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Deprivation of liberty

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What is deprivation of liberty?

Liberty means being free to do the things you want to do and live where you want to live. 

Deprivation of liberty means taking someone's freedom away.

A Supreme Court judgement decided that someone is deprived of their liberty if they are both 'under continuous supervision, and control and not free to leave'.

Someone else may think that they need to take your freedom away to give you the care or treatment you need. If you are able to make an informed choice about this, it is your right to say no. The only time when your informed choice might be over-ridden is if you need to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

Deprivation of liberty could take place anywhere - in a care home or hospital, but also in your own home.

If you are not able to make an informed choice, the law says that whoever is looking after you cannot take your freedom away without independent checks that this is the best thing for you. 

This law is set out in the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are a system of checks found in the Mental Capacity Act. They apply in registered care homes and hospitals. They are needed to make sure that someone aged 18 or over, who has a mental disorder and is not able to decide to stay in a care home or hospital, really needs to have their freedom taken away to keep them safe from harm.  Two different people will carry out the assessments, a doctor and a trained Best Interests Assessor; if they agree that the deprivation of liberty is necessary an 'authorisation' is given to the care home or hospital by the council. 

The person whose freedom has been taken away will always have a representative to speak up on their behalf. This could be a family member, friend or someone trained to do this as a paid professional.

They also have the right to ask for a review from the council, or to appeal the authorisation by asking a Court of Protection judge to look at their case. 

Speak to the person in charge - the care home manager or the doctor or nurse in charge of the hospital ward.  They need to contact the council to request authorisation.  The person in charge can give themselves an urgent authorisation to deprive the person of their liberty for up to seven days if they believe that they must act immediately to keep someone safe. 

If the person in charge disagrees that the person is deprived of their liberty, you can contact the council yourself.

If someone may need to be deprived of their liberty in somewhere other than a care home or hospital (for example in their own home) this situation is not covered by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and needs to be authorised by the Court of Protection

If you want to report a concern that someone may be having their liberty unnecessarily restricted in a care home or hospital setting then you should call:


Tel: 020 7641 2500

Kensington and Chelsea

Address: The Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 7NX
Tel (Social Services Line): 020 7361 3013
Fax: 020 7938 1445

The Department of Health has produced the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers booklet

Easy read buttonThe Department of Health has also produced the following easy-read bookets:-

The Independent Age website provides a guide called Money and welfare: managing it if I become ill which includes information on Deprivation of Liberty.

Last updated: 28/07/2021