Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

1. Introduction

Sometimes, caring for a person with dementia involves reducing their independence or restricting their free will in some way. If they are receiving care in a hospital or care home, their routine may be decided for them, and they may not be allowed to leave. If the person has not freely chosen where they will live in order to receive care, or the type of care that they receive, it is possible that this care will take away some of their freedom. In some cases, this may amount to a ‘deprivation of liberty’. This is not always a bad thing, and it is often necessary when caring for someone, but it should only happen if it is in the person’s best interests.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 includes the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) – a set of checks that aims to make sure that any care that restricts a person’s liberty is both appropriate and in their best interests. This page explains what counts as a deprivation of liberty, what the safeguards are, and how to go about getting a deprivation of liberty authorised and reviewed.

DoLS only apply for people in care homes and hospitals. There is a separate system for people in ‘supported living arrangements’ – where people live and receive care in the community. They also only apply to people living in England and Wales. At the time of writing (March 2016) there is no similar system in Northern Ireland.