Charities protest against proposed cut in free mental health aftercare

    Charities have registered alarm at the prospect of a cut in the
    availability of free aftercare for discharged mental health
    patients to just six weeks under the draft Mental Health
    Bill.

    Under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, detained patients
    are entitled to free aftercare after they have left hospital for as
    long as the local authority is satisfied that they need the
    services, but under the new proposals this will be reduced.

    Giving evidence last week to the joint committee on the draft
    Mental Health Bill, the Alzheimer’s Society said the proposed
    six-week period would be “inadequate” for many people with dementia
    leaving hospital following compulsory treatment.

    In their statement, Clive Evers, director of information and
    education, and Professor Clive Ballard, director of research said:
    “These individuals are likely to have a high level of need and will
    require intensive support from health and social services. This
    support is a health need and should therefore not be means-tested
    and should be available for as long as it is required by the
    individual.”

    In written evidence to the committee, mental health charity Maca
    warned that aftercare including accommodation, home support and
    attendance at a day centre, should not be seen as an “optional
    extra”.

    The charity also expressed concern that patients would be more
    likely to avoid aftercare if they were charged for it.

    Maca said: “Avoiding aftercare makes integration into the community
    after hospitalisation more difficult, and relapse more likely. If
    aftercare is ineffective, the resources used on compulsory
    inpatient treatment may, in retrospect, be seen to be
    wasted.”

    The charity added: “As a point of principle, we believe that anyone
    who is deprived of their liberty and subjected to treatment against
    their will should not be expected to pay for that treatment.”

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