A person’s financial circumstances cannot be taken into account when arranging aftercare services under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Mr Tinsley had received a personal injury settlement following a road traffic accident, £2.8m of which was awarded for future care. After a period of detention under section 3 he was discharged to a care home funded under section 117. Mr Tinsley then moved to a second care home, the cost of which was paid by his financial deputy from his settlement. That deputy was replaced for reasons of financial mismanagement and Mr Tinsley’s new deputy asked the local authority to resume the funding of his care home fees. They also sought to recover the fees that had already been paid out.
The local authority argued that when assessing a need for aftercare services it was entitled to take into account the personal injury damages. Otherwise, it was argued, Mr Tinsley would be recovering twice: first by way of the settlement and then again through free care under section 117.
The court held that, as per Stennet , there is no power to charge for services, either express or implied, under section 117, and therefore that the local authority could not take Mr Tinsley’s damages into account. While Stephen Davies J noted the frustrations of local authorities being required to fund care which the recipient may be able to afford, he stated "that is a consequence of the statutory regime, equating section 117 with general non means-based healthcare…".
The claim for reimbursement is to be considered at a further hearing.
Mind has long campaigned for the continuation of section 117 aftercare which provides support to those with the most serious mental health problems with the aim of preventing their readmission to hospital. This case is a welcome, though we would have thought unnecessary, reiteration of the fact that section 117 support cannot be charged for by the front or back doors. Given that fact it is alarming that Mr Tinsley was funding his own aftercare for years in the full knowledge of his deputy and the local authority.
Some readers may be aware of the recent article in the Health Services Journal which highlighted a vast difference in how much local authorities and CCGs are spending on section 117 (the highest average spend being £74,000 and the lowest just over £1,000). Cases like Mr Tinsley’s highlight the need for far greater consistency in aftercare arrangements.