What it means if a person with dementia needs a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessment

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are intended to ensure that a person's care is in their best interests even when it may restrict their freedom. Sam Cox, Legal and Welfare Rights Information Officer, looks at what it means if someone is to have a DoLS assessment.

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'My stepsister is moving into a care home but I've been told she needs a DoLS assessment first. What does this mean?'

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) protect people who aren't able to make a decision about their care when it is restrictive and deprives them of their freedoms.

Although the term 'Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards' may sound intimidating, it is important to focus on the word 'safeguards' as this is what they are really about. They only apply in England and Wales.

Best interests

If a person is deprived of their freedom and cannot make a decision about this themselves, the safeguards make sure that this is being done in their best interests.

DoLS apply to people in a care home, hospital or supported living who need continuous care, supervision or support and who would be prevented from leaving if they were to try.


If your stepsister has a DoLS assessment, this will be to ensure that the proposed care is in her best interests.

Two independent assessors will visit your stepsister, and they should speak to carers and also to family members. This should give you the chance to have input and share any concerns that you have.

If the assessors decide that the proposed care is in your stepsister's best interests, it should then be authorised to go ahead.

If they don't agree that it is in her best interests, certain changes may have to be made and you should be kept informed about this.

IMCA support

You should be able to get support from a local independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA), who the local authority can put you in touch with. They are there to support you and your stepsister during this process.

For more about the assessment process see our factsheet Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), visit or call 0300 303 5933 to order.

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