Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards caseloads continue to mount on back of Supreme Court ruling

Eight times as many Dols applications from April to December 2014 than in whole of previous financial year, say official figures

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (Dols) caseloads have continued to mount in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last March, official figures published today confirm.

Quarterly applications from providers to councils to deprive people of their liberty reached their highest level in October to December last year, said the Health and Social Care Information Centre, as it published its latest data collection on Dols case numbers.

There were 33,600 Dols applications during the last quarter of 2014 from the 126 English councils that submitted data, amounting to 79 per 100,000 people, up from 78 per 100,000 from July to September and 57 per 100,000 in April to June 2014.

Dols figures


Overall, there were almost eight times as many Dols applications from April to December 2014 than in the whole of the 2013-14, according to data from the 122 councils that submitted figures for all three quarters. These councils received 83,100 from April to December 2014, compared with 11,300 in 2013-14.

This shows that councils are on course to receive at least nine times as many applications in 2014-15 than in 2013-14, as predicted by Community Care’s investigation into Dols case numbers published last October.

Why Dols applications are going up

Dols case numbers are going up because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the linked cases of P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and P&Q v Surrey County Council, in March 2014. This effectively lowered the threshold for what constituted a deprivation of liberty in care, which meant many more people were deprived of their liberty than was previously thought.
The acid test set out by Supreme Court justice Lady Hale specified that a person was deprived of their liberty if they lacked capacity to consent to their care and residence arrangements, and:-

  • they were under continuous supervision and control;
  • they were not free to leave; and
  • their deprivation of liberty could be attributed to the state.

Previous factors that local authorities and care providers had to take into account when considering a deprivation of liberty, such as whether the person was objecting to their confinement or whether their situation was one of “relative normality” for someone in their condition, were rendered irrelevant as a result.

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