MORE than 100 vulnerable Swindon residents have been left in limbo for over a year while carers applied to strip them of their freedom.

Hospitals and care homes must apply to councils for permission to take away the freedom of anyone deemed to lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care.

There is currently a legal maximum time limit of 21 days for applications to be processed. Swindon Borough Council had 475 applications outstanding at the end of March 2019, the latest NHS Digital figures show.

Of these, 170 (36 per cent) had been sitting in limbo for over a year. A further 90 cases (19 per cent of all applications) had been stuck in the system for more than six months.

Once an application has been approved, the person subject to it is granted legal protections, including the right to appeal the decision and have the restrictions imposed on them regularly reviewed.

There are concerns that people with live applications are being denied these protections and in some cases may be facing unnecessary restrictions.

In Swindon, 69 per cent of all the applications completed in 2018-19 resulted in the deprivation of liberty being refused – 600 cases in total.

Of these, 10 were because the criteria had not been met, while 435 were the result of the person’s circumstances having changed while the application was processed.

The average processing time for all completed applications was 115 days – more than 16 weeks – while the longest took 1,688 days. Only 9 per cent of applications were completed within the statutory 21 days.

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “The government has recognised that the deprivation of liberty safeguards are, in their current format, unworkable and as a result changes are being made to the legislative framework.

“The delays seen in Swindon reflect the national picture due to high volumes of applications and a lack of suitable qualified best interest assessors to support the process. The council is currently processing its applications within 115 days, on average, compared with the national average of 147 days.

"The council’s Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards team ensures that all applications are triaged in terms of priority and referrers update us of any changes in circumstances for an individual which may require us to review our priority and assess sooner. Care providers apply the principles of the Mental Capacity Act in their practice, ensuring care is regularly reviewed, proportionate, less restrictive of an individual’s rights and freedoms and delivered in their best interests.”