Proposed changes to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)
The Law Commission published draft legislation to reform the law on DoLS on 13 March 2017. This law affects many thousands of people, most of whom are living in care homes and nursing homes.
VoiceAbility engaged with the Law Commission strongly throughout the process with the aim of shaping the proposals so that they would provide effective, proportionate and realistic safeguards to disabled people’s rights. The Commission have concluded that the current system is ‘in crisis’ and must be changed and we have summarised the proposed impact for advocacy.
Whilst concerned about financial implications in the current economic climate, The Law Commission found that:
[T]here are some reforms that we consider fundamental to our new scheme and would need to be properly financed, such as new rights to advocacy.
In relation to advocacy:
- The Law Commission’s stated intention is to enhance advocacy provision. The proposals provide for advocacy to everyone who is being assessed for a Liberty Protection Safeguard (the new term being proposed), or who is subject to a Liberty Protection Safeguard who does not have a friend of family member to support their views.
- If the person has a friend or family member to support them, then advocacy will be provided to the friend or family member. The statutory requirement to provide advocacy to the friend or family member substantially strengthens existing legislation. In effect it shifts this provision from being on an ‘opt in’ to an ‘opt out’ basis. It is intended to make it far more likely that people receive this support.
- The proposals also strengthen current law by providing for 16/17 year olds and for people in a wider range of settings, including supported living and people’s own homes.
- The Law Commission proposes replacing Relevant Person Representatives with advocates and Appropriate Persons.
Timescales for change
The current law remains in force about all aspects of DoLS, including the requirements to provide advocacy.
Now that the Law Commission have published their proposals, it will be up to the Government to decide whether, when and how to respond to the proposals. We are not expecting change to occur swiftly not least due to the pressure on Parliamentary time and Government attention due to Brexit.
We have produced a 7 page summary of the 259 page report, which highlights the recommendations and impact for advocacy. The final legislation may still look very different from its current form and we will continue to raise questions and to encourage improvements.