In general, unless it’s a person who has mental capacity and gives you permission through a power of attorney to act on their behalf, you can only take over managing someone’s affairs if they’ve lost mental capacity. So, the first thing to do is to check if this is the case or not.
In England and Wales, the law that underpins mental capacity assessments is the Mental Capacity Act (2005) which states that when deciding whether someone is unable to make a decision, the following four factors should be considered:
- Can the person understand the information that is relevant to the decision?
- Can the person retain the information long enough to make the decision?
- Can the person weigh up the information as part of the process of making a decision?
- Can the person communicate their decision – whether by talking, sign language or any other means?
If they can do these things, the legal position is likely to be they have capacity to make their own decisions and should be allowed to do so.
There might be things you can do to help someone make a decision for themselves. For example, you could consider whether:
- they have all the information they need to make the decision
- they would understand better if information was explained in another way
- there are times of day when they understand better
- there are locations where they feel more at ease to make decisions
- decisions can be put off until they feel able to make them
- anyone else can help them to make choices (for example, a family member, carer, interpreter or advocate.
Under the Code of Practice that underpins the Mental Capacity Act (2005), those who decide whether or not a person has the capacity to make a particular decision and any given time are referred to as ‘assessors’. This is not a formal legal title. Assessors can be anyone – for example, family members, a care worker, a nurse, a doctor or a social worker. But it is the responsibility of anyone who makes decisions on behalf of others to recognise their role and responsibilities under the Code of Practice.