The Mental Capacity Act was created in 2005 and was designed to empower and protect those who lack mental capacity. It makes clear who can make decisions for an adult who lacks mental capacity, and in what circumstances. The Mental capacity Act is supported by a code of practice which provides guidance and information about how the act works in practice.
So why is this important to the Office of the Public Guardian and our customers?
In order to safeguard vulnerable adults, the Office of the Public Guardian works to ensure that the principles of the Mental Capacity Act are being followed by attorneys and deputies. If not, the Office of the Public Guardian can apply to the Court of Protection to have the attorney or deputy removed.
It’s also important that other service providers, like bank, utility companies or hospitals understand the Mental Capacity Act and the role of attorneys and deputies. The Office of the Public Guardian’s deputies and attorneys are really good at letting them know when they have problems using their powers, for example, where an attorney tries to gain access to a donor’s account to pay their bills.
One area that the Office of the Public Guardian are focusing on right now is work with the financial industry. They’ve developed some online learning for banks and building societies. This has been designed to help customer-facing staff recognise Lasting Power of Attorney and Deputyship Order documents and the role of attorneys and deputies. One major UK bank has agreed to test the online learning and initial feedback has been very good. The Office of the Public Guardian are planning to share this online learning with other banks and building societies soon.
it’s not just the Office of the Public Guardian who are helping people understand the importance of the Mental Capacity Act. For instance, Birmingham NHS has created a video on the Mental Capacity principles aimed at people with hearing impairment. In another example, a local authority explained it had delivered workshops to every local GP surgery on the Mental Capacity Act. And before the Mental Capacity Act was introduced, dentists were sometimes unwilling to treat a person who lacked mental capacity for toothache if they could not give consent due to being unable to make decisions for themselves. It is difficult to imagine that happening now. It was really inspiring to hear how so many different types of organisations are putting the Mental Capacity principles into practice.