Dignity Action Day: How Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Protect The Dignity of those in Care


It's Dignity Action Day on the 1st February, supported by the National Dignity Council; the day hopes to make everyone aware of how important it is to ensure people's rights to dignity in care are upheld.

National Dignity Council

Dame Joan Bakewell, the Ambassador for Dignity in Care said:

"Dignity Action Day highlights a more respectful way of behaving towards vulnerable people. The very old and the very young clearly need our respect, but it wouldn’t do any harm to spread the dignity message across the population then we can all benefit."

For those receiving care, whether it be at a care home, through an assisted living arrangement, or in hospital, it's important that their dignity and freedom is upheld. A major part of ensuring a person's dignity in care is respected involves making sure any decisions over their care are made in their best interests and do not unfairly deprive them of their liberty; the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) help to protect this.

Julie Cornes, Partner and Head of Court of Protection at Simpson Millar's London office, explains the DoLS and how they help to protect yours and your loved ones dignity:

What Are The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards?

DoLS were introduced into the Mental Capacity Act 2005 by the Mental Health Act 2007 and make sure that people who lack mental capacity are cared for in a way that doesn't unlawfully restrict their liberty and freedom.

If the authority providing care reaches the decision that they need to deprive a person of their liberty to continue caring for them, to do this lawfully they must follow strict rules. These are the DoLS, and include:

  • Ensuring the person is given a representative who has the right to challenge the decision in the Court of Protection
  • Ensuring the deprivation of liberty is managed and reviewed often

Carers must always try to provide care without the need to deprive a person of their liberty, but when this isn't an option, they must make sure the deprivation is authorised. For people in supported care, only the Court of Protection can make the authorisation. For those in care homes or in hospital, the managing authority must apply to a supervisory body that will assess the application and decide whether or not to grant it.

What Counts as a Deprivation of Liberty?

Test cases that have been heard at the European Court of Human Rights show some examples of when a person may be deprived of their liberty. They can include:

  • Administering medication against a person's will
  • Decisions made over a patients care and where they will live going forward
  • Administering total control over a person's care or activities
  • Refusals to allow a patient to be discharged into other's care

The Supreme Court in the case of P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and P&Q v Surrey County Council said that a person is deprived of their liberty if they lack capacity to consent to arrangements, is under continuous supervision and control, and is not free to leave.

Julie Comments on Dignity Action Day:

"We're pleased to see awareness campaigns like Dignity Action Day. Their 10 "Dignity Do's" include important, but basic values such as "enabling people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control" and "treating each person as an individual". We hope the campaign will help more people realise that dignity and respect in care is an important right."

What If You Think Someone Is Being Deprived of their Liberty Unlawfully?

If you suspect that a loved one in care is being deprived of their liberty, and the manager in charge of their care won't make changes, or hasn't taken the requisite steps to attain a deprivation of liberty authorisation, you may need to seek professional legal help.

Figuring out whether a loved one has been deprived of their liberty can be a complicated process. Professional help will ensure you're supported in initially raising your concerns with the managing bodies in an effort to resolve them. If you aren't able to reach a solution, it may be necessary to seek assistance from the Court of Protection.

Our Court of Protection and Deprivation of Liberty solicitors support those who are concerned that a loved one is being unfairly deprived of their liberty and dignity in care, we often help to secure less restrictive care regimes and help individuals in being moved into more appropriate placements.

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