Many people receive care and support from family and friends, and some have help from care workers or health professionals. Whether this care is delivered at home or in a residential setting, it must keep the person safe and must not restrict their freedom unnecessarily.
This is particularly important for people who lack the ‘mental capacity’ to make their own decisions about their care and treatment.
When people are unable to make some decisions for themselves, they may be seen as being ‘deprived of their liberty’. In 2014, deprivation of liberty was defined in law as when a person is:
- unable to make decisions about their care and treatment and,
- they are not free to leave, and
- they are under constant supervision and control.
In these situations, the person deprived of their liberty must have their human rights safeguarded like anyone else in society. This is done through periodic independent checks that review care arrangements to ensure they are still in the person’s best interests.
It is important to remember that depriving a person of their liberty is not necessarily a bad thing and does not indicate anyone is doing anything wrong - as long as the care being given is in that person's best interests.
The safeguarding process depends where the person currently resides.
Information on Deprivation of Liberty for families
Deprivation of Liberty can occur in any setting where certain requirements are met. The way in which the person is safeguarded differs from setting to setting.
Deprivation of Liberty in care homes and hospitals
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), ensures people who cannot consent to their care arrangements in a care home or hospital are protected if those arrangements deprive them of their liberty. Arrangements are assessed to check they are necessary and in the person’s best interests. Representation and the right to challenge a deprivation are other safeguards that are part of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
To find out more read an At a Glance Guide to DoLS or read through any of the following resources:
- Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers
- Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - A guide for relevant person’s representatives
Deprivation of Liberty in community settings
People can also be deprived of their liberty in settings that are not a care home or hospital, for example in a person’s own home or support living schemes. To find out more we have created a leaflet to explain what this may mean for you.
Deprivation of Liberty for children and young people (16-17)
See our factsheet below for information on children and young people.