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Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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2.2 Young people aged 16 and 17 years 

Legally, a person aged 16 or over is presumed to have capacity, unless assessed otherwise. However, there are some situations – such as making a will, making an advanced decision to refuse treatment and particular medical procedures – in which a young person aged 16 or 17 is not automatically assumed to have capacity. In these cases, other legislation may be invoked and assessments such as that of Gillick competency carried out, to allow for legally sound decision making. 

Activity _unit6.2.2 Activity 4 Supporting the capacity of young people aged 16 and 17 years

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the video below about three young people in Sheffield. As children under 16, they received treatment from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). At the age of 16, however, they were no longer eligible for a service from CAMHS and had to register with adult mental health services. They talk about their anxieties and concerns in making this transition.

Download this video clip.Video player: mhc_1_week5_vid3.mp4
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In the text box below, note what you think might have arisen for some of these young people had they not made a successful transition to adult mental health services. Imagine what kinds of outcomes might later bring into question the young people’s capacity to make decisions for themselves.

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In the video, it seemed that adult mental health services failed to engage successfully with the young people. This may make it more likely that, in the future, they are assessed as not having the mental capacity to make certain decisions. Affording as much opportunity to engage in services is consistent with the general principle in mental capacity legislation that people should be supported to make decisions themselves before an assessment of whether they lack capacity.

While every assessment of capacity must relate to circumstances at the time of the assessment, it is also important that services promote future opportunities for mental capacity to be assessed if needed.