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Why your NHS Mental Health Trust should provide an independent in house Welfare Rights Service.

Blog Welfare Rights and MHEvery year approximately 70,000 people with a Psychosis are supported by the NHS. In most cases while they receive good consistent support from health and social care services the same cannot be said about access to support to address their socio-economic circumstances. Yet these can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and the likelihood of their being admitted to costly NHS services.

In 2013 Norman Lamb the Minister of State for Care and Support hosted a meeting in the House of Commons launching a report by the Centre for Mental Health on the importance of welfare rights provision for people with a psychosis. As well as many guests from the NHS and voluntary sector James Morris MP who was the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health was also there.

The report “Welfare advice for people who use mental health services – developing the business case” was by the Centre’s Chief Economist Michael Parsonage, it looked at the service provided by Sheffield Mental Health CAB (Now part of Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre). SMHCAB provide a service in the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust. Here are some facts from the report:

Need

The Intervention

The cost

The Issue

Sheffield Mental Health CAB have been campaigning on this issue because this sort of specialist independent, but in house service should be available across the country – not just in Sheffield. This is important is because:

In 2010 SMHCAB began this campaign with a national survey conducted in partnership with the Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust and with support from Citizens Advice. This survey –  Specialist Advice Services in Mental Health Trusts was launched at a symposium in 2011 (summary of symposium proceedings). It showed that there is unacceptable variation across the country with regard to welfare rights provision for people with a psychosis:

The NHS prides itself on its ability to ensure consistent provision across the country,  this sort of variation is unacceptable. Where examples exist they are usually provided by the voluntary sector who have the expertise and independence but there are other service models – for example Dr Jed Boardman who is Consultant at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust came to the launch and told me that his trust have their own welfare rights staff working alongside their clinical teams – excellent! But we should not have to rely on chance meetings in committee rooms in the House of Parliament to find out about good practice. At the launch we also heard from another Trust Chief Executive who felt that it was quite possible to develop these services with comparatively little extra resource.

What actions are required next?

The Centre for Mental Health makes the following recommendations in its report:

Also lets just note – If Michael Parsonage’s figures are correct and there are 70,000 people with a psychosis seen by NHS Mental Health Trusts every year that means that providing a targeted service to them would cost approximately £16 million to provide this service to all. There are about 50 Community Mental Health Trusts – so thats about £320,000 per trust. In the scheme of things thats peanuts.

What do you think?

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