Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - often known as 'DOLS'

What are the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS)?

There are a series of checks and balances designed to ensure that any restrictions imposed are in the person’s best interests. The terminology may sound draconian particularly in a home environment but this is not their purpose. If a person would not be free to leave an environment without supervision, then the safeguards seek to confirm that the decision has been made in the person’s best interests and that the decision is reviewed regularly.

To whom do DOLS apply?

The safeguards apply to vulnerable adults above the age of 18 who do not have the capacity to make decisions such as where they live or what care they receive. DOLS will not apply until a child reaches the age of 18 but at 16 a child’s transition in to adult social care will begin and this is when parents might first encounter the DOLS terminology.

 As a child approaches 16 years of age you should be aware of DOLS

The Local Authority (‘LA’) may start to talk to you using terms such as ‘deprivation of liberty’ or ‘DOLS’. These phrases are likely to be unfamiliar and might appear daunting at first but there is no need to be concerned. A recent judgment in the Supreme Court redefined what is meant by a ‘deprivation of liberty’ and established the following criteria, that a person is:

Where all three elements are satisfied a person will fall within the definition. This is a much wider definition than previously existed and means that many more people are now deemed to be deprived. This means that someone who would not be free to leave their accommodation without supervision is most likely being deprived of their liberty. This applies not just to people in care or nursing homes but to someone living in their own home.

 If DOLS apply when your child reaches 18

 The responsibilities to ensure that the safeguards are in place rests with the LA. If they do not ensure that these are in place then any deprivation is likely to be unlawful.

When the LA complete their assessment to determine the best interests of your child then you have the right as a parent or family member to have your views taken in to account. It is also very important that the LA take in to account the views of your child about where they are accommodated or any restrictions imposed on them. If you disagree with the decision of your LA then you have a right to challenge this and the LA must refer the matter to a court for determination.

Next Steps

If you are unsure about how DOLS will affect you

You should first contact your LA and request additional information. At Hugh Jones Solicitors we are experts in advising on issues of deprivation of liberty and can assist you with advice in this respect and the application of DOLS including how to challenge a decision.

As your child approaches the transition in to adult social care it may be worth considering an application to the Court of Protection to appoint you as deputy to make decisions in respect of your child’s health and welfare. If this is something that you would like more information about then you can speak to a solicitor at Hugh Jones Solicitors - contact us on 0161 241 7185 or email