If you have a parent or relative who’s been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, they may be able to get their care paid for under something called Section 117 Aftercare. It depends on how long they’ve been sectioned for. This article explains how it all works.
Section 117 Aftercare
If you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act, there are different ‘sections’ of the act that you can be detained under. I’m writing about this from a financial aspect (I’m not an expert in mental health issues), so apologies for that focus. Not everyone will qualify for free care under Section 117 Aftercare. But some people are and it’s not always well publicised.
SAVVY TIP: In order for you to be sectioned, two doctors must agree that you need to be detained.
How someone can be sectioned
There are different ‘sections’ of the Mental Health Act. The difference between them is important because it could determine whether or not your relative gets free care.
- Section 2 of the Mental Health Act: This means you will be admitted to hospital for assessment and for possible treatment of your mental health problem/illness. You can only be detained for up to 28 days under Section 2.
SAVVY TIP: This 28-day period cannot be extended under Section 2, although you may later be transferred to Section 3 if you need to be kept in hospital for longer than 28 days.
- Section 3 of the Mental Health Act: This means you will be admitted to hospital for treatment. You can be detained for up to six months (although you may be held for less time). Unlike Section 2, if you’ve been admitted to hospital under Section 3, this can be extended.
SAVVY TIP: If you’re admitted under Section 3 you must be provided with what is called Section 117 Aftercare.
- Section 4 of the Mental Health Act: Being sectioned under Section 4 is similar to being sectioned under Section 2, except only one doctor has to agree to it. It’s generally used in emergency situations.
SAVVY TIP: There are useful factsheets about being sectioned on websites such as Mind and Rethink. Mind has a guide to the Mental Health Act and there’s a guide to the different Sections of the Mental Health Act on Rethink’s website. There’s also a factsheet about the Mental Health Act on the Alzheimer’s Society website.
What is Section 117 Aftercare?
Section 117 Aftercare is care that someone who’s been sectioned under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act may need after they’ve been treated. Unlike other funding for long term care of elderly people, this is NOT means-tested. It means that if your relative needs to move from hospital to a care home, their care home fees must be paid for.
Problems getting Section 117 Aftercare funding
There can be three different problems associated with getting Section 117 aftercare funding:
1. Not everyone knows that if they’ve been sectioned under Section 3 that they will qualify for aftercare funding. According to Sam Cox, Information Officer for Legal and Welfare Rights at the Alzheimer’s Society, this problem is increasing: “Not many people are aware that if their relative with dementia gets sectioned under Section 3, they are entitled to aftercare funding. Unless they’re told about it, they won’t know they’re missing out.”
SAVVY TIP: The legislation doesn’t specifically say you have to be told your rights to Section 117 Aftercare funding. Nikki Spencer of Geldards law firm says that people who don’t know about their rights could miss out on a lot of money. “I’ve spoken to people whose relative has been sectioned under Section 3 and they have not been told by the hospital that they are entitled to free Section 117 Aftercare. That could mean they miss out on hundreds of thousands of pounds of care funding.”
2. The person may be sectioned under Section 2 and then detained beyond 28 days (so effectively would have to be sectioned under Section 3), which isn’t recorded. This would mean they would be wrongly classed as being under Section 2 so wouldn’t be entitled to funding when they are discharged. Solicitor Nikki Spencer says this can be another situation where people lose out. “We also find that some hospitals say that if you’ve been downgraded to Section 2 from Section 3, you’re not entitled to Section 117 Aftercare funding. That’s not true.”
3. There may be a gap between the amount the local authority is willing to pay for a care home place and the charge levied by a care home. I know of cases where the local authority has offered £350 a week and the care home has charged £550 a week.
What to do if a relative is sectioned
First of all, make sure you know what section they’ve been sectioned under. If they are sectioned under Section 2 but then kept in hospital for more than 28 days, they should be re-sectioned under Section 3. This will then trigger the entitlement to Section 117 Aftercare.
Can someone’s entitlement to free care be taken away?
If you’re entitled to Section 117 Aftercare it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed to get it forever — it will depend on the nature of your mental health problem. However, if you had something like dementia and were sectioned because of aggressive behaviour, your entitlement is less likely to be taken away. That is because dementia does not improve. However, it will be reviewed.
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