13 January 2021
The Mental Health Act in England and Wales must be modernised to treat people with respect and dignity, and today’s proposals from the Government are a welcome step toward that goal, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today.
Responding to the government white paper Reforming the Mental Health Act, Sarah Hughes said: “Two years ago, Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act set out a comprehensive modernisation plan for a system that is outdated and in urgent need of change. I am pleased that the Government has accepted the majority of those recommendations today. And we welcome the decision to go further to protect people with autism or learning disabilities from being sectioned for treatment if they do not also have a mental illness.
“The need for change could not be clearer. Every year, the number of people who are sectioned grows. While we know this can save lives, increasing use of coercion can also cause lasting trauma and distress. And we continue to see that Black people are subjected to much higher levels of coercion at every stage of the system. We cannot allow this to continue, and we welcome the Government’s commitment to change it.
“Legislative change should help to redress the power imbalance between people subject to the Act and the state. Tightening up the use of compulsion, increasing access to independent advocacy and giving people more choices in the ways they are treated will all help to make the system fairer for all. This must include children and young people, for whom coercion can cause lasting trauma and whose voices are not often heard when decisions are being made. And it must be applied fairly to people in the criminal justice system, with equal protection in law and in practice of their rights and dignity.
“It is vital that the blueprint Sir Simon Wessely’s report set out is implemented in full. That means not just rewriting the legislation but investing now in better community services, in modern hospital facilities and in expanded advocacy and social work provision. It means fully implementing the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework to bring about systemic change to address racism throughout the mental health system.
“We will scrutinise the Government’s proposals in detail and respond to the consultation. In the meantime, we hope that today will bring us a step closer to mental health legislation that respects and protects people’s rights and dignity, that reduces inequality and that turns the tide on the growing use of coercion.”