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Government delays long-awaited implementation of Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS)

5 April 2023

The government has announced it will delay the implementation of Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS).

In a Department of Health and Social Care newsletter, it said: The Government has taken the difficult decision to delay the implementation of the Liberty Protection Safeguards beyond the life of this Parliament. This was one of a number of decisions taken as part of prioritising work on social care.” 

This is a hugely disappointing result for advocates, campaigners and – most importantly – the thousands of people waiting for a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) assessment who continue to be deprived of their liberty without proper justification and necessary protections for their human rights.

Reacting to the announcement, Jonathan Senker, VoiceAbility’s chief executive, said:

The government’s decision is an unacceptable blow to the thousands of people who are being unlawfully deprived of their liberty.

This means people are held in places they don’t want to live or face restrictions on where they go, without a legal basis for doing so.

Imagine not being able to leave the place you live in even to get some fresh air or to go for a walk in the park? Or being separated from your family, spouse or partner, without an explanation that you understand as to why, or lacking any effective way of challenging this. The current system is failing thousands of people right now and isn’t fit for purpose.

Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) were first expected to be implemented in October 2020. Based on the government’s announcement today, we expect to be waiting until 2025, and possibly even longer, for LPS to come into force. That’s at least 5 extra years of yet more people being deprived of their liberty, sometimes on weak grounds and often without clear legal basis.

Urgent change is needed to protect people’s rights. The government must work with local authorities now to ensure people’s voices are heard and their rights respected. 

These actions do not replace the need for thorough reform to safeguard people’s liberty. But we cannot wait – it’s outrageous that people continue to live and, in many cases, die while being unlawfully deprived of their liberty.” 

What should the government do now?

While we are disappointed that the government has decided to delay the critically important task of implementing LPS, there are two things it can do now to ensure people have their voices heard and their rights upheld . This would show they are not overlooking major problems with DoLS. 

1: We must make sure people’s voices are heard and support their rights

Government must redirect resources earmarked for LPS implementation to fund more advocates and Best Interest Assessors and invest in the current DoLS system. 

This will help ease the backlog for DoLS assessments, which currently means thousands are stuck on waiting lists without protections they are legally entitled to. This would result in better outcomes for people and pave the way for smoother implementation of LPS by any future government. 

2: We must improve understanding of DoLS

Awareness and understanding of how the Mental Capacity Act works and the duties and responsibilities within it are often poor even among health and social care professionals. 

Government must launch a national programme to improve public and professional understanding of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) and the DoLS. 

The same programme could also be used to improve understanding of LPS when it’s implemented, and would provide useful evidence of how best to support smooth LPS implementation down the line

What’s next?

VoiceAbility has led efforts within the sector to ensure proper protection for people’s liberty and rights. We subsequently worked closely with colleagues from the Department of Health and Social Care on their consultation for the LPS Code of Practice, and pulled together the advocacy sector’s joint response to the consultation in July 2022. 

We are deeply disappointed in the government’s decision to delay the long-overdue implementation of LPS, given the unworkable state of the current system. 

We remain committed to calling on future governments to prioritise implementation while working with government to improve the situation now. 

If you or your organisation are interested in working together, please contact us.