There has been a ninefold increase in the number of applications concerning the ‘deprivation of liberty’ (DoL) safeguards by local councils, new figures suggest.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that people who are unable to make decisions for themselves can be deprived of their liberty in certain circumstances. Decisions made in their best interests by councils and courts can sometimes constitute a violation of their human right to liberty. As a result, the DoL safeguards were added to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
According to official figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the average number of such applications has increased from 1,000 a month to almost 9,000 a month over the last year. The figures were gathered from 132 local councils in England. Recently, a number of them reported problems coping with the backlog of cases since the Cheshire West decision.
Earlier this year, a Supreme Court decision effectively lowered the threshold for what could be considered a deprivation of liberty. As a result of the so called ‘Cheshire West case’, the number of applications made under the 2005 Act has risen dramatically. The Court ruled that the living conditions of three people with mental disabilities constituted a deprivation of their liberty, overruling a decision in the Court of Appeal by President of the Family Division Sir James Munby. In his original ruling, Sir James had said that the restrictions were “inevitable” given the “various disabilities” of the people involved.
In August, Sir James Munby set out new guidelines in an attempt to ‘streamline’ the deprivation of liberty safeguard application process.