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Mind responds to Queen’s Speech with comments on Mental Health Bill, Conversion ‘therapy’ ban, Human Rights Act reform, and lack of Employment Bill

Tuesday, 10 May 2022 Mind

Today the Queen's Speech was read out by HRH Prince of Wales in the Lords Chamber to mark the State Opening of Parliament. Here Mind responds to the mental health components of the Speech, which sets out the UK government’s intended programme of legislation in the upcoming parliamentary session.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, Vicki Nash, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs, said:

“The pandemic has taken a massive toll on the mental health of the nation, with the prevalence of depression doubling and crisis referrals up by 15 per cent in the past three years, including among under 18s. Today’s Queen’s Speech was a huge opportunity for the UK government to commit to investing in mental health services, particularly timely, high-quality services tailored towards those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic - including young people, those experiencing poverty and people of colour. This is especially important as we deal with increasing cost of living.

We are keen to hear more detail from the UK government on its long-awaited 10 year plan for mental health, which must have people with mental health problems at its heart. As well as investment in mental health services, to be successful this plan must set out how different government departments will work together with other agencies to identify and tackle the many contributory factors to poor mental health, including problems with employment, finances, accessing benefits and housing. We will be supporting people with lived experience of mental health problems to have their say in shaping this plan.”

On the Draft Mental Health Bill, Vicki Nash said:

“We welcome the government's commitment to a new Mental Health Bill .  Being sectioned is one of the most serious things that can happen to somebody experiencing a mental health problem. Over 53,000 people were detained under the existing Mental Health Act in England in 2020/21 – an increase of 4% on the year before. As these numbers continue to rise, we urgently need to see the UK government implement the long—overdue legislative changes needed to give people greater choice and control over their treatment

In most cases, people are detained under the Mental Health Act against their will because they didn't get the right help when they needed it. Black people are hardest hit, with higher rates of detention and practices that restrict their liberty, including face-down restraint, which can be fatal. We need the new Mental Health Bill to change this And we must see more investment in early intervention to reduce the number of people becoming unwell in the first place. Mental health problems become more difficult to treat if left unchecked, as well as more costly to the NHS.”

On the conversion ‘therapy’ ban, Mind’s Vicki Nash commented:

“We are pleased to see the UK government will continue with their plans for a ban on conversion ‘therapies,’ which harm those subject to them and have a terrible impact on a person’s mental health. However, we remain dismayed the UK government have not yet rowed back on the exclusion from the ban of protections for Trans people. Trans people are much more likely to have undergone, or been offered, conversion ‘therapy’ than cisgender people, so protecting them is essential to ban the practice effectively. Bans that include trans people have been implemented in other countries, so it is certainly possible despite legislative complexity. We need a complete ban, without loopholes, which protects everybody.”

On the Human Rights Act, Vicki Nash stated:

“Many people with mental health problems experience breaches of their human rights. This can take the form of discrimination, abusive and degrading treatment, unwarranted loss of liberty and autonomy; and interference in family and private life. The Human Rights Act provides significant protection for people with mental health problems by helping create minimum standards that can often change practice, culture and attitudes. The Human Rights Act offers a route to challenge when human rights standards we expect have not been met.

The UK government’s proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act seems to be unnecessary, and we will look to scrutinise any changes made to the UK’s human right system. We would oppose any reforms that could make it harder for individuals to make sure their human rights are respected.

British judges have long drawn from a wide range of sources of human rights law, to ensure our rights are protected in line with modern thinking, including the European Convention on Human Rights which Britain intends to remain a party to. Making those rights harder to enforce appears to be a regressive step. Since the passing of the Human Rights Act, courts have been able to deliver real justice for people with mental health conditions fighting back against actions by the state which demeaned their human rights – that power to seek justice must not be taken away.”

On the Employment Bill, Vicki Nash commented:

“Disappointingly, there was no mention of the Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech, which aims to improve statutory sick pay (SSP), flexible working and rights of people employed in ‘precarious’ employment. We know that there is a strong link between employment and mental health. While the right type of work within a supportive workplace can be good for our mental health, those of us with mental health problems still face many barriers to accessing and staying in work. We all have a role to play in helping close the disability employment gap, but especially the UK government and employers – so it is concerning this legislation was absent today.”

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