Mental Health Alliance welcomes progress from Government on Mental Health Bill

13 June 2007

The Mental Health Alliance today welcomed a series of government amendments to the Mental Health Bill as a sign that it is at last acting to meet the genuine concerns of people using services, carers and professionals. The Alliance said that it was still possible to move further toward producing a Bill that is fit for the 21st century.

The 75-member Alliance has campaigned for over seven years for a progressive Mental Health Bill. Today the Government accepted that children should not be placed on adult wards inappropriately and that people subject to the Mental Health Act should have a statutory right to an advocate to speak up for them.

The Government has also tabled an amendment to limit the restrictions that can be imposed on people who are subject to community treatment orders.

Alliance chair Andy Bell said: "Our members will welcome the fact that the Government has begun to listen to and act upon the concerns of the people who live and work with the Mental Health Act. We hope that todayís changes mark the beginning of a new government approach to this issue that will lead to a genuine consensus before the Bill becomes law.

"There remain some very serious concerns about the Bill. We are especially concerned that too many people will be liable to be put on community treatment orders.

"The Bill should make it clear that different political or cultural beliefs, sexual orientation or drug or alcohol use do not themselves constitute mental disorder. And people who are detained should be able to state that their carer must be involved as both their representative and in making decisions for them while they're in hospital. Without these changes we will have missed an opportunity for a modern Mental Health Act.

"We believe that the Government and the Mental Health Alliance can still work together to deliver a new Act that is defensible and workable.

"We will be working closely with MPs and Peers in the final stages of the Billís passage through Parliament to ensure that constructive and workable amendments are fully debated."