Local authorities must pay for the aftercare of psychiatric
patients following their discharge from compulsory detention in
hospital, the House of Lords ruled last week.
Five law lords unanimously dismissed an appeal against an Appeal
Court decision two years ago, which followed action brought by
Richmond, Redcar, Harrow and Manchester councils.
The Law Lords upheld the Appeal Court’s ruling against the
councils charging psychiatric patients for their aftercare
according to their means. The councils had claimed that under the
provision of section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 they were
bound to levy the charges on discharged patients.
Mental health charity Maca welcomed the latest ruling. But chief
executive Gil Hitchon expressed concern that the draft mental
health bill had no equivalent provision to section 117 and “in
other words, no duty on authorities to provide aftercare after
someone is discharged from compulsory treatment”.
Prominent human rights solicitor Bernadette Livesey said that
about two-thirds of local authorities charged for the services
involved, and that the repayment of charges made since 1983 would
cost around £80m. She said authorities had been left “with a
large headache” about how to provide free services.