The Mental Health Act 1983 contains a little-known benefit for people who have been an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital, and who have a right on discharge to free aftercare. This may mean the difference between having to sell the family home to fund care home fees and preserving an inheritance.
This non-means tested benefit is extremely valuable.
Section 117 requires the NHS (Clinical Commissioning Group) and the Local Authority to arrange free aftercare services. This very valuable right continues until the underlying illness no longer exists. In reality, sadly, Section 177 rights will last for a person’s entire lifetime.
What a person is entitled to is specific to the individual.
Section 117 is not means tested. In 2017 a gentleman who had been awarded nearly £3m of damages for a road traffic accident was seeking to have his aftercare paid for under Section 117 and his Local Authority thought he should pay for his care out of his compensation. The courts were very clear in saying that charging a person who has Section 117 is unlawful. It is a right in law irrespective how much or how little money a person has.
What can Section 117 cover?
In a care and support plan we would ensure that it covers where a person is going to live, what support they will need such as help with making meals, shopping and doing the laundry, support with meeting friends and recreational activities.
Section 117 is one of the few areas where there is a joint responsibility for both the NHS and the Local Authority to make sure that whoever has been detained leaves hospital with a package of care that is going to ensure that the likelihood of readmission to hospital is minimised and the quality of their life is enhanced to the maximum extent possible.
In our experience Section 117 Aftercare is often overlooked both by the hospital, minimised by the Local Authority who have to pay for it, and is unknown by almost everyone we speak to.
At Steene Law when we initially speak to people we ask whether they remember when they were growing up if there were periods in their parents’ life when they were absent and if they mention they thought there was some psychiatric issue, often we are able to obtain evidence there was instance that gave rise to the Section 117 rights.
One client who we discovered that their family member had these rights, and we got a £60,000 per annum package of care wrote……
The service was personal and went well beyond the call of duty, demonstrating clearly that, although acting at all times to the highest standards of professional practice, this was a labour of love.
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