MH Bill needs major changes to promote race equality

28 November 2005

The Mental Health Bill needs to be very different to the Government’s last draft if it is to promote rather than damage race equality, the Mental Health Alliance said today.

In its submission to the Government’s consultation paper of the Race Equality Impact Assessment of the Mental Health Bill, the Alliance warned that as currently drafted the Bill would be likely to have a disproportionate impact on Black people.

The Mental Health Alliance (a coalition of 75 organisations working together on the Bill) is calling for radical changes to the draft Bill. They include:

- There should be a right for people to seek as assessment of their mental health needs, to help people get help at an early stage and increase Black people’s confidence that services will listen to them.

- The Bill should include an explicit statement of non-discrimination and respect for diversity.

- The use of control and restraint in mental health units should be subject to clear restrictions.

- Advocates and Tribunal members should be appropriately trained in race equality issues and should come from a broad range of backgrounds.

- The proposed power for police to enter people’s homes and take them for treatment without a warrant would be very damaging and should be withdrawn.

Alliance chair Paul Farmer said: "The Mental Health Act is already used disproportionately with African and Caribbean people. New Bill is an opportunity to craft legislation that supports the Government’s drive to deliver race equality in mental health services. Yet the current draft is likely to do the opposite.

"Our 75 members together urge the Government to make very significant changes to the draft Bill and use this opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of Black people in the mental health system."

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Notes to Editors