Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards caseloads rose 10% ahead of Supreme Court ruling

Official figures show applications were rising prior to Supreme Court ruling in March that has triggered a surge in cases

Picture: Gano/Phanie/Rex

The number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (Dols) applications rose by 10% in the year before a key Supreme Court judgement that has triggered a surge in cases, official figures show.

Councils in England completed 13,000 Dols applications in 2013-14, up 10% from the 11,900 applications in 2012-13, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows. Of the 13,000 applications made, 59% (7,600 applications) were granted – up from 55% in 2012-13 and the highest percentage since the Dols legislation came into force in 2009.

The HSCIC figures cover the year up to 31 March 2014 so do not reflect the impact of a Supreme Court ruling on 19 March that has already led to a surge in deprivation of liberty cases in 2014-15. The ruling, in the cases of Cheshire West and P & Q, effectively lowered the threshold for deprivation of liberty in care. In doing so it significantly increased the number of people requiring assessment for protection under the Dols scheme.

The Dols were introduced in 2009 to ensure adults who lack the capacity to consent to their care arrangements are only detained in care homes and hospitals when this is in their best interests, to prevent harm to them and as a proportionate response to that harm.

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An investigation by Community Care found that the Supreme Court ruling is already having a significant impact on teams, with statutory deadlines for Dols authorisations routinely being missed. Several councils are setting up dedicated Dols teams to help clear backlogs in referrals.

Research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services found that councils expect Dols applications to exceed 90,000 in 2014-15 in light of the Cheshire West ruling. Figures obtained by Community Care showed that the number of Dols notifications received by the CQC rose significantly in the months following the ruling.

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The HSCIC report said that councils had “reported a sharp increase” in the number of Dols applications following the judgement. To assess the impact of the ruling the HSCIC is to collect data on Dols applications on a quarterly basis in 2014-15. Data had previously only been collected annually.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: “Depriving an individual of their liberty is a measure that is undertaken for the safety of the patient. The Dols legal framework ensures that these individuals are only deprived of their liberty in a necessary and proportionate way. It is hoped that this report will provide information which can help stakeholders understand the extent of DoL applications and their use within councils and nationally.”

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