Abandoning the Mental Health Act reforms is a government breach of public trust, says Centre for Mental Health 

7 November 2023

The Government’s failure to reform the Mental Health Act is a major disappointment, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Andy Bell said today. 

Responding to the Government’s plans set out today in the King’s speech, Andy Bell said: “It is now seven years since the Government committed to modernising the Mental Health Act. Despite a comprehensive review of the Act published back in 2018, and the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledge to reform it, it is now clear that vital legislative changes will not happen in this Parliament. This represents a major breach of trust to the many people who have experienced the Act first-hand and campaigned for essential reforms.  

“The current Mental Health Act is now 40 years old, and its disproportionate use amongst racialised communities means that Black people are four times more likely to be sectioned and eleven times more likely to get a Community Treatment Order when they leave hospital. It is outdated, it is discriminatory, and it gives too little regard to people’s rights and dignity. A modernised Act could ensure people have better safeguards for their rights and dignity and more of a say in how they are treated. 

“We are also deeply disappointed that the Government has not chosen to ban ‘conversion therapy’ practices, which pose major harm to LGBTQ+ people’s mental health. The law currently fails to protect LGBTQ+ people from abusive and harmful conversion practices.

“We will continue to call on the Government and all political parties to take forward both of these vital legislative changes in the future.  

“We welcome the Government’s plans to create a ‘smokefree generation’. We know that smoking is a major cause of early death for people living with severe mental illness, and is also directly associated with poorer mental health outcomes. Health and care services must ensure that additional specialist smoking cessation support is provided for people with severe mental illness who are less likely to get the support they need to quit.  

“Plans to introduce a Renter’s (Reform) Bill are promising. Research is clear that not having a secure and safe home puts people’s mental health under extreme pressure, so we urge the Government to also tackle affordability barriers that prevent people securing tenancies that provide stability in their lives. 

“We remain deeply concerned about the Government’s Illegal Migration Act which contravenes internationally agreed conventions on the rights of refugees. This is likely to lead to many more people being held in immigration detention centres or deported, and place major and additional strain on those who have often already experienced multiple traumas.  

“We welcome the Government’s plans to reduce the use of short prison sentences, so that more people receive community sentences which are less risky to people’s mental health and more likely to help with rehabilitation. It’s vital that government invests now in mental health support for people on community sentences rather than building yet more prison places.” 

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