Sometimes people have difficulty in making decisions for themselves. The ability to make decisions is called "mental capacity" and there are lots of reasons why someone may lack mental capacity temporarily or all of the time, such as illness, brain injury or mental health. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 covers situations like this. To find out more about it see the Department of Health's summary of the Mental Capacity Act.
There are also occasions when someone may not be able to understand what their care needs may be. Under some circumstances it can be necessary to obtain a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation so they can be kept in a place where they can be cared for, usually a care home or a hospital. These Authorisations are time-limited and need the agreement of several people.
Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards focus on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Some people are not able to understand their own care or treatment needs, which may include a need to stay in a hospital or care home. In these cases, for their own safety, it can be necessary to restrict their freedom - for example, stopping them from leaving the hospital - to the point of depriving them of their liberty. This is a very serious step to take, and it is only done in the best interests of the person concerned.
Usually, a care home or hospital will be accommodating someone who may be at risk of harm if they leave. They make a referral to the council, and a council officer coordinates a number of assessments by health and social care staff. When the assessments are complete, a senior council officer checks the assessments and if appropriate agrees that the person can be made subject to a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation.
What is a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation?
A Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation means that a care home or hospital can legally prevent someone leaving their care. This is to make sure that the care is provided in the person's best interests. A key part of the Authorisation is that the person is not able to understand or agree to the care they need, perhaps because of dementia or a learning disability.
How long does a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation last?
Each Authorisation is different depending on the person concerned, but they can't last more than 12 months. Some Authorisations may only last a few weeks, and they can be reviewed at any time, which can result in the Authorisation being withdrawn. Towards the end of the term of the Authorisation it is reviewed. The outcome is either that a new referral is made or the Authorisation ends.
For further information about Deprivation of Liberty, contact our Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards coordinator on 0191 4244037 or view the appropriate policy and procedure on South Tyneside Safeguarding APPP.