Publication - Advice and guidance

Adults with incapacity: code of practice for local authorities

Published: 1 Apr 2008
Part of:
Health and social care, Law and order

Guidance for local authority staff with duties and powers under the Adults with Incapacity Act 2000.

Adults with incapacity: code of practice for local authorities
Chapter 3 Information, awareness and training for local authority officers

Chapter 3 Information, awareness and training for local authority officers


3.1 Problems arising from a person's impaired capacity to make some or all decisions for him/herself may come to the attention of the local authority for a variety of reasons. As a result, a wide range of officers may be the initial contact with the individual. It may not be evident to the officer who first has contact with the person whether or not he/she falls within the scope of the 2000 Act.


3.2 Possible first line contacts with an adult who might fall within the scope of the 2000 Act therefore include officers:

  • supporting those with learning difficulties. These could include anyone working in educational establishments, residential establishments or in the community working with young adults or those about to reach the age of 16;
  • working with adults having mental illness;
  • working with older people;
  • assisting those in or leaving hospital;
  • providing community care;
  • dealing with substance abuse issues;
  • dealing with housing and homelessness;
  • dealing with child protection, where the condition of an adult in the household is an issue for the child;
  • dealing with complaints from the public about the behaviour of neighbours or people on the streets;
  • dealing with offenders in prison or in the community;
  • receiving calls from the police or members of the public concerned about particular individuals or households;
  • dealing with debt incurred by adults, including debt to the local authority itself.

3.3 Other first line contacts could be medical practitioners, community based nursing staff and other national Health Service ( NHS) staff, the legal profession or the criminal courts.


3.4 Given the wide range of local authority staff who might be the first point of contact with an adult who might fall under the 2000 Act, it would be impracticable for the authority to train every such officer fully in the requirements of the 2000 Act. It is however desirable that every officer who might be the first point of contact with the public has some awareness of the 2000 Act's existence and the leading role of social work services staff in its application so that they can make appropriate referrals.

3.5 It is desirable in addition that all social work officers as potential first line contacts should have general awareness of:

  • the existence of the 2000 Act and the interventions available;
  • the principles;
  • the existence of this code of practice as a document to which they can refer for detailed guidance.

3.6 Local authorities should consider the best means of ensuring that ongoing and up-date information and training is cascaded within the local authority.


3.7 In the case of non-social work staff, the local authority at corporate level should consider what training might be most suitable and should obtain the advice and input of social work services staff on this. Methods that might be considered are:

  • Using an internal circular, or series of circulars, to alert all officers having dealings with the public to the existence of the 2000 Act, to its broad purposes, and to the responsibilities of social work officers with regard to its implementation and where to go for further information and help.
  • The Scottish Government has produced a web based general leaflet about the 2000 Act 'A short guide to the Act'; also a DVD 'Making Decisions - Your Rights' in two versions, one for people with dementia and the other for people with a learning disability (for use with individuals or small groups by support workers or family members).
  • Using any Intranet or other web-based facilities by the local authority to inform staff generally of the 2000 Act's existence and the details of local duty social work contact numbers.
  • Including information about the 2000 Act and the key contact points within the authority in any induction training for new officers, and in ongoing training for existing officers.


3.8 All social work officers working in adult services/mental health/older peoples services/learning disability services/children and family teams (for transitional ages) and criminal justice teams should be aware of the main provisions of the 2000 Act; and its possible relevance to the casework for which they are responsible.

3.9 These social work officers should be aware of the rules for determining whether their local authority has jurisdiction for an adult who falls or may fall under the 2000 Act (see chapter 2 paragraph 2.2). Jurisdiction follows habitual residence, except in the case of an adult whose personal welfare may be at risk. In the latter case, the local authority for the area where the adult happens to be would be responsible for investigating the circumstances but liability for payment for any services would fall on the local authority in whose area the adult normally resides.

3.10 As appropriate, all social work officers should be aware of the names and contact details of officers who have special expertise in the 2000 Act.

3.11 They should also know where to access a copy of each of the codes of practice. These are on the website

The local authority may wish to ensure that social work officers have access to paper copies or a link from the local authority's own intranet.


3.12 Officers involved in assessment and care management will require particular training in the 2000 Act.

Essential components of this training are:

  • to develop an understanding of local authorities' responsibilities, and the range of measures available under the 2000 Act;
  • how consideration of the 2000 Act fits into assessment and care management - familiarity with this code;
  • a clear understanding of the principles of the 2000 Act and how they should be implemented in the assessment and care management process (with particular reference to chapter 4 of this code);
  • a clear understanding of the role of other statutory agencies with regard to the 2000 Act, particularly the Public Guardian, the MWC and the local sheriff court; and clear guidance on liaison with these bodies, including contact details;
  • an understanding of the court process and time-scales;
  • development of competencies and knowledge in relation to communication/decision making (maximising potential for giving consent) and assessing capacity under the 2000 Act; (see Scottish Government, 'Adults with Incapacity Act - Communication and Assessing Capacity. A guide for social work and health care officers'. For details see Annex 2.
  • an understanding of the role of MHOs in case conferences/reviews;
  • a clear understanding of the rights of carers under the 2000 Act ( i.e. family/friends/other unpaid supporters);
  • understanding and differentiating between the powers which local authorities have to intervene under section 13ZA of the 1968 Act, the 2000 Act, 2003 Act and the 2007 Act; and the appropriate application of these powers in specific circumstances.

3.13 In addition to training, it would be good practice to hold regular discussion within teams to share experience and develop practice. A clear point of reference needs to be identified to which team members can go for advice and support on practice issues arising. A number of local authorities have appointed an AWI lead officer who performs this function and ensures that staff are kept up to date on changes and good practice.


3.14 All MHOs must be registered as qualified social workers, have a minimum of two years post-qualifying experience and have completed an approved course of mental health officer training. 1 They have functions under the 2000 Act, in particular a role in assessment and report writing in relation to applications for welfare intervention orders and guardianship where the person has a mental disorder. Their training and expertise will also be relevant to a range of functions under the 2000 Act where incapacity is caused by a mental disorder. For example, in some authorities MHOs are routinely invited to case conferences where the capacity of the adult is an issue. Experience in some local authorities suggests that the early involvement of an MHO helps considerably to speed up the assessment and decision-making process.

3.15 Local authority finance and legal officers will also require familiarity with the 2000 Act and special training on legal and financial aspects.


3.16 A multi-agency and multi-disciplinary approach to awareness raising, training and implementation is desirable both within the local authority and among different bodies, including specialist voluntary organisations, in a particular area. Where there are established procedures for local authorities acting in conjunction with the NHS, it will be necessary to ensure that these are consistent with the principles of the 2000 Act, for example, the Care Programme Approach and discharge planning protocols, palliative care and any procedures for integrated Single Shared Assessment and Care Management.