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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers

This page contains all the information you need to understand what the Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DOLS) are all about. Importantly, it helps you to:

  • understand your rights to have a say in your friend or family member's care
  • ensure that all possible steps are being taken to protect the interests of your friend or family member while they are being deprived of their liberty


What are the MCA DOLS?

The MCA DOLS provide protection for vulnerable people who are accommodated in hospitals or care homes in circumstances that amount to a deprivation of their liberty and who lack the capacity to consent to the care or treatment they need.

It is anticipated that the majority of people who will require the protection of the MCA DOLS are those people with more severe learning disabilities, older people with any of the range of dementias or people with neurological conditions such as brain injuries.

The MCA DOLS provide that deprivation of liberty:

  • should be avoided whenever possible
  • should only be authorised in cases where it is in the relevant person's best interests and the only way to keep them safe
  • should be for as short a time as possible
  • should be only for a particular treatment plan or course of action.


When can someone be deprived of their liberty?

The MCA DOLS set out clear guidelines on when someone can be deprived of their liberty:

  1. It must be to provide a specific treatment or care plan that is in the person's best interests.
  2. Doctors or care professionals must be satisfied that there is no suitable alternative care plan that would not deprive the person of their liberty.
  3. The hospital or care home where the person is staying. must apply to the primary care trust or local authority responsible for the hospital or care home, for authorisation to begin the care plan.
  4. The supervisory body must conduct six assessments to confirm that deprivation of liberty is lawful and appropriate.


What happens once an MCA DOLS authorisation is granted?

The supervisory body will set how long the authorisation will last.  This should be for as short a time as possible and for no longer than 12 months.

While the authorisation lasts, if at any point the person no longer needs to be deprived of their liberty or their circumstances change, then the authorisation should be reviewed and, where appropriate, end. 


When should a friend or family member be consulted?

Friends or family members previously named by the relevant person (or someone acting on the relevant person's behalf) should be consulted at the following points:

  • BEFORE a request is made by the care home or registered hospital.
  • DURING the assessment process
  • OUTCOME when the outcome is known and the decision has been made.


Relevant person's representative guide

The relevant person's representative guide is a booklet designed to help you understand and fulfil your role as a relevant person's representative (RPR). As an RPR, you have been appointed to support a person who is deprived of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DOLS).

Download the guide here



Further information

The following documents may be useful to you:

Age UK - Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards factsheet

Alzheimer's Society - Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards information

Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards: A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers - this guide explains the role of family, friends and unpaid carers


Further details 

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) Officer
Phone: 01254 585433
Fax: 01254 588968



Forms for care homes or hospitals

If you are a managing authority such as a care home or hospital and feel that someone in your care is deprived of their liberty by the restrictions in place you will need to submit a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Form 1 (standard and urgent request).

To request a further standard authorisation to follow on after the expiry of an existing Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation please complete a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Form 2 (further authorisation request).

To request a review of a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation already in place because there has been a change in the circumstances of the relevant person please complete a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Form 10 (review request).

When the relevant form has been completed, please email it to

If you need help understanding MCA DOLS contacts the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) Officer.

DoLS - Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards