Councils criticised as slow to give out mental health funds

The Audit Commission has claimed that many local councils are not on track to meet targets in dispersing funds for personal mental health budgets.  The personal budgets would give mental health patients greater leeway in deciding what kinds of treatments they desire.

The Department of Health agreed with the report and encouraged councils to pick up the pace of reform.

The goal is that 30 per cent of eligible patients would be offered personal mental health funds by April 2011.  Councils in general are nowhere near meeting this goal, with only 6 of 152 councils having reached the level already.  Overall, only six per cent of spending for adult social care has gone toward personal budgets.

Councils are charged not only to give out the money, but also to make sure patients are aware of all the ways in which they may use it.

Andy McKeon, the Audit Commission’s managing director of health, stressed the importance of ensuring the planned reforms take place.  While he allowed that it is a challenge to enact such radical reforms, he said it was worthwhile to empower patients and give them some choice regarding their care.

Richard Humphrey of the King’s Fund, a think tank, said that the councils’ response so far has been disappointing, and said that local leaders have to take the initiative to honor the commitments they have made.

Some have questioned whether mental health patients can be trusted with the money.  However, local councils in general support the initiative and claim they have made progress since the Audit Commission’s report was released.