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
    patients.

    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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