skip to main content

Deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS)

What is deprivation of liberty?

Liberty means being free to do the things you want to do and live where you want to live. 

Deprivation of liberty means taking someone's freedom away.

A recent Supreme Court judgment decided that someone is deprived of their liberty if they are "under continuous supervision, and control and not free to leave".

When can someone be deprived of their liberty?

Someone else may think that they need to take your freedom away to give you the care or treatment you need. If you're able to make an informed choice about this, it is your right to say no. The only time when your informed choice might be over-ridden is if you need to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

Deprivation of liberty could take place anywhere - in a care home or hospital, but also in your own home.

If you're unable to make an informed choice, the law says that whoever is looking after you cannot take your freedom away without independent checks that this is the best thing for you. 

This law is set out in the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act.

What are the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards?

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are a system of checks found in the Mental Capacity Act. They apply in registered care homes and hospitals. They're needed to make sure that someone aged 18 or over, who has a mental disorder and is not able to decide to stay in a care home or hospital, really needs to have their freedom taken away to keep them safe from harm.

Two different people will carry out the assessments: a doctor and a trained Best Interests Assessor. If they agree that the deprivation of liberty is necessary, an 'authorisation' is given to the care home or hospital by the council. 

What rights does someone have if there is a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards authorisation?

The person whose freedom has been taken away will always have a representative to speak up on their behalf. This could be a family member, friend or someone trained to do this as a paid professional.

They also have the right to ask for a review from the council, or to appeal the authorisation by asking a Court of Protection judge to look at their case. GOV.UK provides guidance on How to apply to the Court of Protection.

Challenging unlawful deprivation of liberty

If you believe that a friend or family member is being deprived of their liberty without the appropriate authorisation in place you must inform the hospital or care home.

If the hospital or care home does not take appropriate action you can write to the Supervisory Body. For most people in hospital or a care home in Essex this will be Essex County Council.

Please speak to your social worker, if you have one, or call Adult Social Care on 0345 603 7630, or write to:

Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Team

Adult Safeguarding and Quality Assurance

Adult Social Care

Essex County Council


Essex CM1 1QH

When someone is not in a registered care home or hospital

If someone may need to be deprived of their liberty in somewhere other than a care home or hospital (for example in their own home), this situation is not covered by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.  You will need to apply for authorisation from the Court of Protection.

To request an assessment (Registered providers only)

To request an assessment under the MCA DoLS legislation, registered providers (care homes, nursing homes or hospitals) should download the form below, complete it and send it to the Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Team at Essex County Council.

DoLS Form 1 - Standard and Urgent Authorisation Request 


Post:  Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Team

Adult Safeguarding and Quality Assurance

Adult Social Care

Essex County Council


Essex CM1 1QH

Phone:  0333 0135 888 

If deprivation of liberty occurs in any other setting, any concerned individual should contact Adult Social Care on  0345 603 7630.

Other information and advice

The Department of Health has produced the following booklet, Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers.

 The Department of Health has also produced the following easy-read bookets:

rating button