Deprivation of liberty reforms postponed

Law Commission project has deadline pushed back to March 2017

care home
Photo: Image broker/Rex

The final report of a major government-commissioned review of deprivation of liberty legislation has been postponed until next year, it has been announced.

The Law Commission was due to hand ministers their final recommendations, including draft legislation, on a proposed replacement for the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) by the end of this year. However, the project has been pushed back to March 2017.

In a statement issued today, the commission said: “The reason for the delay is the complexity of the task of drafting legislation on such an important issue. It is vitally important to get the law right here. Badly drafted, over-complicated law is a big part of the problem with the current DoLS, and we do not want to fall into the same trap again.”

The news will come as a blow to local authorities, with councils having struggled to meet their legal requirements under the current DoLS framework since the Supreme Court’s landmark ‘Cheshire West’ ruling in March 2014 triggered a surge in DoLs applications. A national case backlog hit more than 100,000 in April.

High hopes have been pinned on the Law Commission review delivering a system that can better handle current case numbers, while still protecting people’s human rights. The proposed replacement scheme is expected to cover both residential and community settings.

The commission said: “We are very aware that the project deadline was brought forward at the request of the Department of Health and for a good reason: there is an urgent need for the system to be improved. We know too that many stakeholders are waiting for our report and draft Bill and will be disappointed with any delay.  For this we apologise.

“But we are convinced that it is far more important to deliver a fully completed draft Bill that can deliver effective safeguards to those being deprived of liberty. We are also confident that our new publication date will not delay the introduction of legislation into Parliament, should the government wish to do so. It will be for government to decide how to take forward the recommendations and draft Bill.”

5 Responses to Deprivation of liberty reforms postponed

  1. Terry McClatchey December 5, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    Delay to get this right is wise and better than rushing for the sake of arbitrary deadlines. I worry however that the Brexit issue could overwhelm getting an appropriate regime on a timely basis. The DoLS were developed in response to the UK falling foul of the European Court of Human Rights in the Bournewood case. A cynical government might take the opportunity to save money by dispensing with or weakening important safeguards for adults who are deprived of their liberty. That is not a necessary consequence of Brexit but busy and financially pressed governments don’t always get their priorities right.

  2. Katherine Newman December 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    I too worry about the reforms and the risk of watering down the process to save money. Currently a robust independent assessment does safeguard peoples rights and highlights poor practice. Reform is right but at what cost?

  3. Graham December 13, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Let’s hope the recommendations when they do arrive streamline an extremely cumbersome process that wastes time protecting people who are not at risk in order to identify those who are. We seem often in this country to develop and implement legally and morally ‘perfect’ solutions to problems, which we then fail to deliver because they take no account of the resources available to properly deliver them. Laudable aims but undeliverable processes protect nobody.

  4. Martin Fitch December 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

    Very disappointed by the delay. The DoL ‘safeguards’ are vastly over-inclusive and wasting precious resources. My Mother, with advanced dementia, had to have one, along with all residents in her Care Home, at around £600 for each plus on-costs. Completely pointless. Just a gravy-train for the assessors – one did 7 in one day at my Mothers Home.
    They should be suspended until the new version comes on-stream to save hundreds of millions of pounds a year that is desperately needed for care of the elderly.

    • Karen December 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

      So you think it’s okay for people to be deprived of their liberty because you take offense at a practitioner getting paid for doing the assessment? Why don’t we suspend trials and let those that really should have their liberty denied go free because the judge and lawyers do lots of cases a day and can afford expensive suits.