Hertfordshire County Council plans to invest more than £1.5m in mental health support

HCC has proposed a £1.654 million funding boost for mental health services across the county. Pictur

HCC has proposed a £1.654 million funding boost for mental health services across the county. Picture: Pexels - Credit: Archant

Plans to invest more than £1.5 million into the care and support of people with mental health needs have been drawn up by Hertfordshire County Council.

Currently, there are a number of sites across the county designed for long-term use for people with mental health needs, and those in Hertfordshire are reported to be more likely to be in residential care compared to other areas of the country.

The county council agreed to use £1.654million from their 'investment to transform fund' at a cabinet panel on Wednesday.

This will provide additional support to vulnerable people in their homes and communities - reducing the need for long-term insitutional care.

The proposals are expected to save the county council - which contracts services from the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust - around £3.6 million a year.

The plans are still waiting for approval from the council's cabinet before any final decision will be made.

Councillor Richard Roberts, executive member for adult care and health, said that there was good accommodation in Hertfordshire, but that it was "too institutional".

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He added that changes would mean people could be introduced back into their communities, rather than leaving them in mental health accomodation.

Councillor Roberts said: "We have certainly not got the right accommodation in the right parts of the county and this will help to transform that."

According to a report submitted to the cabinet panel, the new changes would move towards a 'connected lives' model designed to focus on recovery and integration back into the community - with the £1.654m fund going towards projects aimed at supporting this.

These would include the expansion of 'intensive enablement' services that help people to develop the skills they need to live independently and the provision of additional support for people to live at home.

It would also fund initiatives that offer training to mental health providers and to review fees and hours to deliver efficiency savings and to ensure providers are sustainable.

Meanwhile, the cabinet panel also heard there were further proposals to dispose of a number of properties currently used for mental health service users that are no longer fit for purpose.

They also heard the income from the disposals - if backed by the cabinet - would be used to invest in a new 14-bed unit to deliver additional 'intensive enablement' services in the Watford area.

Ultimately, the proposals were accepted by the Conservative majority of the cabinet panel - even though they were voted against by Liberal Democrat and Labour opposition members.

Although opposition councillors stressed that they backed the approach to the changes in the service model, they said they did not agree with the county council's £1.654m investment.

During the debate, Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Quinton backed the approach but questioned whether the additional funding should be met by the county council - or the NHS.

Giving a cautious welcome to the proposals, he said: "Overall this is clearly the right direction to be taking and I very much welcome the steps taken to improve the service.

"I am somewhat concerned the driver should be cost-cutting rather than service delivery."

After pointing to the historic underfunding of mental health services, he said the report showed that there had not been investment in services for mental health and that they had not been good enough.

He welcomed the moves to put that right but questioned whether the funding should be coming from the NHS.

Councillor Quinton also pointed to the potential downside for families of the service users if the care provided at home was not sufficient.

During the debate director of adult care services, Iain MacBeath reassured councillors that this was investment that should be met by the county council, rather than the NHS.

According to the report submitted to the cabinet panel, in April this year there were 434 people in social care placements commissioned by HPFT.

Of those people 195 were in residential or nursing care, 216 in supported living and 23 in intensive enablement provision.

Compared to that figure, there were 278 people receiving a package of care in their own home or community.