House of Commons Library

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Published Tuesday, April 3, 2018

This House of Commons Library briefing explains what Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are, their purpose and the process which is followed in order to authorise a deprivation of liberty. The paper outlines the Law Commission's recommendations for an overhaul of the DoLS process, as well as the Government's response.

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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) were introduced into the Mental Capacity Act 2005 by the Mental Health Act 2007.

DoLS provide a framework for approving the deprivation of liberty for people who lack the mental capacity to consent to necessary treatment in a hospital or care home. The Supreme Court determined that deprivation of liberty occurs when:

The person is under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave, and the person lacks capacity to consent to these arrangements. P (by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Cheshire West and Chester Council & Anor [2014] UKSC 19)

DoLS ensure that people are 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 provide necessary care and treatment.

The safeguards provide a statutory framework for authorising a deprivation of liberty, including six separate assessments by designated professionals, and subsequent rights of review.

There have been recent changes affecting the DoLS. A Supreme Court judgment in 2014 significantly widened the definition of deprivation of liberty, meaning more people were subsequently considered to have their liberty deprived. There was a ten-fold increase in the number of deprivation of liberty applications following the judgment.

In March 2017, the Law Commission published a report and Draft Bill recommending an overhaul of the DoLS process. The Law Commission recommends that DoLS are repealed and replaced by a new scheme called the Liberty Protection Safeguards, which would streamline the process for approving a deprivation of liberty.

The Government’s final response, published in March 2018, broadly accepted the Law Commission’s recommendations. Care Minister Caroline Dinenage confirmed that the Government would “bring forward legislation to implement the model when parliamentary time allows.”

This briefing paper relates to England and Wales only.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8095

Authors: Elizabeth Parkin; Alex Bate

Topics: Health services, Mental health, Patient rights and complaints

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