Right to liberty
We all have the right to liberty; it can only be taken away in certain circumstances, and there are strong legal safeguards to protect us if we’re detained, for example if we’re living in a care home and are not allowed to leave.
An advocate might work with this right in the role of a Paid Relevant Person’s Representative (or paid RPR). A paid RPR works with someone who can’t make decisions about their own care and treatment, which is known as lacking capacity, (maybe because of a memory impairment or learning difficulty), is being deprived of their liberty under what’s known as a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) authorisation, and does not have family or friends who are able or willing to take on that role.
The RPR helps the person understand their DoLS authorisation, as far as possible, and to make sure their rights to challenge the deprivation are upheld. To do this, the RPR has to visit the person regularly and keep up to date with how they are and check that any restrictions placed upon them are in their best interests.
How we help protect Human Rights
As an example, Simon* took on the role of paid RPR for Emily* who was living in a care home, and whose family members did not want to do it.
When Simon visited Emily, he was not sure that she did lack the capacity to make decisions about her care and where she should live. The care home disagreed with Simon and said that they believed Emily was not able to make those decisions for herself. Simon explained to the care home that he was independent of the care home or social services, and that part of his job was to make sure Emily's rights were being upheld. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions about their life, unless it is shown that they aren’t able to do that.
Simon contacted the DoLS team at social services to ask that they review the DoLS, and that Emily's capacity to make decisions was assessed again.
This was done, and the assessor reported that they believed Emily did indeed have capacity to make decisions about her care and where she wanted to live. This meant that she should no longer be deprived of her liberty, and should be free to make her own decisions.
Emily decided to remain in the care home, but the difference was that this was her own decision, and she was no longer wrongly deprived of her liberty.