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Government asserts ongoing support for change to DOLs

The government still accepts the need to change the current Deprivation of Liberty safeguards (DOLs) despite delaying the implementation of the replacement Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS).

In a response to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the government asserted: “We are pleased that we have made progress towards introducing the LPS. The decision to delay the implementation of the LPS will enable us to focus on our priority of ensuring that everyone can access the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

The response follows a letter by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (the Joint Committee) to care ministers to express “deep concern” about worsening problems with the current DoLS system.

Key worries include that only a fifth of standard DoLS applications are approved within the 21 days required by law, with the average timescale for approval being 153 days. It highlights that this means that in 80 per cent of cases the individual has been deprived of their liberty, without authorisation, for a substantial periods. The Joint Committee is also concerned that non-means-tested legal aid continues to be unavailable for challenges to a deprivation of liberty where authorisation is delayed, or where authorisation is granted directly by the Court of Protection.

The Joint Committee also voiced concerns about a “general poor understanding” of the DOLs system which currently applies.

In its challenge to the government, the Joint Committee posed four questions:

  1. Does the Government still believe that the system of DoLS is in need of reform? If so, given the delay in the implementation of the LPS, are any reforms of the system currently planned in the interim?
  2. What steps are being taken to address the delays to the processing and completion of DoLS applications, with the aim of ensuring that no one is unlawfully deprived of their liberty in a care setting?
  3. Will the availability of non-means-tested legal aid be extended to include those who may be subject to deprivation of liberty in care settings without an authorisation in place?
  4. What steps are being taken to ensure that those involved in making DoLS decisions receive adequate human rights training, and fully understand the operation of DoLS?

The UK government said that it would publish a response to the consultation that was held in 2022 regarding the new LPS system, and on changes to the MCA Code, with the aim of publishing a revised MCA Code. It also said there would be refreshed standards for Best Interest Assessor Training and a Mental Capacity Act toolkit –  – but without specifying any timetable.  

Care minister Helen Whately added: “It is also essential that all those involved in DoLS decisions have sufficient understanding of the MCA which underpins the safeguards.”

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