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Age UK report: Older people and DoL in care homes

Retaining information: man looking out of window

Age UK has published a report expressing concerns about the way Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards is being enacted in England and Wales. The report calls for immediate action to tackle the DoLS backlog, while also supporting reforms to the DoLS process, which have been postponed now for several years.

Key highlights from the Age UK report

  • ‘DoLS is not working well in practice, and for an alarming number of people is not working well at all. Chronic under-funding of the scheme by central Government has led to serious problems with its administration, leading to an ever-growing backlog of DoLS cases that is so vast it can now probably never be eradicated’ (page 3, paragraph 4).
  • ‘The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has also identified instances where local authorities had effectively adopted a policy of not even trying to deal with large numbers of law and medium priority applications…49, 325 people died while waiting for their application to be dealt with.  The reality therefore is that the rights of some of the most vulnerable older people in our society have been and continue to be routinely denied’ (page 4, paragraph 2).
  • ‘Age UKs own research… found a marked lack of concern from some professionals and others caught up in the system about the absence of proper DoLS processes being followed on the basis that what really mattered was that the individuals in question were safe’ (page 5, paragraph 1).
  • This marked lack of concern can be seen within the following quote shared later in the report: ‘It’s not nice to think you have people waiting. When you see the number waiting you do feel terrible. But it’s not that big of a deal, those people are safe, and if there were concerns, they would be raised and prioritised’ – a local authority representative’ (page 14, paragraph 4).
  • ‘The long-term Government failure to grasp the nettle around DoLS is arguably symptomatic of a broader failure to reform and refinance social care… We are very clear that every day this does not happen, highly vulnerable older people are being let down because they are being denied their legal rights in plain sight, and that’s fundamentally wrong’ (page 5, paragraphs 7- 8).
  • ‘Less people will be deprived of their liberty if there is more money. Are there enough people working to properly scrutinise each case and see if there are any other options?’ (page 11, paragraph 2).

Why is it still a ‘hidden’ crisis?

While the report is certainly quite damning in its criticism of the current system, the report only focuses on the older population (as is Age UK’s remit). However, as we know, DoLS can be applied to anyone over the age of 18 – therefore suggesting an even wider issue than that expressed by Age UK.

Furthermore, we are also quite concerned that this crisis – which we have spoken about on numerous times over the years– still remains relatively ‘hidden’ to the wider population. This despite numerous challenges raised in the courts, reports from the House of Lords and monitoring bodies, plus issues raised by the ombudsman, via social media, in education and other channels.

We therefore hope that this really useful report from Age UK can be used as a catalyst for more discussion around the DoLS process, and the serious crisis we are facing in health and social care.

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