Some sections of the Care Act actually amend the Mental Health Act 1983. These changes principally affect Sec.117 after-care arrangements. They seem to be explicitly designed to resolve the disputes that local authorities often have over who is responsible for providing Sec.117 aftercare, in particular by bringing the definition of “ordinary residence” into line with other legislation, such as the National Assistance Act.
Sec.39(1) gives a clear definition of “ordinary residence”. Essentially, this applies to adults requiring residential care. “Ordinary residence” is either “in the area in which the adult was ordinarily resident immediately before the adult began to live in accommodation of a type specified in the regulations”, or for adults with no fixed address, “in the area in which the adult was present at that time.”
Sec.39(4) then explicitly applies this to Sec.117 after-care, stating:
“An adult who is being provided with accommodation under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (after-care) is to be treated for the purposes of this Part as ordinarily resident in the area of the local authority in England or the local authority in Wales on which the duty to provide the adult with services under that section is imposed.”
Sec.75 of the Care Act is all about Sec.117 after-care. Besides changing some of the wording and inserting some new clauses into Sec.117 of the Mental Health Act, Sec. 75(6) of the Care Act also inserts an entire new section, Sec.117A.
Sec.117A is concerned with “preference for particular accommodation”. Subject to regulations to be issued by the Secretary of State, it will place a duty on the local authority not only to take into account a person’s preferences, but “must provide or arrange for the provision of the person’s preferred accommodation” as long as the preferred accommodation meets the identified aftercare needs. However, it is likely to allow the local authority to charge for the difference between the actual cost of this preferred accommodation and “the usual cost of providing or arranging for the provision of accommodation of that kind”.
This section of the Care Act also clarifies the definition of after-care under Sec.117. It inserts a subsection (6) into Sec.117 which states that after-care should have “both of the following purposes”:
“(a) meeting a need arising from or related to the person’s mental disorder; and(b) reducing the risk of a deterioration of the person’s mental condition (and, accordingly, reducing the risk of the person requiring admission to a hospital again for treatment for mental disorder).”
Finally, Sec.79 of the Care Act rather ominously allows for the delegation of local authority functions, stating: “A local authority may authorise a person to exercise on its behalf a function it has under…section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (after-care services).”
I am not at all sure what this means. Does it simply permit staff not employed by the local authority, but who may be nurses or occupational therapists employed by local mental health trusts, to discharge LA functions relating to the provision and supervision of aftercare? Or does it permit the full scale privatisation of these functions?