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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) came into force in England and Wales in April 2009 under amendments to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  The safeguards provide legal protection for vulnerable people who may be deprived of their liberty in a hospital, care home or in a community setting.

The safeguards are intended to:

  • protect people who lack mental capacity from being detained when this is not in their best interests
  • prevent arbitrary detention
  • give people the right to challenge a decision
  • provides rights of representation.

A person is deprived of their liberty if they are:

  • not free to leave a care home or hospital
  • subject to continuous supervision and control
  • unable to consent to the above arrangement due to lack of mental capacity.

Care home or hospital settings

If it is necessary to detain or restrain a person who is staying in a care home or hospital, the law states that the care home or hospital must apply to the local authority to register a lawful deprivation of liberty.

Other settings in the community

For people in supported living arrangements, such as supported housing or in their own home where they receive care and support from the local authority, there is a separate process for authorising a deprivation of liberty.  In these settings, the local authority must obtain authority from the Court of Protection.

DoLS and Covid-19

The government's guidance about the application of DoLS during the Covid-19 pandemic was withdrawn on 10 August 2021. Where decisions may need to be made in relation to Covid-19 care or treatment, for someone who may lack the relevant mental capacity, practitioners should follow their usual processes, including the best interest decision making process.

If you believe someone may be deprived of their liberty within a care home setting, or community setting you can speak to the person who is responsible for their care, or contact Camden Council’s Access and Response Team on 020 7974 4000 for further advice.

Useful resources

Alzheimer’s Society provide information about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)


Age UK have a downloadable factsheet about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.  You can also find factsheets and information guides on other topics on their website.

Download the DoLS factsheet


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