Lawmakers and colleagues warn Mental Health Act must address ‘unacceptable’ racial disparities



A cross-party group of politicians said the government’s draft Mental Health Act should be strengthened to address “unacceptable” racial disparities.

A joint committee tasked with reviewing the draft law will release a detailed report on Thursday after extensive hearings to determine how effective it will be.

The cross-party group launched in July examined the extent to which the draft law would enable fewer involuntary detentions, address racial inequalities, and end the inappropriate long-term detention of people with learning disabilities and autism under the Act.

This came just after the government published a white paper in June outlining its plans to reform the 1983 Mental Health Act.

Baroness Buscombe, chair of the joint committee on the draft Mental Health Bill, said members welcomed the proposed reform under the draft law and ministers must now act quickly to bring it before Parliament.

“To drive reform, we call for the creation of a new Mental Health Commissioner to monitor the implementation of the bill and speak on behalf of patients, families and caregivers.

“We believe that stronger action is needed to bring about change, particularly to tackle the racial disparity in the use of the Mental Health Act. The failure to date is unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“The government should strengthen its recommendation on enhanced selection and give patients a legal right to require a pre-selection document stating their preference for future care and treatment, thereby empowering both patient choice and their voices.”

black people four times more likely to be detained than whites they are placed under Community Treatment Orders under legislation and eight times more frequently than whites.

Responding to the government’s June white paper, Mind said reforms to the charitable law were welcomed but “needed scrutiny”. pointing out that racial inequalities need to be addressed.

Today, a spokesperson for the charity said Independent“In its current form, the Mental Health Act has allowed for shameful, racist treatment of people of minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly Blacks, who are nearly five times more likely to be segregated.

“The committee’s report recommends several positive interventions aimed at eliminating racism in mental health care, including bringing in a responsible person to collect and monitor ethnicity data.

“Beside our partners Race on the agendaMind will continue to hold the UK government accountable for its anti-racist commitments.”

The Committee says the reform process should not end there and should go beyond the Draft Law in line with more rights-based legislation that respects patient choice.

Ministers are also asked to publish a plan alongside the bill with clear steps and milestones on how to implement it.

The committees are calling on the government to introduce a statutory mandate to report annually to Parliament on progress towards these milestones, including the number of detentions, length of stay and progress in reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

“The current lack of community care must also be addressed, or these reforms risk derailment, with worse consequences for those the bill is intended to help,” added Baroness Buscome.

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