S117 Mental Health Act Aftercare Services

16/02/2015

After care services delivered pursuant to s117 Mental Health Act 1983 could arguably, in some cases, include the provision of ordinary accommodation.

If a client has been placed in Mental health residential care, on section 3, and part of the future plan is for him to take a tenancy as a step down part of their care plan, prior to being allowed to return to the family home, should he sign a tenancy agreement or should the tenancy and other costs be covered by the Local Authority/Health Board as part of their section 3 or Section 117 aftercare?

This is quite a hard question to answer.

Anyone who has been detained for treatment (s3, 37, 47 etc) will, as a consequence, be entitled to s117 aftercare services.  These are free of charge. This is in contrast to nearly all other community based services for which a charge can be (and in some cases must be) levied according to people’s means.

The issue is what services are s117 aftercare services? 

It has been suggested that an aftercare service is a service which (1) is provided in order to meet an assessed need that arises from a person’s mental disorder and (2) is aimed at reducing that person’s chances of being re-admitted to hospital for treatment of the disorder.

There is no question but that people who have been detained on a treatment section and who are then placed in residential or nursing care homes are receiving an aftercare service. This will be free of charge.

But the general view has been that “ordinary accommodation” would not be covered. This is because accommodation is considered to be a basic human need and therefore is not a need that arises as such from some one’s mental disorder.  But in the only case on the issue (a case in 2006 involving the London Borough of Lambeth) it was held that the provision of ordinary accommodation did constitute an aftercare service within s117.  This case has been held up to criticism but it is clear that in certain circumstances a good case could be made that the provision of ordinary accommodation is included under s117.

The circumstances outlined in the question above provide, in my view, just such a case.  If the patient has a home to go to but is prevented from returning there due to concerns arising as a consequence of his mental health, then alternative accommodation could properly be said to be a need arsing from  the mental disorder, the aim of which is to reduce the likelihood of readmission.

In summary, whilst it is not possible to say for certain that such accommodation should be free to the client, it would be worth arguing the case and could give rise to possible court proceedings to decide the point if the local authority/Health insisted that the client should pay.


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