Cuts in free aftercare may lead users to seek community treatment orders

Proposed cuts to free aftercare for mental health clients
compulsorily detained in hospital could lead to a rise in community
treatment orders, charities have warned.

Under the draft Mental Health Bill, free aftercare would be cut
to just six weeks.

Mental health charity Maca told parliament that the measure
would create “a perverse incentive” for patients to refuse to
comply with treatment so they could be placed under a community
treatment order, under which care would be free.

Maca told the parliamentary committee scrutinising the bill: “It
would make financial sense for a patient to seek to receive care in
the community in the form of a community treatment order rather
than as simple aftercare.”

The Alzheimer’s Society agreed that the six-week provision would
lead to more community treatment orders to “cut costs” for

But chair of the National Forum for Assertive Outreach Mike Firn
told the committee that the orders would be useful only for a very
small number of people with a long history of mental illness.

They should be used for people who have had at least three
previous compulsory admissions, he said, and be reviewed by
tribunal or other means every six months.

He insisted that designing community treatment orders for people
with mental health problems so they had conditions such as curfews
would be “morally wrong”. They should not be used to restrict
somebody’s freedom, or impose restraints on lifestyle choices
including recreational drug-taking, he added. “It is very clear
that community treatment orders should not be used to determine
somebody’s lifetstyle but for people who have a very serious
psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.”

Fears have been raised that community treatment orders could see
people with mental health problems placed under house arrest if
strict conditions are written into them.

Carers are also concerned that their relationship with those
they are caring for could be undermined if they are forced to
ensure they comply with the restrictions of their community
treatment orders.

The committee scrutinising the bill has concluded its evidence
sessions and will report to parliament by the end of March.


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