Understanding when someone is deprived of their liberty

We’ve updated our guidance on the law relating to deprivation of liberty.

This guidance will help solicitors and people working in health and social care to identify when a deprivation of liberty may be taking place.

Since the publication of our original guidance in 2015, there have been important developments in the law relating to deprivation of liberty, including clarification of the position of:

  • those under 18
  • those in receipt of life-sustaining medical treatment

For several years, it had been anticipated that these developments would be reflected in an updated version of the statutory Code of Practice.

However, with the announcement of an indefinite delay to the implementation of the Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) in April 2023, there is no immediate prospect of an updated code to accompany the LPS.

This guidance draws together the assistance that can be found in the case law and from the practical experience of the authors who, in different contexts, advise upon and act in cases involving questions of deprivation of liberty.

It includes an overview of the legal framework, including the special considerations relating to those under 18.

The guidance applies that framework to different settings:

  • hospitals
  • psychiatric care
  • care homes
  • supported living/shared lives/extra care
  • at home
  • palliative care and hospices

For each setting, a list of potentially ‘liberty-restricting’ factors are given that may indicate that a deprivation of liberty is occurring.

Scenarios are also given, which illustrate:

  • a deprivation of liberty
  • a potential deprivation of liberty depending on the circumstances
  • a situation unlikely to amount to a deprivation of liberty

Each chapter concludes with a list of questions that professionals can ask themselves whenever they are confronted with a situation which may amount to a deprivation of liberty.

You can download the whole guidance below, or as individual chapters covering specific care settings.

You can also download quick reference guides for each setting.

Guidance documents

Identifying a deprivation of liberty: a practical guide (PDF 1.7 MB)

Part I: Overview

Chapter 1: introduction (PDF 194 KB)

Chapter 2: the law (PDF 349 KB)

Chapter 3: four key factors in applying the acid test (PDF 220 KB)

Chapter 4: children and young people under 18 (PDF 414 KB)

Part II: Specific settings

Chapter 5: deprivation of liberty in hospital (PDF 326 KB)

Chapter 6: the psychiatric setting (PDF 299 KB)

Chapter 7: the care home setting (PDF 389 KB)

Chapter 8: supported living services, shared lives schemes and extra care housing (PDF 188 KB)

Chapter 9: deprivation of liberty at home (PDF 171 KB)

Chapter 10: the hospice and palliative setting (PDF 170 KB)

Part III: Further information

Chapter 11: further resources (PDF 260 KB)

Appendix: notes on authors and acknowledgements (PDF XX KB)

Quick reference guides

Our quick reference guides for specific care settings highlight factors that may restrict a person’s liberty and questions to help you establish whether a person is being deprived of their liberty:

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