2 May 2006

The Government should assess the likely impact of the whole of the revised Mental Health Act on people from Black and minority ethnic communities and should consult with all those affected before setting its plans before Parliament, MPs were told today.

Speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, Rethink chief executive Cliff Prior said: "Black men are currently 50 per cent more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The Government’s decision only to amend it rather than bringing forward a whole new Mental Health Bill makes a full assessment of the impact of the amended Act, and a commitment to act on whatever the assessment recommends, an absolute necessity.

"At the very least, there must be a clear principle at the start of the new Act that respect for diversity will underpin all actions taken under the amended Act."

The Mental Health Alliance today expressed its concern that the Government was considering limiting its Race Equality Impact Assessment to the small number of amendments it intends to make. The Alliance believes this will be inadequate to produce legislation that positively promotes race equality.

Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Alliance member organisation Turning Point, said: "The need for an assessment is clear, the inequalities in mental health services and the fear they provoke mean far too frequently patients from different ethnic communities come to the attention of services as a last resort and at crisis point. This makes treatment via the Mental Health Act a more likely route. It is all the more imperative that the Government takes a more proactive stance to address the discrimination and discrepancies in mental health services."

The Alliance today also called on the Government to consult formally with service users, carers, professionals and all those who have to work and live with the Mental Health Act in order for the amending Bill to be as fair and workable as possible.

Notes to Editors