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Deprivation of liberty safeguards

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) exist to provide suitable protection to all people who have a mental disorder or disability of the mind, including dementia or a profound learning disability, and lack capacity to consent to their care and treatment.
DOLS is concerned with ensuring that the restrictions applied to a person who lacks such capacity, in order to keep them safe, are:

1. In their Best Interests
2. The least restrictive option available

Since the “Cheshire West” Supreme Court ruling in March 2014, the “acid test” for DOLS is that:

  • The person does not have capacity to consent to the arrangements of their care and treatment
  • The person is under constant supervision and control
  • The person would be prevented from leaving the place where they are being cared for/treated if they attempted to


The following issues are not relevant in deciding whether a person is deprived of their Liberty:

  • Whether the person is compliant with or objecting to the arrangements for their care/treatment
  • The “relative normality” of the placement (linked to the person’s needs, disability etc.)
  • The reason for, or purpose of, the arrangements for their care/treatment

Why DoLS are important

The safeguards ensure that:

  • vulnerable individuals are able to receive care with the least restrictions necessary
  • help is in place for vulnerable individuals
  • individuals and their carers are able to challenge unlawful detention
  • professionals are provided with a clear process to work within.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (2009 amendments) provides a set of procedures for the assessment and authorisation of a deprivation of liberty. The procedures only apply to deprivation in the setting of a hospital or a care home, including acute hospital settings, whether publicly or privately arranged. They are overseen by the Local Authority DOLS Team as the Supervisory Body.

The DoLS Process

Any restrictions to be placed on a person need first to be agreed, under the principles of the MCA, by all the relevant professionals and involved parties (friends, family or advocates) under the principles of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005. Once the restrictions are in place (or have been identified in advance as being required, as part of the care planning process), the Managing Authority (Care Home / Hospital) have a duty to grant themselves and urgent authorisation (up to 7 days) whilst, at the same time applying to the Supervisory Body for a Standard Authorisation (DOLS).

On receipt of a DOLS request, the Supervisory Body will then allocate the assessments for the authorisation (there are 6 in total) to a Mental Health Assessor (MHA) and a Best Interest Assessor (BIA). Both of these Assessors are independent of the Care Management regime under which the arrangements for the person’s care and treatment would have been originally set up. This is to ensure there is proper independent oversight of the arrangements made for the care and treatment of any person who lacks the mental capacity to consent to those arrangements, where restrictions that amount to a deprivation of their liberty are involved.

If the Assessors recommend that a deprivation of liberty is occurring but that the arrangements made for the person are lawful and in the person’s best interest, the Supervisory Body will then grant a DOLS Authorisation for up to one year.

For people living in shared lives schemes or in supported living, the deprivation of liberty can only be authorised by the Court of Protection. The process is different from that fo r DOLS in Hospitals and Care Homes and is not co-ordinated by the DOLS Team, although the DOLS Team can advise on the issues involved. A Special form (CoP-DOL10) has to be completed by the involved Social Worker. See below for links to download this form and the guidelines.

Concerns about deprivation for liberty in other people's homes or other settings should be raised under the Safeguarding Adults procedures.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)

Where the person who is being assessed for DOLS has no friends or family involved with them, only than professionals, then it is the statutory duty of the Supervisory Body to appoint an IMCA to support them through the DOLS assessment process and to represent their Best Interests to the BIA.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)

Relevant person's representative

Part of keeping safe and protecting your friend or family member is making sure they have someone to speak for them.

The representative will:

  • visit your friend of family member often
  • check that everything is ok or let us know if it isn't
  • tell us if they move address of change contact number
  • be involved if there’s a review

If you need help to understand the role of a representative, free support is available.

To request a DOLS Authorisation:

To make a request for authorisation please download the relevant Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards standard form from the ADASS website below. Completed forms should then be emailed or faxed to the DoLS Team.

To make an enquiry contact the DoLS Coordinator:

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Team
Adult Social Care
Willow House
869 Forest Road
Walthamstow E17 4UH

Phone: 020 8496 3000
Fax: 020 8496 6916
Email: deprivationoflibertysafeguards@walthamforest.gov.uk

Further Information:

DOLS Code of Practice.pdf (470 KB) 

DoLS BRIEFING Note 1 - Adult Social Care.pdf (118 KB)

DoLS BRIEFING Note 2 - Provider Services - Res - Supported living.pdf (98 KB)

You can also download the DOLS in Shared Lives / Supported Living: Court of Protection Form and guidelines for Social Workers.

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