A local solicitor who specialises in Court of Protection cases concerning the elderly has expressed massive concern about government statistics published by the Ministry of Justice on March 28th that revealed there were 4,557 Deprivation of Liberty (DOL) applications in 2018, a 14% increase compared to 2017.
A deprivation of liberty standard authorisation is applied by local authorities to people who lack the capacity to make their own decisions. DOLS are used to prevent such persons from doing a number of things, but in particular from leaving a Care Home or Hospital and choosing where they can live.
Shane Maddocks, a solicitor with leading regional law firm GHP Legal, which has offices in Wrexham, Llangollen, Chirk and Oswestry and represents mental health patients across the whole of the north-west and Shropshire, said: “The increase in the use of DOLS is worrying because we are effectively talking about locking people up.
“It could be argued that the increase in the number of DOLS applications is due to people living longer and therefore becoming more prone to illnesses such as dementia that take away their capacity to make their own decisions. But could it also be the case that DOLs are being applied by Local Authorities to prevent these people from causing too much trouble and cost to manage?
“What is certain is that DOLs should only be used when absolutely necessary and every person has a basic human right to their liberty, which should only be taken away in extreme circumstances.
“People who are deprived of their liberty under DOLS do, however, have the right to challenge this in the Court of Protection and it is essential that those affected, and their families, are made aware of this right.
“Over the past year GHP Legal has received an increased number of requests from clients in Care Homes wanting help to apply to the Court of Protection, which would fit in with the trend highlighted by this week’s statistics. My advice to those affected by DOLS, or a family member, is to seek immediate advice if they disagree with a local authority decision about their care. Whilst this is a niche area of law there are practitioners such as me who will willingly help.”