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.
Juliet Cheetham urged delegates at Community Care LIVE Scotland to
find out about their local implementation plans and follow up where
money was being spent.
“We do hear that some money for the act has not reached its
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 it.”
Gregor Henderson, national programme director at the Scottish
executive, insisted that £1m had been given to councils this
year specifically to develop advocacy services, and a further
£1.5m 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 2005 was a problem, but insisted that if
advocacy services were not available “trouble would have to be
“If we were told someone had no access to advocacy, the Mental
Welfare Commission would certainly want to follow this up,” she
Under the act, a new mental health tribunal will hear cases,
replacing the Sheriff Court, 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 available.