power to make decisions for you. This is called a ‘power of attorney’. A person can have the power to make decisions about your health and welfare, or about your finances and property, or both. There is more about this below.

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

Sheffield City Council: Assessing mental capacity.

Sheffield City Council: Best Interests meeting.

The Council also has information about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (sometimes called DoLS). These are rules the Council follows when a person who lacks mental capacity needs to be restricted in some way, so that they can receive care and support and be safe. This may include restricting a person’s ability to move around freely, or when a person is being continuously supervised and controlled.

Sheffield City Council: Deprivation of Liberty.

There is also Government information about this in easy read format.

Department of Health: Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and you (PDF, 926 KB).

The next pages have more information.

Mental capacity: information for you.

Mental capacity: information for family, friends or other carers.

Mental capacity: legal information and support.

You can also download the information from these pages as a PDF file that you can print or email to someone.

Mental capacity. Making your own decisions (and help when you can't) (PDF, 885 KB).

LGA mental capacity act easy read guideThere is also an easy read guide on mental capacity available from the Local Government Association.

Local Government Association:
Mental Capacity Act 2005 easy read guide (PDF 2.8 MB).

There are more easy read guides in the specialist advice section on our information for you page.

Mental capacity: information for you.

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