Service Users tell Parliament: MENTAL HEALTH BILL WON’T WORK IN WALES

Mental health service users and carers from Wales’ mental health charity Hafal travelled to Parliament yesterday (March 15th) to tell MPs why the Mental Health Bill won’t work in Wales.

The briefing event gave MPs the chance to listen to the opinions of people most affected by the new legislation currently working its way through the House of Commons.

During the briefing, Hafal members met Alex Carlile (Baron Carlile of Berriew) and Welsh MPs Nia Griffith, Mark Williams and Roger Williams. Hafal representatives also met Chris Bryant MP, Ann Clwyd MP, and researchers working for MPs Stephen Crabb and Mark Tami.

Alun Thomas, Deputy Chief Executive of Hafal, said: “This has been an extremely successful briefing event that has enabled Hafal clients to speak directly to those in Parliament who can make a difference.

“We are concerned that the proposed legalisation would place great strain on Wales’ current mental health services. We also believe that the Bill runs counter to the valuable consensus developed between the Assembly, patients, and carers in developing future plans for mental health services in Wales. Yesterday we were able to get these points across to those who will be voting on the Bill.”

Lee McCabe, a Hafal client from Merthyr, said: “What users and carers in Wales are looking for is legalisation which accords rights to users – including a right to assessment – which would reduce the need for compulsory treatment. This is the humane and sensible solution, and this is what I said to the MPs at Parliament.”

Yesterday’s briefing was organised by the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 78 organisations working together to secure humane and effective mental health legislation, together with the Wales Alliance for Mental Health, representing users, carers, and the mental health voluntary sector in Wales.

In Wales, the National Assembly has already voted to condemn the Bill’s focus on “compulsion and containment” and agreed that “Any new laws must be focused on patient autonomy and access to care, with compulsory treatment used only as a last resort”. The Health and Social Services Committee recently passed a motion calling for Wales-only powers in developing legislation.

Recent amendments in the House of Lords would substantially improve the original proposed Bill but the UK Government seems set to reverse these amendments. Andy Bell, Chair of the Mental Health Alliance, comments: “The amendments made would help to ensure patients aren’t afraid to turn to mental health services when they need them. Overturning the amendments will only result in deterring people from seeking help when they need it.”