Implementation of the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016: social workers’ experiences

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The Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 was enacted by the Northern Ireland Assembly in May 2016. The first phase of the Act came into operation during 2019 and includes provisions for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). When fully implemented this legislation will integrate mental capacity and mental health legislation into a single piece of legislation, for people aged 16 years and over. Given the recent introduction of Trust Panels as a new mechanism for DoLS, this study is the first of its kind. This small-scale exploratory study is a survey of 33 social workers who have made DoLS applications to Trust Panels.

The findings illustrate social workers’ experiences of applying for Trust Panel authorisation for interventions amounting to deprivation for liberty with adults who lack the capacity to make the relevant decisions. The findings report on the social workers’ level of experience in undertaking applications, their views about training for Mental Capacity Act work, and their perceived confidence levels for this work. The factors that have helped or hindered practitioners are also highlighted. The data collection was undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of changes to work practices during this time are acknowledged. The study makes recommendations for further developing training, practice, and research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-47
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2023


  • mental capacity, legislation, social workers, assessment, deprivation of liberty, Northern Ireland.


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