Mental Health Foundation attacks direct payment ‘discrimination’

The Mental Health Foundation has attacked the government’s “discriminatory” proposal to deny people detained under the Mental Health Act the same rights to direct payments as other client groups.

Under draft Department of Health regulations, a consultation on which closes today, local authorities would be able to use their discretion in offering payments to people receiving compulsory treatment.

Currently, patients receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act are barred from direct payments. However, councils have a duty to offer payments to other client groups.

In a foreword to the regulations, Ivan Lewis, former care services minister, said the reforms were “an important change which should help to tackle the stigma which can be associated with treatment for mental disorder”.

Clearly discriminatory

However, the foundation’s head of policy, Simon Lawton-Smith, said: “A situation where people with other disabilities are routinely offered direct payments while many of those with mental health problems must rely on the decision of their local authority is clearly discriminatory.”

He rejected the DH’s argument that there was a tension between receiving treatment on a compulsory basis and the choice over care entailed by a direct payment.

Lawton-Smith said: “Compulsory treatment is of a medical nature in the overwhelming majority of cases, whereas direct payments relate to social care.”

He said any compulsory parts of a care package could be deducted from a direct payment, which would be applied to the rest.


Lawton-Smith warned: “Local authorities have a mixed record of offering people the benefits of new policies unless they are obliged to do so. We must not allow spurious practical arguments to be used to deny people with mental health problems access to direct payments, potentially one of the most liberating aspects of health and social care reform.”

The draft regulations would also place a duty on councils to offer direct payments to people who lack mental capacity, with the payment being managed by a third party.

Related articles

Health and Social Care Bill will extend direct payments

Expert guide to direct payments

Expert guide to mental health

External information

Mental Health Foundation

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ mental health, drugs and alcohol network


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