Our response to the Mental Health Act white paper

22 April 2021

In January, the Government released its white paper Reforming the Mental Health Act, following the independent review of the Act led by Sir Simon Wessely. Yesterday we submitted our response to the consultation, outlining our position on the proposed reforms.

Overall, we are supportive of the proposed changes which could help to modernise the Mental Health Act and improve people’s experiences of care. They are positive steps in the right direction, but wider reforms and investment are also required to deliver vital improvements across the mental health system.

We welcome, for instance, the aim to reduce the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act (which have significantly increased in the last decade) and to reduce reliance on Community Treatment Orders which are a coercive power used to restrict people’s freedoms when they leave hospital.

We are pleased to see an ambition to address the disproportionately negative impact of current legislation on people from racialised communities. Broader activities on race equality, outside of the Act, will be vital to making sustainable progress.

We are concerned, however, that the White Paper does not clarify how the reforms will work in practice for children and young people. It is imperative that proposed changes to the law do not have unintended consequences for children and young people.

And whilst we welcome these proposed changes, it is essential that they are adequately funded and resourced, including urgently needed improvements to the mental health estate and expanding the workforce.

We are also conscious that whilst legislative reform is long overdue, it will not address all the problems in the mental health system. Improvements to social care, investment in public health, and tackling institutional racism are all critical to ensure that everyone gets the mental health support they need throughout life.

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