Mental capacity

Mental capacity is about the ability to make decisions about lots of things in our lives.  

Sometimes people have difficulty making all or some decisions.

Some reasons why people may finding making decisions difficult are:

  • dementia
  • severe learning disability
  • mental health illness
  • stroke
  • accident
People in this situation may be considered to be lacking capacity for that specific decision. Examples are things like spending money on groceries or big decisions like having major surgery or moving into a care home.

Mental capacity advocate: Voiceability 

Voiceability are the independent mental capacity advocates for Bedford Borough. You can contact them on Tel: 0300 300 1660 or email:

An Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) is an advocate who has been specially trained to support people who are not able to make certain decisions for themselves and do not have family or friends who are able to speak for them. 

Their aim is to safeguard people who lack capacity to:

  • make certain important decisions and at the time when such decisions need to be made
  • and have no-one else other than paid staff to support and represent them or be consulted.

The criteria for referring to the IMCA are:

  • The person lacks capacity, according to a decision-specific test for capacity. There must be a written record of this process.
  • The person without capacity has no friends or family, or where the NHS or Local Authority body deems there is no-one appropriate or practicable to consult with on the decision eg family out of the area or limited knowledge of the person requiring support.
  • When the person lacking capacity requires action around ‘serious medical treatment’, which could include providing, withholding or withdrawing treatment such as ECT for non-detained patients, major surgery, chemotherapy, life-sustaining treatment considerations, etc.
  • When the person lacking capacity needs to change residence, where the Local Authority propose to make changes to a person’s residence for more than 8 weeks, or where an NHS body propose to make changes to a person’s residence  for over 28 days.
  • Adult protection issues and care review representation can also be eligible.

When requesting assessments in accordance with MCA Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) please email:

Court of Protection

The Court of Protection is a special court which looks at cases about people who lack capacity to make decisions. If a very serious decision needs to be made it might be sent to the Court of Protection.

The Court makes decisions and appoints people called 'deputies' who can act for someone who is not able to make decisions about their personal health, finance or welfare.

The Office of the Public Guardian

The Office of Public Guardian is an agency with responsibilities for England and Wales. It supports the registration of Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), and the supervision of deputies appointed by the Court of Protection.

Mental capacity contact


We also provide guidance and training on mental capacity for staff working for the council and other agencies.

Mental Capacity Act 

The Mental Capacity Act was introduced to help people plan for a future loss of capacity, and to protect vulnerable people over the age of 16, who currently are unable to make all (or some) decisions due to a lack of capacity. 

The Act makes it a criminal offence against any person who either ill treats and/or is wilfully neglects  a person lacking capacity, with potential fines and imprisonment. 

The Mental Capacity Act places a legal requirement on all Health and Social Care practitioners, in all directorates, who work directly with service users.  

Related documents

For further information please click on the following factsheets from the Alzheimer’s Society: