A great victory against discrimination!
On 28 February 2013, the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 became law. Thank you to all our campaigners, members and supporters who emailed and wrote to their MP to raise their awareness and make positive change happen.
Please do share this your friends.
The Act removes the last significant forms of discrimination in law from our society.This is a fantastic moment for people with mental health problems and a big step towards breaking down the prejudice surrounding mental health.
But we know we have a lot still to do. We are continuing to work for improvements to mental health services, the welfare system and to combat stigma and discrimination. Find out how you can help us campaign for a better deal for people with mental health problems.
- What is the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act?
- What is the history of the Act?
- What happens next?
- How will I be affected by the changes to jury service?
In September 2012 we produced this video to explain what the Bill was for and why it is so important.
The Act removes three legal barriers that contribute to a stigmatised view of mental health problems. It also sends a wider message that discrimination of people with mental health problems will not be tolerated.
The three provisions in the Act:
- repeal section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under which a Member of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly automatically loses their seat if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months
- amend the Juries Act 1974 to remove the blanket ban on “mentally disordered persons” undertaking jury service
- amend the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 which states that a person might cease to be a director of a public or private company “by reason of their mental health”
These three pieces of legislation fed into the discriminatory and outdated idea that people with mental health problems can never recover, and cannot be trusted to participate in social, political or economic life.
Mental Health Discrimination Bill was introduced to the House of Lords by Lord Stevenson of Coddenham in 2011. When introducing the Bill, Lord Stevenson stated its aim as simply:
'to remove the last significant form of discrimination in law in our society'
Unfortunately, there was not enough Parliamentary time left in the session for the Bill to become law. However, following support from Charles Walker MP and Lord Stevenson, Gavin Barwell MP introduced a the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No 2) Bill to the House of Commons on 20 June.
At its Second Reading on 14 September 2012 the Government Minister congratulated Gavin Barwell on his choice of Bill and pledged full Government support to help it become an Act. Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists produced a detailed briefing for this Reading which you can read for more information.
The Bill then had its committee on 31 October 2012. A small technical amendment was made at Third Reading on 30 November 2012 to remove a reference to 'mentally disordered persons' from the Juries Act 1974, before the Bill was passed to the House of Lords for further consideration. Lord Stevenson guided the Bill through its Lords stages in January and February 2013, before the Bill gained Royal Assent on 28 February 2013.
The changes in legislation relating to MPs and Company Directors will happen at the end of April 2013, two months after the date of Royal Assent.
The change to jury service will be happen separately following an order from the Secretary of State Chris Grayling at some point in the near future. This is to allow the Ministry of Justice time to redesign the jury summons form.
The changes will mean that no-one will be ‘ineligible’ for jury service. However if someone comes under specific provisions of the MHA 1983, particularly if they are resident in hospital, they will be unable to serve on a jury service for that period of time.
Most people have positively welcomed this change. However some people are understandably concerned that they may be forced to do jury service when they don't feel able to.
It is possible to explain that you are unable to do jury service because of medical reasons. To do this it is usually necessary to have a letter from a GP or consultant psychiatrist confirming your medical condition. More guidance on this is likely to be issued before the new changes come into effect.
More information about delaying or being excused from jury service can be found on government's website.
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