Mental Capacity Act and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

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Mental Capacity Act (2005)

Each one of us has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Sometimes though, people do not have the ability or the skills (the capacity) to make their own decisions and need help to do so.

However, whenever someone else makes decisions for another person, it raises the chance that an adult could be abused. This can happen whether they are:

  • in a residential care home
  • living at home and receiving care
  • during an stay in hospital

Recognising this risk, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was introduced. The NHS Choices website has full details of what the Mental Capacity Act is. It protects everyone in England and Wales who are found to be unable to make decisions for themselves and applies to everyone from the age of 16.

There are a number of factors which could result in a person having a lack of capacity to make their own decisions, including:

  • dementia
  • severe learning disabilities
  • mental health issues
  • stroke

Brain injuries, being in a state of unconsciousness as a result of a coma, an accident or having had general anaesthetic are also reasons why a person may lack capacity to make their own decisions.

However, just because a person is experiencing one of these conditions, does not automatically mean they lack this ability to make decisions for themselves.

The Mental Capacity Act therefore demands that health and care professionals must always assume a person has the mental capacity to make their own decision unless it has been proven that they cannot.


The Mental Capacity Act makes it a legal requirement for  anyone assessed as lacking mental capacity to receive advocacy when they are unable to communicate their wishes.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

Where it has been assessed that a person does not have the skills required to make their own decisions:

  • a decision can be taken for them which must be in their best interests
  • treatment and care provided must be suitable and restrict basic rights and freedoms as minimally as possible

However, there are times when adults who are unable to make decisions about their treatment and support have to be cared for in a particularly restrictive way to keep them safe.

This is covered by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, which is part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

It aims to protect people living in care homes and residential care, as well as those spending time in hospital. It ensures they are cared for in a way which does not inappropriately restrict their freedom.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards administration:

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards advice or information:

Further advice, guidance and information

The Mind charity website has clear and well explained information about the Mental Capacity Act.

You can also download the following documents:

Professional guidance about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards for providers