Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (“DOLS”) provide protection for vulnerable people, aged 18 and over, who are accommodated in hospitals or care homes in circumstances that amount to a deprivation of their liberty and who lack the capacity to consent to the care or treatment they need.

The DOLS are an extension of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (“MCA”) and provides a statutory framework for acting and making decisions on behalf of individuals who lack the mental capacity to do so for themselves. It introduced a number of laws to protect these individuals and ensure that they are given every chance to make decisions for themselves.

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The MCA and DOLS provide that deprivation of liberty: 

  • should be avoided wherever possible
  • should only be authorised only in cases where it is in the relevant person's best interests and is the only way to keep them safe
  • should be for as short a time as possible, and
  • should be only for a particular treatment plan or course of action

Deprivation of liberty can be authorised by ‘Supervisory Bodies’, subject to the qualifying criteria being met. In Cornwall the Supervisory Body is Cornwall Council. 

The Deprivation Liberty Safeguards Code of Practice, which supplements the main Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, explains the process in detail.

To obtain an authorisation to deprive someone of their liberty, Registered Care Homes (residential homes and homes with nursing) and Hospitals (including independent, community and acute hospital) have to apply for an authorisation following the DOLS process.

In March 2014 the Supreme Court made a decision in a landmark case known as P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and P&Q v Surrey County Council. The decision in this case has led the very high volume of applications and the timescales for assessment can (in some cases) exceed the statutory requirements, though we are working hard to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Our processes currently reflect national guidance supplied by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (“ADASS”), and this includes implementing ‘priority criteria’ to enable us to triage application.

DOLS Priority Criteria

To find out more about DOLS, contact the DOLS Team by emailing or telephone 0300 1234 131.

If you are wish to make an Urgent or Standard application for a Deprivation of Liberty or to request a Review, send the completed ADASS referral form to Please note that you should refer to the Priority Criteria in making your application.