If you have a cognitive impairment like a dementia type illness, a learning disability or mental health problems, there may be times when you have difficulty making decisions. This could be any decision, for example, to do with your property or affairs, your care, where you live or how you live your day-to-day life. Being unable to make informed decisions is known as 'lacking mental capacity. The law governing this is called the Mental Capacity Act.
The Mental Capacity Act allows people to plan ahead for times in the future when they may lack mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. This may involve giving someone you know permission to handle your affairs (lasting power of attorney).
Sometimes a decision has to be made to ‘deprive someone of their liberty’ to protect them from coming to harm. You may be deprived of your liberty if, in a care home or hospital, you are under continuous supervision and control and not free to leave. This is sometimes referred to as the 'acid test'. The law says that before someone is deprived of their liberty, independent checks must be done to ensure that their rights and wellbeing are protected. This is known as the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS).
The Local Government Association and NHS England have produced an Easy Read guide about the Mental Capacity Act.