Tag Archives: Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill and DoLS: Welcome but flawed concession

A useful byproduct of the Brexit madness in the UK Houses of Parliament seems to have been a small outbreak of moderately good sense in a matter far removed from the political hurly burly. To avoid a defeat in a fractious House of Commons, the Government has taken on board serious worries and U-turned over a proposal in the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill that is intended to deal with the debacle over the law on deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) for those in care lacking mental capacity.

Those new to this subject may wish to start here: Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Chaos. But, in brief, the judgment in P v Cheshire West ([2014] UKSC 19), left care providers having to take to court huge numbers of cases over potential deprivation of liberty of people lacking mental capacity. The issue was summed up thus:

“This case is about the criteria for judging whether the living arrangements made for a mentally incapacitated person amount to a deprivation of liberty. If they do, then the deprivation has to be authorised, either by a court or by the procedures known as the deprivation of liberty safeguards [DoLS], set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (“the Mental Capacity Act”). If they do not, no independent check is made on whether those arrangements are in the best interests of the mentally incapacitated person.” (Cheshire West at 1)

Cheshire West was  intended to deal with the problem that local authority packages of care for people who lack mental capacity may constitute a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights on right to liberty.  This, even though the care may have been in a care home or the individual’s own home – a situation characterised as “gilded cages” by critics of the judgment. So deprivation of liberty can occur “in community and domestic settings where the State is responsible for imposing such arrangements” including supported living arrangements (Department of Health Guidance, October 2015).

Courts became the only backstop to gain authorisations for people lacking mental capacity (so unable to consent to deprivation of liberty) in care homes, or their own home under a care package, to prevent this putative deprivation of liberty occuring without legal sanction. Continue reading

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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards descend into costly chaos

Is Britain’s Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards regime, intended to protect people receiving state care in care homes, hospitals and supported living schemes, turning into an expensive legalistic shambles as a result of a controversial human rights case in the UK Supreme Court? The case, Cheshire West ([2014] UKSC 19 ), was intended to deal with a very real problem: that local authority packages of care for people who lack mental capacity may constitute a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to liberty) – even though they are put in place in the interests of the disabled person and even if they are living in a family home. But a couple of bizarre recent cases in the lower courts suggest there is a real problem.

Critics of the Supreme Court position on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) talk of “gilded cages” and argue that human rights should not intervene too rigidly in the discretion of social workers acting in the best interests of clients lacking capacity. Nevertheless, to have no protections in place or to deny them to people without capacity would clearly be wrong and specifically a breach of Article 5 and Article 14 (“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination”.) The Supreme Court came up with a new definition of deprivation of liberty:

“The person is under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave, and the person lacks capacity to consent to these arrangements.”

Compliance or even agreement by the person involved did not prevent the arrangements being a deprivation of liberty. It followsed from this that social services staff had to put care plans under more intense review and particularly that social services departments could not authorise their own social workers’ schemes when they involve domestic supported living arrangments or complex cases – which require the sanction of the Court of Protection. (Note on the judgment here) Once a court has found deprivation of liberty, a regime of expensive legal safeguards must be put in place with oversight by the courts. This is the real issue of controversy as far as local authorities are concerned.
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