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Mental health services

Seebohm Committee recommendations

Personal social services were generally fragmented and underfunded during the post-war period. The Local Authority and Allied Personal Services report of 1968 by the Seebohm Committee recommended the unification and expansion of these services. Its recommendations, however, were not implemented until after the economic crises of the mid-1970s and personal social services continued to be relatively underfunded and neglected.

Mental health services

The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 created a Board of Control to supervise local authorities in running 'mental deficiency' services. The Report of the Royal Commission on Lunacy and Mental Disorder in 1926 led to the Mental Health Act of 1930. This centralised various duties relating to mental health care under the Board of Control.

During the Second World War, the number of people requiring mental care increased, but many institutions had been taken over by the wartime emergency medical services, and mental health services now faced a crisis of accommodation and staffing. Sir Henry Willink's 1944 White Paper on the creation of a National Health Service (NHS) recommended the inclusion of mental health services within the new NHS. It called for the amalgamation of mental and mental deficiency services under local authorities. Mental health services were included in the National Health Service Act 1946. The act removed many of the functions of Board of Control, which remained responsible for the criminally insane. Responsibility for the Broadmoor Hospital was transferred to the Board under the Criminal Justice Act of 1948. 

Mental institutions became part of the national hospital system, and local authorities were given powers to provide community care for those not attending hospital. This arrangement soon led to conflict between hospitals and local authorities over limits of responsibility. The development of community care was slow and the Younghusband Report of 1957 found that staffing levels would need to be greatly increased to provide an appropriate level of service.

In 1957, the Royal Commission on Mental Health recommended the care of the mentally ill and disabled be shifted away from hospitals and into the community, depending on the ability of local authorities to provide the required services. Two years later, the Mental Health Act of 1959 made the provision of community mental health services by local authorities a statutory duty. Services were to be funded by the Treasury. Community-based mental health care subsequently expanded greatly.

In 1971, the government published a White Paper outlining the concept of community care, providing guidance to local authorities. It described the great variation in the quality of services provided by different local authorities for the mentally 'handicapped'. A further White Paper, in 1975, was critical of the conditions under which the mentally ill were released from hospital into the community, and it established a framework for further development of services.