Calls for ‘urgent’ DoLS system overhaul as applications hit record high
Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard (DoLS) applications are at the highest since they began, prompting calls to the government to reduce the growing burden on councils.
The latest figures from NHS Digital show that councils received almost 196,000 DoLS applications in 2015-16, the largest amount since they were introduced in 2009.
In 2014-15, 137,540 applications were made, with a month-on-month growth, since the 2014 Cheshire West case substantially expanded the circumstances in which an application must be made to deprive a patient of their liberty.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA community wellbeing board, said: “These alarming figures are further evidence of the significant added pressure facing local government as a result of increased DoLS assessments, which is estimated to be costing councils more than £170 million a year.
“Councils are doing everything they can to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people and will continue to prioritise those most in need. But the government needs to fulfil its promise to overhaul the system as a matter of urgency and provide adequate funding so that councils have the time and money to do this properly.
“Failure to do this will have a damaging impact on crucial council services on which people rely and will lead to more vulnerable people left facing long waiting times for assessments."
Councils have previously warned that the increased cost of processing DoLS applications in order to meet the more rigorous requirements will contribute to the growing funding crisis in adult social care.
A Law Commission review said that £400m is needed to meet the new costs of assessments, but the total funding is currently just £35m.
Liverpool, Shropshire, Richmond upon Thames and Nottinghamshire councils have now launched a judicial review to try to force the government to fully fund the cost of the applications.
Of the applications received in 2015-16, more than 105,055 were completed – compared to 62,645 the year before – and of these, 76,530 (or 73%) were granted. This was a small reduction compared to 83% granted in 2014-15, although the overall trend has been for more applications to be granted.
The number of applications varied by region, with 900 applications for every 100,000 adults in the north east compared to just 319 in London. Only 44% of applications were granted in the south west, whereas 86% were granted in the north east and London.
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