Some of the money given to Scottish local authorities to
implement the country’s new Mental Health Act has
“disappeared into the ether”, a social work
commissioner at the Mental Welfare Commission revealed last week,
writes Lauren Revans.
Juliet Cheetham expressed her concern at the situation at
Community Care LIVE Scotland and urged delegates to find out about
their local implementation plans and follow up where money was
“We do hear that some money for the act has not reached
that destination because it is not actually ear-marked
funding,” Cheetham said. “Some money appears to have
disappeared into the ether. People need to ask questions about
Gregor Henderson, national programme director at the Scottish
executive, insisted that £1 million had been given to local
authorities this year specifically to develop advocacy services,
and a further £1.5 million would be available next year.
But Peter Hemmings, advocacy worker at Fife Advocacy, a support
group for people with dementia or mental health problems, said his
group had still not been approached about providing support for
people going before the new mental health tribunal, despite being
ideally placed to do so.
“Even if local authorities came to us next week and said
yes we can provide this work, we would never have enough time to
prepare,” Hemmings said.
Cheetham acknowledged that a lack of time to prepare for the
act’s full introduction in April was a problem, but insisted
that if advocacy services were not available “trouble would
have to be caused”.
“If we were told someone had no access to advocacy, the
Mental Welfare Commission would certainly want to follow this
up,” she said.
Under the act, a new mental health tribunal will replace the
Sheriff Court as the forum for hearing cases and will be involved
in considering care plans, deciding compulsory treatment orders and
carrying out reviews. Every person with a mental disorder will have
a right of access to independent advocacy, and the act places
duties on health boards and councils to ensure these services are