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Mind responds to final report from Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill

Thursday, 19 January 2023 Mind

UK government called to bolster draft Mental Health Bill, with racial disparities in the Mental Health Act condemned as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘inexcusable’

The Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill has today published its final report, having completed pre-legislative scrutiny since the Bill’s publication in June 2022. Five years on from the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act of 2018, the Committee is urging the UK government to act “swiftly” to introduce the Bill to Parliament.

Responding to the report, Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

"For decades, people sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 have been at the back of the queue when it comes to effective planning and funding. In recent months, we’ve seen a wave of whistleblowing stories raising the alarm on alleged abuse and neglect of people living on mental health wards around the country. These accounts demonstrate the urgent need for wholesale reform to the Mental Health Act and crisis care settings.

"Given these appalling reports, we welcome the Committee’s proposal to establish a new Mental Health Commissioner role. If properly funded and truly independent, the Commissioner could act as a powerful advocate for patients’ rights. Mind has been calling for a national statutory inquiry into systemic failings of inpatient mental health services since September, and a dedicated Commissioner should steer any future inquiry to make sure the voices of people with lived experience are amplified.

"We are glad to see amendments focused on boosting patient choice, but we’d like these to go a step further and introduce an enshrined right to assessment and treatment. All too often, people are turned away or unable to access preventative care, only to end up in the system later on via more dangerous or uncomfortable routes.

"In its current form, the Mental Health Act has enabled shameful, racist treatment of people from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly Black people, who are nearly 5 times more likely to be sectioned. The Committee’s report proposes many positive interventions aimed at eradicating racism in mental health services, including the introduction of a responsible person to collect and monitor data on ethnicity. Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), which Black people are now over 11 times more likely to be placed onto, would be abolished for civil patients, but we will carry on pushing for this to also apply for the criminal justice system. Alongside our partners Race on the Agenda, Mind will continue to hold the UK government to account on its anti-racist commitments.

"We’re pleased to see a recognition from the Committee on a number of our recommendations for children and young people. Being sectioned can be an upsetting and sometimes frightening experience for people at any age, but we know this is especially true for under 18s, who have specific care needs due to their age. The introduction of a new statutory test to assess children’s decision-making capacity is long overdue, to make sure that they can access new rights and safeguards in the reforms.

"This Bill alone cannot solve the many issues in mental health crisis care, so we echo the Committee in saying these reforms must go hand-in-hand with a dedicated commitment to address the huge gaps in community-based and preventative treatment. Without adequate funding of community provision, the Bill risks failing the very same people and groups it originally set out to help.

"People with mental health problems deserve considered and properly implemented legislation, which at the very least keeps them safe, but also prioritises their wants and needs when it comes to treatment and care. Mind looks forward to working closely with the UK government to further strengthen the draft Bill and help realise its ambitions for people with mental health problems. We thank the Committee for its time and attention in evidence sessions."

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