Mental Health Charity Welcomes Demise of Bill

Ministers are expected to announce that the controversial draft Mental Health Bill, which has been criticised by many mental health charities and organisations, is to be scrapped. Clients and carers from Hafal, Wales’s principal charity working for people affected by Mental Health legislation, today welcomed the news.

Trudy Whitcombe, a client at Hafal, said: “The Government has bowed to the inevitable. The Bill was unjust and unworkable. And we’re delighted it’s been beaten because the case against it was made by clients and carers of Hafal. We went up to Parliament and the Assembly to give evidence against it, and the Scrutiny Committee listened to us – especially the point we made about it being incompatible with Welsh policy and services. Now the Government has been forced to listen too.”

Shane Stachera, another client at Hafal, said: “There has always been a fair deal available to the Government, and people with a severe mental illness have always offered their cooperation in coming up with reasonable solution. For Hafal’s clients it has always been about creating a balance, with the right to early treatment in place alongside the rare use – with safeguards – of compulsion, usually when people are a danger to themselves. But the Government failed to take this fair-minded route, and because of that they’ve had to scrap an unfair Bill.”

Richard Jones, Head of Public Affairs at Hafal, stated: “The Government are putting a spin on it, stating that the Bill mostly concerned people with a personality disorder. But this is a side show. It implies that the Bill would only affect a very tiny number of people, when in reality the draft Bill has spent nearly a decade causing distress for 1 in 30 people with a severe mental illness who potentially could have been affected by it.

“We note that the Government is considering amending the existing 1983 Act to deal with some matters in the defeated Bill, particularly in relation to people with a personality disorder. We will be vigilant. The Government cannot be allowed to bring in bad law through the back door. Hafal will not desert people with a personality disorder. We will watch carefully to ensure that there is not an infringement of their human rights.”

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Hafal, stated: “We anticipated that the Government may give in, which is why we recently raised the possibility with the Assembly Government of developing Wales-specific legislation.

“This could be a useful way forward. The Assembly Government has shown itself willing to listen to patients and families in developing mental health policy.

“We also know too well that the Assembly Government was uncomfortable with the Bill and we are sure they will be breathing a sigh of relief. Over the last few months they have been forced to use their energies to identify the considerable resources that would have been required to implement this Bill in Wales – dragging all attention from improving services. Now they need to get on with the important job of making services better for people in Wales with a severe mental illness.”

For more information regarding what the Bill proposed, click here.