LEGAL EAGLE: Aftercare services may be free

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A person can be detained in hospital (‘sectioned’) under the Mental Health Act due to concerns about their mental health. In order to be sectioned the Mental Health Act requires that the person must be suffering from a mental disorder that requires treatment in hospital and that they should be detained due to risks to their own health and safety or for the protection of others.

Once treatment has taken place the person may become ready to be discharged from detention. This does not always mean that the person has stopped needing treatment altogether. Treatment in the community can take many forms including support with medication, counselling, support accessing education or training or day care facilities. In some cases a person no longer requires treatment in hospital but requires such support that they leave hospital to live in a care home. This is often the case when an older person has been sectioned due to cognitive impairments caused by illnesses such as dementia.

In many circumstances, when a person is receiving care in the community, they can be assessed by the local authority to see if they are required to make a financial contribution to that care. Those assessments are allowed by the Care Act 2016. However, if a person has been sectioned, different rules about charging apply.

When a person has been detained under one of the longer term sections of the Mental Health Act (sections 3, 37, 47 or 48) they become eligible for aftercare under section 117 of that act. This means that if the need for aftercare services arises out of the reason the person was initially detained, these services must be provided free of charge. An example of this is where a person was sectioned due to a decline in their mental state due to dementia and they can no longer look after themselves at home. If, after a period of hospital treatment under section 3, that person is required to live in a care home, it is likely that the care home fees should be covered by section 117 aftercare and the person should not be charged. The responsibility for paying for aftercare is that of the local authority or clinical commissioning group.

Section 117 aftercare services are available to those people who have been discharged from detention but are subject to a Community Treatment Order. However, if a person has been detained for a period of assessment only (section 2) they are not eligible for aftercare services free of charge.

l At Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors we have many specialist and accredited Solicitors that deal with Mental Health law and can advise on aftercare services. To speak to a Solicitor ring 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.