What are the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards?

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, or DoLS, come under the Mental Capacity Act. They currently apply to people living in hospitals, care homes and nursing homes. The law says that no one should be deprived of their liberty unless this has been done through a process prescribed by law and that they have access to a right of appeal. The DoLS are necessary to make sure that any deprivation of liberty is lawful.

The Acid Test

Definition of a deprivation of liberty, often referred to as the “Acid Test”, must be met for the person to be considered to be deprived of their liberty. The Acid Test looks at the following:

  • does the person lack capacity to make a decision about where they are living and what their care and treatment needs are?
  • are they subject to continuous supervision and control?
  • are they not free to leave or to live elsewhere without the permission of others?
  • is their care and treatment “imputable to the state”? (this means is there any state involvement in their care and treatment, this would include funding of the placement or hospital, it would also include the place being regulated by the state, such as being monitored by the Care Quality Commission or indeed if the local authority have been made aware of the person in some way)

If the answer to all of these questions is “yes” then the person is being deprived of their liberty and this should then be authorised by the local authority (also referred to as the Supervisory Body).  The hospital or care home (also referred to as the Managing Authority) should make an application for a deprivation of liberty safeguards authorisation and, where possible, this should be done in advance of the person moving to the placement.

For further information, please see SCIE – Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards at a glance.


The Law Society has issued comprehensive guidance on the law relating to the deprivation of liberty safeguards.

The safeguards aim to ensure that those who lack capacity and are residing in care home, hospital and supported living environments are not subject to overly restrictive measures in their day-to-day lives.

The guidance was commissioned by the Department of Health and aims to help solicitors and frontline health and social care professionals identify when a deprivation of liberty may be occurring in a number of health and care settings. It uses case scenarios to explain the law, following the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Cheshire West (2014).

Quick reference sheets included in the guidance also highlight relevant liberty restricting factors and key questions for practitioners relating to each individual setting.

How to request a DoLS

If you are a Managing Authority, for example a care home or hospital, use this form to request a standard or urgent Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.

Don’t know what something means?  Click below open a list of common terms and definitions:

Common terms and definitions