Modernising the Mental Health Act is essential for better and more equitable services

19 January 2023

The Joint Committee on the Government’s Draft Mental Health Bill has sent a clear signal that a modernised Mental Health Act is essential to improve services, but only if accompanied by sufficient investment and further reforms to both the law and the system, Centre for Mental Health interim chief executive Andy Bell said today:

“The Mental Health Act is outdated and fails to protect people’s rights and dignity. The Committee’s report sets out a number of ways that the Government’s draft bill can be improved further and make a difference to people’s rights and safety.

“The Committee has recognised the importance of modernising the Act and ensuring that reform comes with adequate investment so that no one misses out on the right support when they need it.

“The Committee’s report makes some important recommendations to improve the draft bill. They include putting principles at the top of the bill, giving people a right to make an advance choice document, and ensuring the reforms work for children as well as adults. It also calls on the Government to abolish community treatment orders for most patients, to appoint a Mental Health Commissioner to champion people’s rights nationally, and to strengthen many of the provisions in the draft bill to update the law.

“The Committee’s report warns that the Government will not tackle the excessive use of coercion against people from racialised communities without root and branch reform of both the Act and the wider system. We strongly endorse that view and call for further reforms to address the disproportionate use of the Act and its most restrictive powers.

“We urge the Government to take on the Committee’s recommendations and bring forward a bill to be debated and enacted during this Parliament. And we call on the Government to invest now in community services, in advocacy and in better facilities so that the reformed Act can be implemented without delay.”

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