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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 ‘DOLS Priority Criteria’ to enable us to triage application.

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

In order to ensure that the application process for DoLS is as easy as possible, the DoLS team is changing the way that you apply for a DoLS assessment.

From the 1/11/2017 you will no longer be required to complete the standard Form 1 – DoLS application.

We have created a short contact version of this form which will only ask for basic details such as the name and address of the Managing Authority and the relevant person. A member of the DoLS team will then call you to discuss and get further details over the phone.

Once this has been done; you will then receive a letter confirming the priority status of your application, along with a copy of the DoLS referral form for your records. Please ensure you add your email address to the contact form to allow us to email you the forms. You may receive these by post if you prefer, just let the worker know when discussing your application.

We hope that this will make the process much easier for Managing Authorities and also ensure that the DoLS team have the most relevant and up to date information with which to make a decision regarding the priority status of the application. We will also be able to answer queries and provide information at the time of application to support any Managing Authority that needs it.

Please now use the form below for applications and continue to email it to

If you have any questions regarding this or any other DoLS queries, please contact the DoLS team for help and support.