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10 things you should know about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Our People - Maria Nicholas
22 December, 2023

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), an integral part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, are crucial provisions designed to protect individuals who lack the mental capacity to make specific decisions about their well-being.

What do Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) allow you to do?

Encompassing a set of principles and guidelines, DoLS are aimed at ensuring that any deprivation of an individual’s liberty is carried out under safe and justified circumstances.

Established to safeguard the rights of those with mental health conditions, including dementia, these safeguards outline specific criteria and procedures for authorising such deprivations, emphasising the paramount importance of an individual’s best interests.

1. What do DoLS allow you to determine?

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which says that someone lacks mental capacity to make a particular decision if they are unable to:

  1. understand information given to them;
  2. retain that information long enough to be able to make a decision;
  3. weigh up the information available and understand the consequences of the decision; or
  4. communicate their decision (this could be by any possible means).

2. When do DoLS apply?

DoLS apply to people aged 18 or over who:

  1. have a mental health condition (includes dementia); and
  2. do not have the mental capacity to make decisions about their care or treatment.

3. Who qualifies for DoLS?

DoLS can only be used in a care home or hospital. In other settings the Court of Protection can authorise a deprivation of liberty.

4. Where can DoLS be implemented?

DoLS aim to ensure that someone is only deprived of their liberty in a safe and correct way, and that this is only done when it is in their best interests and there is no other way to look after them.

5. What principles guide DoLS?

A court decision confirmed that someone is deprived of their liberty when someone is:

  1. under continuous supervision and control; and
  2. not free to leave.

6. Who is responsible for applying for DoLS?

Care homes and hospitals are responsible for applying for an authorisation for the deprivation of liberty, known as a “standard authorisation”.

7. What protocol exists for emergencies under DoLS?

In an emergency, the hospital or care home may grant itself an “urgent authorisation”, but must apply for a standard authorisation at the same time. This urgent authorisation is usually valid for 7 days. Steps should be taken to consult with carers and family members.

8. When can DoLS not be used?

DoLS cannot be used if a person has the mental capacity to make decisions. So this must be assessed.

9. When does DoLS not apply?

The safeguards do not apply in certain circumstances when someone is detained (‘sectioned’) under the Mental Health Act 1983.

10. Who is involved and what are responsibilities and access of the RPR in DoLS cases?

Everyone who is subject to an authorised deprivation of liberty must have a ‘relevant person’s representative’ (RPR) who is:

  1. appointed by the supervisory body authorising the deprivation;
  2. often a family member or friend, other carer, or independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA); and
  3. able to gain access to documents about the decision and ask for a review of the decision, and should be informed if anything changes.

In essence, the implementation of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) represents a commitment to upholding the dignity and rights of individuals who are unable to make decisions regarding their care or treatment. By emphasising careful assessments, due processes, and the involvement of relevant parties such as family members, carers, and appointed representatives, DoLS strive to ensure that any deprivation of liberty is a last resort, carried out with utmost consideration for the individual’s well-being and autonomy. Continual evaluation, access to information, and the provision of a ‘relevant person’s representative’ stand as key components in upholding the principles of DoLS, aiming to protect the vulnerable while maintaining a balance between liberty and necessary care.

If you have any questions in relation to standard authorisation (DoLS), please do not hesitate to contact one of our Court of Protection Solicitors or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

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