Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Mental capacity is about being able to understand, retain, use and weigh information and make a decision based on that information.

Sometimes people in hospitals and care homes cannot make their own decision about their care or treatment. They need extra protections to make sure they are not harmed.

There are cases where the care arrangements are restrictive to the point that someone is deprived of their liberty.

The Supreme Court in 2014 determined that a deprivation of liberty occurs when:

  • a person is under continuous supervision and control in a care home or hospital
  • is not free to leave
  • the person lacks capacity to consent to these arrangements

If a care home or hospital believe that someone in their care is being deprived of their liberty they must apply for the deprivation to be legally authorised.

If you are a care home or hospital and would like to Request a DoLS Authorisation please complete our online form.

What happens next?

When a request for a deprivation of liberty authorisation is made, we arrange assessments before a decision is made whether or not a the Authorisation can be granted.

These assessments are completed by two independent assessors:

  • a doctor
  • a best interests assessor

They will find out whether the care arrangements or treatment amount to a deprivation of liberty and whether it is in the person’s best interests.

As part of the best interest assessment, the assessor will:

  • consult with relatives, friends and other people involved in the person’s care
  • involve an independent advocate in certain circumstances

A deprivation of liberty is granted for a period of time up to a year.


When a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation is granted, we will appoint a representative. This could be could be a relative, friend or a paid representative.

The role of a representative is to:

  • maintain regular contact with the relevant person
  • to represent and support the relevant person in all matters relating to the deprivation of liberty safeguards.
  • if appropriate, triggering a review, using an organisation’s complaints procedure on the person’s behalf or making an application to the Court of Protection.

In summary, the safeguards ensure:

  • that the arrangements are in the person’s best interest
  • the person is appointed someone to represent them
  • the person is given a legal right of appeal over the arrangements
  • the arrangements are reviewed and continue for no longer than necessary.

The deprivation of liberty:

  • should be avoided wherever possible
  • should only be authorised in cases where it is in the relevant person's best interests and the only way to keep them safe
  • should be for as short a time as possible
  • should be only for a particular treatment plan or course of action

What if a deprivation of liberty occurs elsewhere other than care home or hospital?

For deprivation of liberty in other settings please visit our community setting page.

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