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DoLS: Could Changes To The Way We Work Herald The End Of Liberty Protection Safeguards?

UK - The implementation of the Liberty Protection Safeguards has been delayed until April 2022. Minister of State Helen Whatley said:

"LPS will authorise deprivation of liberty in order to provide care or treatment to an individual who lacks capacity to consent to their arrangements, in England and Wales. It will replace a system that many agree is overly bureaucratic and complicated.

It is paramount that implementation of LPS is successful so that the new system provides the safeguards needed. The intention to date, subject to the Department for Health and Social Care’s work with stakeholders and delivery partners, was for LPS to come into force on 1 October 2020.

It is now clear that successful implementation is not possible by this October. We now aim for full implementation of LPS by April 2022. Some provisions, covering new roles and training, will come into force ahead of that date. I will continue to update the sector and stakeholders on timings.

The Government will undertake a public consultation on the draft regulations and Code of Practice for LPS. That will run for 12 weeks, allowing sufficient time for those that are affected, including those with learning disabilities, to engage properly.

The sector will need time following the publication of the final Code to prepare for implementation. We will give the sector sufficient time to prepare for the new system to ensure successful implementation. I am considering a period of approximately six months for this."

There has been a lot of criticim of the Liberty Protection Safeguard due to the lack of independent scrutiny in relation to Care Home Managers undertaking the assessment to authorise the deprivation of a residents liberty.

Currently, assessments under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards remain statutory assessments under the MCA 2005 which assess whether an individual is able to consent to the deprivation of their liberty due to cognitive impairment.

At present there is a very real risk of BIAs becoming ‘super spreaders’ of the coronavirus, infecting some of the most vulnerable and frail in our community.

In April, Lord Bethnell stated that a ‘careful balance’ should be struck between ‘the need to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society with preventing the spread of the virus.’ For this reason, the assessments cannot be suspended at the present time.

However, he feels that significant improvements in the process could include making it clearer when a DoLS authorisation is needed, and the basis on which an assessment can be made. This could include, for example, phone or video calling for assessments.

A significant portion of a Best Interest Assessor’s (BIA) typical work time and cost is associated with travel to and from the locations where the assessments are being performed. Although various clients may be visited in a particular area, BIA's will typically spend several hours driving a week.

Assessments made by telephone or video calls will reduce fuel costs, and could arguably improve the experience for service users. Many people diagnosed with cognitive impairment are more alert at certain times of the day, which due to time constraints may not correspond to the moment they are interviewed by a DoLS assessor on-site.

This increase in efficiency could potentially help with the considerable backlog of DoLS Assessments for local authorities. Other initiatives being explored include the use of special software such as DoLSpro Assessment Support Tool which allows users to streamline their DoLS assessments and reduce repetition of information.

Many in the social work profession are looking to such technological solutions, coming to the forefront during the current Coronavirus crisis, as potential avenues for future efficiencies and fundamental changes in the way social workers will be carrying out their duties in the future.

The argument against DoLS was the post Cheshire West backlog. With more streamlined ways of working, the backlog could significantly reduce and mean that the current scheme, with the independent scrutiny remains in place.

This could actually change the way these assessments are done, and mean that the move to LPS is not required.

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