Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Under the Human Rights Act (1998) people have a right to liberty, but sometimes care homes and hospitals have to limit people’s freedom in order to keep them safe.

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) apply to people who are 18 years or over and not able to make their own decisions about arrangements for their care. The law states that authorisation should be granted prior to someone becoming deprived of their liberty, unless it is an emergency. 

The Supreme Court made a judgment in 2014 which has affected the way that people’s care is monitored and the manner in which their care needs are to be checked and monitored in the future.  This judgement stated that human rights are universal and should be the same for everyone, whether or not they have an illness or disability.

We are all equal.  We all have a right to liberty, and this can only be restricted in certain circumstances, and as long as it is made lawful.  Anyone who is considered to be deprived of their liberty has a right to appeal the assessment of their mental capacity and any element of their care or treatment arrangements. 

DoLS apply to all people who are subject to “continuous supervision and control and are not free to leave”, and lack capacity to make decisions about their care or treatment arrangements.

  • “Continuous supervision and control” is when there are staff on hand 24 hours a day to help the person, or to protect them if they were likely to come to harm. This is likely to apply to most care homes and hospitals.
  • “Not free to leave” means if the person wanted to leave, and never come back, or perhaps go out alone, this would be monitored or restricted in some way. It does not matter whether they could physically leave, or whether they want to leave. It means - would they be free to go on their own if they wanted to.

In these circumstances, there should be an independent check on whether the arrangements are in the person’s best interests, and there is not a better way to care for them that is less restrictive of their rights.