Supported decision making

The threshold of understanding

The term threshold of understanding means the information a person needs to understand in order to make a specific decision. This information varies from decision to decision. For example, the information needed for an individual to decide where to live is very different from what they will need to understand to decide to get married. 

What the person needs to understand has to be clearly determined in advance so that the necessary information is provided to support decision making, including what questions to ask to determine the individual’s level of understanding and to support them to be able to communicate their responses. 

When setting the threshold of understanding, case law states that: 

  • A person only needs to understand the ‘salient factors’, that is the information relevant to the decision LBJ v RYJ [2010] EWHC 2664 (Fam)  
  • We must not set the bar too high PH and A Local Authority v Z Limited & R [2011] EWHC 1704 (Fam)  
  • An individual is not a ‘blank canvas’ and highlights that professionals may “consciously or unconsciously attach excessive weight to their own views” and insufficient weight to the individual’s views of how their emotional needs may best be met CC v KK & STCC [2012] EWHC 2136 (CoP)