DoLS caseloads hit record levels

Dip in deprivation of liberty applications in 2020-21 reversed in 2021-22, as proportion of cases completed within statutory timescales falls to one in five

A red line graph going upwards
Image: Supakrit

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards caseloads hit record levels in 2021-22, official figures show.

Councils in England received 270,650 applications to deprive a person of liberty from care homes and hospitals, up 5.5% on 2020-21.

Last year had seen the first fall in DoLS applications since case numbers started to rocket in the wake of the 2014 Cheshire West judgment which, in effect, lowered the threshold for what constituted a deprivation of liberty in law.

However, 2021-22 saw a return to increasing case numbers, with DoLS practitioners and teams completing a record number of authorisations during the year, 254,215, up 3% on the year below.

2021-22 DoLS caseloads at a glance

  • 270,650 applications (up 5.5% year on year)
  • 254,215 completed applications (up 3%)
  • 153 days per completed application (up from 148)
  • 124,145 uncompleted applications (up 4%)
  • 20% of applications met statutory timeframe (down from 24%)

Source: Mental Capacity Act 2005, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, 2021-22 (NHS Digital)

With the increase in case numbers came a drop in the proportion of standard applications completed within the statutory timeframe of 21 days. Just 20% met the target, down from 24% in 2020-21, with the average time taken to complete applications rising from 148 to 153 days.

At the same time, the case backlog grew, with 124,145 applications left uncompleted at the end of the year, up 4% on the previous year. This follows two consecutive years in which the number of uncompleted applications has fallen. The figures also showed that 43,120 cases had lasted over a year.

Region outstrips all others on completed applications

The North East outstripped all other regions in terms of completed applications, with 1,112 carried out per 100,000 adults during 2021-22, almost twice the England average (564).

The lowest rate (462 per 100,000) was in the East of England.

The proportion of applications that were for urgent authorisations – under which the provider self-authorises the deprivation of liberty with the local authority under a duty to check this within seven days – was 56%, up from 54% in 2020-21.

As in the previous year, most applications (56%) were not granted, with the most common reason being that the person’s circumstances had changed.

The sector is currently preparing to implement the replacement for DoLS, the Liberty Protection Safeguards, though no date has been set for it to come into force. The government recently consulted on an amended Mental Capacity Act 2005 code of practice, including statutory guidance on how to implement the LPS.


One Response to DoLS caseloads hit record levels

  1. Terry McClatchey August 21, 2022 at 10:36 am #

    Does anyone remember when this ongoing failure was so bad, Government Ministers argued there was a need for new primary legislation to resolve it? New legislation (that won’t fix the problem but gives it a new name) duely went through Parliament but is still far from implementation. The promised magic of LPS gives everyone an excuse to disregard compliance with current law. LPS will tidy up some anomalies of DoLS but it won’t clear to backlog or create huge new capacity. New excuses will be required when the magic bullet doesn’t arrive. Meanwhile, vulnerable people continue to be deprived of their liberty on loose criteria that would never be tolerated in the criminal justice or mental health systems.