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Following a Supreme Court ruling that has lowered the threshold for deprivation of liberty in care, thousands more assessments will need to be carried out under Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs) by Best Interest Assessors (BIAs).

Depriving someone of their liberty or using restraint are serious interventions, especially for vulnerable people, such as those with dementia or learning disabilities, who are unable to make decisions for themselves. It is therefore essential that health and social care staff understand the rights of those under their care, which is where the role of BIAs come in. 

What is a BIA?

Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a deprivation of liberty must be authorised by local authorities using DoLS procedures for care homes and hospitals, or the Court of Protection in other settings. The BIA is one of six assessments that must take place before authorisation can be given. It’s the BIA’s role to assess whether a person in care is being or will be deprived of their liberty and, if so, whether this is in their best interests. 

The impact of the Cheshire West and P&Q cases

In March 2014, a landmark judgement was made based on the ruling of the ‘P v Cheshire West and Chester Council’ and ‘P&Q v Surrey County Council’ cases.  The two separate cases concerned a man (P) with cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome, and two sisters (known as P and Q) with learning disabilities. Each case was taken to the Court of Appeal and was judged not to be a deprivation of liberty, because of the ‘relative normality’ of their lives compared either with their previous circumstances or with others with disabilities. However, this decision was rejected by the Supreme Court, which argued that these reasons were not relevant to assessment. 

Following these cases, the Supreme Court widened the definition of deprivation of liberty in care, meaning many people, unless they have a DoLs authorisation, are being unlawfully detained. This has considerably increased the availability of jobs for BIAs and the demand for social workers with BIA certification.  

The Supreme Court ruling

The court ruled that people are deprived of their liberty if they:
Lack the capacity to make decisions about their care and residence and;
Are subject to continuous supervision and control under the responsibility of the
state and;
Lack the option to leave their care setting

How do I become a BIA?

BIAs are mostly social workers, who enter the role with more than two years’ post-qualifying experience, have completed an approved BIA qualification and have a working knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and its code of practice.

If you head to page 10 of Sanctuary Social Work News magazine, you can find out what 'a day in the life of a Best Interest Assessor' is like since the new ruling. 

Check out Sanctuary's Best Interest Assessor jobs.

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