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More than 1,000 people were unlawfully deprived of their liberty by Cheshire East Council, a new investigation has found.

The investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council had “significant” delays in processing Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS).

A DOLS is a legal tool used to “ensure people who cannot consent to their care arrangements in a care home/hospital are protected if those arrangements deprive them of their liberty”, according to the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

The Ombudsman investigation said: “Mr X complained about the council’s delay issuing a DoLS authorisation for his father and about issues relating to financial assessment.

“There was no fault in the way the council handled issues about financial assessment.

“But the council was at fault for a significant delay in making a standard DoLS authorisation for Mr X’s father. Mr X’s father was not caused significant injustice by this.

“The council is also at fault for failing to process DoLS applications for other people and there is potential injustice to them.

“The Ombudsman recommends the council takes action to address the wider problem.”

According to communitycare.co.uk, investigators found that Cheshire East Council’s “triaging” of DOLS authorisations created a backlog of 1,032 uncompleted “low or medium priority” cases.

Following the investigation, the council has agreed to “produce an action plan for how it will deal with incoming DOLS applications and the backlog of unassessed applications”, according to the Ombudsman.

This plan will ‘include in the action plan a mechanism for addressing cases where a request is eventually not approved and unlawful deprivation of liberty had a potentially harmful impact on that person’, it added.

Cllr Laura Jeuda, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We have agreed to remedy any injustice to those affected and to prevent similar problems in future.

“We will produce an action plan for dealing with DoOS cases and that will reflect the changes in law and government guidance resulting from the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019.

“The action plan will include a mechanism for addressing cases where a request is not approved, and unlawful deprivation of liberty could have a potentially harmful impact on that person.

“The action plan will be submitted to the Ombudsman by February 18 and we look forward to the Ombudsman’s approval of the plan.”

The full Ombudsman report can be found here.

(story by Ethan Davies, Local Democracy Reporter)

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