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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards 2013/14

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Read the findings from our fifth annual report on the use of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, which looks at the period 2013/14.

Cover of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards 2013/14 report

About the safeguards

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards were introduced in 2009 and are part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA).

The safeguards are used to protect the rights of people who lack the ability to make certain decisions for themselves and make sure that their freedom is not inappropriately restricted. They do this by helping to make sure that decisions made on their behalf are done so in their best interests, and also by empowering them to make their own decisions wherever possible.

Around two million people in England and Wales may lack capacity to make certain decisions for themselves at some point due to illness, injury or disability. Another six million people will be involved in their care and support, including family, friends and people working in health and social care.

Our role monitoring the safeguards

Since 2009, we have had a duty to monitor the use of the safeguards in all care homes and hospitals in England, and we also provide advice and information on using them.

We check on the use of the safeguards by visiting the places where they are used.

Care services must tell us about the outcome of their application to deprive someone of their liberty.

Our findings

More people are being protected by the safeguards

The number of applications to use the safeguards rose over the year 2013/14, but dramatic rises followed in Q1 and Q2 of 2014/15, following the Supreme Court's clarification that that a person lacking mental capacity to consent is deprived of their liberty if they are both not free to leave and under continuous supervision and control. Since this clarification, there has been an eight-fold increase in the number of applications.

Regional variation still exists

We continue to see regional variations in application rates.

The safeguards are most often used to protect the rights of older people, who may be living with dementia so we expect to see more Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards applications in parts of the country with a relatively older population. However, even adjusting the figures to take account of demographic factors (for example, the relatively young population of London), variations have persisted.

Backlog of applications

The rapid and unprecedented rise in applications since March 2014 is putting extra pressure on local authorities and creating backlogs.

At the end of September 2014, there were still 19,429 applications where a decision was still to be made, while at the end of 2013/14 there were just 356 where a decision was still to be made

We urge local authorities to address this backlog as quickly as possible.

Recommendations from the report:

  • Local authorities continue to consider the use of advocacy for all those subject to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
  • Local authority leads for the MCA and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards create good working relationships with their local coroners. This is likely to be of great benefit to ensure that a consistent message is given to providers and so that they can work together in dealing with the considerable extra activity as a result of the Supreme Court judgment.
  • Local authorities and Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) providers work together to enable IMCAs to carry out their role to support the person or their unpaid Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR) to challenge an authorisation to the Court of Protection when it is the person’s wish, whatever the IMCA’s views on the rightness of the authorisation.
Last updated:
2 February 2015