Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - A Basic Introduction

The Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DoLS) were introduced in 2009 to provide legal protection for vulnerable people who are, or may become, deprived of their liberty in a hospital or care home.

The Safeguards exist to provide a legal framework and suitable protection in those circumstances where deprivation of liberty occurs, in a person’s best interests.

What is Deprivation of Liberty?

There is no simple definition of deprivation of liberty; however, on the 19th March 2014 the Supreme Court passed a judgement that states, a person is being deprived of their liberty if:-

  • they lack the capacity to consent to their care arrangements
  • they are under continuous supervision and control
  • they are not free to leave the place they are in (to live where they may choose)

This is commonly referred to as the ‘acid test’.

Possible indicators that a person is being deprived of their liberty:

  • a person’s freedom is restricted by doors they cannot open
  • they are unable to leave the care facility even if they express a desire to
  • a request to be discharged is refused without formal recorded consideration
  • a person who makes an attempt to leave the care facility permanently would be stopped and returned by authorities
  • staff have full control over aspects of the person’s care and movement
  • social contact is controlled by staff
  • the environment is restrictive and reliant on staff for people to move from area to area

It is important to remember that this list is not exclusive; other factors may arise which require the authorisation of the Safeguards.

Who does the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards apply to?

The Safeguards apply to people in England and Wales who meet the following criteria:

  • anyone aged 18 and over
  • anyone in a care home or hospital
  • those experiencing mental disorders or disability that affects their thinking and understanding, such as dementia or severe learning disability
  • those not having the capacity to consent to their care, treatment or residence
  • those needing to have their liberty taken away in their own best interest to protect them from harm

A person can also be deprived of their liberty if they are under 18 or reside in other settings, such as in their own home or in supported tenancies. Any deprivation of liberty identified in these circumstances would need to be authorised by The Court of Protection.

Other information you may find useful

Published on May 24, 2013

The video produced by Littlegreenshed video production, is an extract from a training programme for DOLS - Deprivation of Liberty safeguards training for carers and health workers needing to know how the new laws affect their work.

DMBC has not produced or financed this video, it is an external media used for demonstration purposes only.

Last updated: 04 May 2021 08:25:20