Skip to main content

Principles of the Act

The Act aims to protect people who lack capacity to make particular decisions, but also to support their involvement in making decisions about their own lives as far as they are able to do so.

Anyone authorised to make decisions or take actions on behalf of someone with impaired capacity must apply the following principles:

Principle 1 - Benefit

Any action or decision taken must benefit the person, and only be taken when that benefit cannot reasonably be achieved without it.

Principle 2 - Least-restrictive option

Any action or decision taken should be the minimum necessary to achieve the purpose. It should be the option that restricts the person's freedom as little as possible.

Principle 3 - Take account of the wishes of the person

In deciding if an action or decision is to be made, and what that should be, account must be taken of the present and past wishes and feelings of the person as far as these may be understood.

Some adults will be able to express their wishes and feelings clearly, although they would not be capable of taking the action or decision which you are considering. For example, they may continue to have opinions about a particular item of household expenditure, without being able to carry out the transaction personally.

The person must be offered help to communicate their views. This might mean using memory aids, pictures, non-verbal communication, advice from a speech and language therapist, or support from an independent advocate.

Principle 4 - Consultation with relevant others

Take account of the views of others with an interest in the person's welfare. The Act lists those who should be consulted whenever practicable and reasonable. It includes the person's primary carer, nearest relative, named person, attorney, or guardian, if there is one.

Principle 5 - Encourage the person to use existing skills and develop new skills

Encouraging and allowing the adult to make their own decisions and manage their own affairs and, as much as possible, to develop the skills needed to do so.

Supervision and regulation

Under the Act four public bodies are involved in the regulation and supervision of those authorised to make decisions on behalf of a person with incapacity. These are: the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland), the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, the courts, and local authorities.