Time for a Redraft say Protestors at Mental Health Rally

Mental Health Alliance members with new campaign materials

A Mental Health Rally that took place in Cardiff last week saw members of leading mental health organisations, service users and carers from across Wales urging the Government to take heed of the Joint Parliamentary Committee Report on the draft Mental Health Bill – and scrap it.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee Report, published last month, was highly critical of many aspects of the draft Bill – and identified flaws in service delivery in Wales that would prevent its proper implementation. Key findings of the Report are:

• there’s too much focus placed on protecting the public from a small minority of people with a mental illness
• the powers granted in the current Draft could potentially be used as the equivalent of a mental health ASBO – enforcing treatment on people who might only be a ‘nuisance’
• compulsory treatment should be used only where there is no other alternative and where it has therapeutic benefit
• people who can’t benefit from treatment should be dealt with by separate legislation (for example people with an untreatable “personality disorder”)
• treatment in the community should be more restricted than under current proposals
• there should be reciprocal rights to treatment including the right to assessment
• the law should play a part in improving services and combating stigma
• fundamental principles should be set out at the start of the Bill.

The Rally, organised by the Mental Health Alliance along with the Wales Alliance for Mental Health, provided the opportunity to discuss the findings of the report and show support for its recommendations. Mental Health Alliance Chair Paul Farmer said:

“The recent recommendation by the Parliamentary Committee that the Government’s mental health proposals get a radical overhaul is welcome news. However, it is vital that we keep the pressure on to ensure the Government does listen and local meetings are important in bringing people together to campaign for ethical mental health legislation.

“The recommendations about the Bill as it affects Wales must be taken seriously as part of the overall consideration of the next steps.

“The Mental Health Alliance now calls on the Government to withdraw its current proposals and consider in detail the Committee’s Report. We propose that Alliance members, the Government and all political parties now work together to formulate a new Bill that is based on these recommendations.”

The Parliamentary Committee Report acknowledged very specifically the difficulties the draft Bill posed to services in Wales concluding: “It seems very unlikely that Wales could successfully implement the provisions of the draft Bill with the resources currently available. If it tried it would divert resources from important tasks like implementing their National Service Frameworks and Care Programme Approach.”

Key findings of the Report are:

• mental health services in Wales are significantly less developed than in England
• areas of Wales which are sparsely populated will “complicate the implementation” of an Act as will the necessity for a bilingual service
• mental health services in Wales must be at least as good as now in England before the provisions of the Draft can be implemented – and resources should be made available to achieve this
• mental health services should be available in Welsh and English.

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief-Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal commented: “The Committee has rightly pointed out that Wales simply has not got the infrastructure to support the proposed legislation.

“Implementation of the Bill as it stood would have required a marked increase in the bureaucracy of the compulsion process, which would have the effect of diverting already scant resources away from timely and effective services into the management of the legal process. This in turn would mean more people deteriorating to the point where compulsion was necessary.”

The full Parliamentary report is available at: