Sharp rise in deprivation of liberty safeguard applications, latest figures reveal

More than 75,000 people in England were deprived of their liberty from April 2015 to March 2016 amid a sharp rise in safeguarding applications.
Deprivation of liberty

More than 75,000 people in England were deprived of their liberty from April 2015 to March 2016 amid a sharp rise in safeguarding applications.

Local authorities received 195,840 deprivation of liberty safeguard (DoLS) applications during 2015-16, the highest number since they were introduced in 2009.

Deprivation of liberty
Deprivation of liberty safeguard applications are most commonly used for older people.
Picture: Alamy

Of the 105,055 applications completed, 76,530 were granted – this means 28,530 (27%) were rejected either because they did not meet the criteria, individual circumstances changed or the subject died during the assessment process.

DoLS allow hospitals or care homes to place restrictions or restraints on a person, such as where they can go or what they can do, under the Mental Capacity Act and assessments are made ahead of a local authority decision.

Stringent checks

A Supreme Court ruling in 2014 led to an ‘acid test’ for assessments, and also meant care arrangements that previously would not have been considered a deprivation of liberty had to undergo stringent checks.

This has led to a sharp rise in applications, as noted by NHS Digital, which released the latest annual data.

DoLS are most commonly used for older people, as the statistics show.

Last resort

Alzheimer’s Society senior policy officer Martina Kane said: 'It is disgraceful that nearly 30,000 people were wrongfully deprived of their liberty and in over a quarter of cases practitioners are still locking people in, sedating them, restraining them or otherwise treating them as second class citizens.

'Depriving someone of their liberty should always be a last resort and only ever done in someone's best interests.

'It is crucial that the quality of care provided to people with dementia is improved to ensure that.'

There are some regional differences in applications. For example, the North East has the highest rate of applications completed (665 per 100,000 residents).

The proportion of applications granted is consistent across regions, the report notes.

In London and the North East, 86% of applications were granted.

Local government pressures

The overall number of DoLS applications for England was 454 per 100,000 residents in 2015-16.

Local Government Association spokesperson Izzi Seccombe said: 'These alarming figures are further evidence of the significant added pressure facing local government as a result of increased DoLS assessments, which is estimated to be costing councils more than £170 million a year.

The Supreme Court judgement saw a 68% increase in completed applications for 2014-15 but this is compared with a 380% increase between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

This represents the initial surge following the judgement in March 2014.

NHS Digital: Mental Capacity Act (2005) Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (England)