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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”).

They 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 some laws to protect these individuals and ensure that they are given every chance to make decisions for themselves.

The MCA and DOLS provide that deprivation of liberty: 

  • should be avoided wherever possible
  • should 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.

There are two practice documents which explain the process in detail:

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.

The DOLS Process

In order to ensure that the application process for DoLS is as easy as possible.

Step 1 Complete the form - providing basic details

Step 2. email the completed form to

Step 3. A member of the DoLS team will then call you to discuss and get further details over the phone.

Step 4. 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 answer queries and provide information at the time of application to support any Managing Authority that needs it.
  • If you have any questions regarding this or any other DoLS queries, please contact the DoLS team for help and support.

Managing high volumes of assessments

The timescales for assessment can (in some cases) exceed the statutory requirements. We are working hard to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Our processes reflect national guidance supplied by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. This includes implementing DOLS Priority Criteria to enable us to triage application.


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