Mental capacity and personal finances: a qualitative study of assessment and support

This research focuses on what happens when older adults experience difficulties in managing their money. We are investigating how social care practitioners, older adults, and their families attempt to address these difficulties, and how people can be supported.

British coins, notes and a pen and a calculator.

“Financial capacity” is the ability to manage personal finances. It is one of the most important skills a person needs to be an independent member of society. It is particularly important for older adults, who in addition to managing day-to-day finances, are required to make major financial decisions associated with later life. However, financial capacity is highly sensitive to changes in cognitive abilities, and these changes are stigmatised and often hidden by families. People with diminished financial capacity are also more vulnerable to financial abuse. 

In England and Wales, the dominant legal framework to guide financial capacity assessment and support is the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It is not clear how appropriate the Act is for assessments of financial capacity, what methods are used to assess financial capacity, nor how professionals support someone with diminished financial capacity. The importance of discussing personal finances is becoming increasingly recognised and publicised in society, but very little is known about how older adults and their families discuss personal finances and attempt to mitigate any challenges relating to financial capacity.

We will work with a range of key organisations in Greater Manchester. As a very diverse region, the lessons we learn in Greater Manchester will be relevant to the whole of the UK.

Aims and objectives

  • To review the information available to guide social care professionals in supporting older adults to manage their finances.
  • To review the information that is available to older people and their families who are looking for help.
  • To interview social care professionals about their experiences of supporting older adults who need help managing their finances.
  • To interview older adults and family members about their experiences and perspectives.


Principal Investigator

Dr Alex Hall, Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Manchester.


Professor Debora Price, School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester.

Professor Nicola Glover-Thomas, School of Law, The University of Manchester.


Funder: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Funding period: April 2021 - September 2022.