Potential coalition parties in a new Assembly should make a commitment to Welsh mental health legislation a condition of joining the Government, Welsh mental health charity Hafal announced today.
Peter Davey, Chair of Hafal, said this morning: “What better test of the Assembly’s new powers than to enhance the legal rights of the most vulnerable people in Welsh society?
“Unquestionably there is majority support now in the new Assembly for framework powers on mental health. We trust that coalition partners will insist on asking for powers from the Secretary of State to enable the Assembly to introduce new rights to assessment and treatment for mental health patients.
“Everybody in Wales knows that the current legislation going through Westminster is unsuited to Wales, unwanted in Wales, and casts a shadow across the devolved mental health services here. What else are the new powers for if not to deal with such anomalies?”
The Mental Health Amending Bill, which will make changes to the 1983 Mental Health Act, is currently making its way through the House of Commons. The Amending Bill has already met with criticism in the House of Lords who have voted to introduce a number of amendments. Voluntary organisations, patients, carers and health professionals have criticised the Bill for focusing on taking patients rights away, and not balancing compulsion with patient rights to early treatment.
Earlier this year in the Assembly Debate on the Queen’s Speech, a motion was agreed that the National Assembly: “Regrets the focus on compulsion and containment in the Mental Health Bill, which could lead to people with mental health problems being detained for reasons other than treatment; and believes that any new laws must be focused on patient autonomy and access to care, with compulsory treatment used only as a last resort.”
Members of the Health and Social Services Committee at the Assembly also voted to seek new framework powers. The newly elected Assembly Government now has law-making powers with the implementation of the Government of Wales Act 2006. The new Act is the biggest transfer of power from Westminster to Wales since devolution in 1999. It means that instead of waiting for Parliament to find the time to make laws for Wales, the Assembly will now be able to draft its own legislation in key devolved areas like health and education, so long as it gets the go-ahead from Westminster.
* The results of the Welsh Assembly Elections, in which Labour held on to 26 seats, with Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives on 13 and 11 seats respectively, could pave the way to a new political landscape in Wales.
Labour remains the largest party but would need support from another party to form the assembly government, possibly the Lib Dems, although it is possible that the other parties could form a coalition to keep Labour out.
For full details of the election results, go to www.assemblywales.org/abthome/abt-nafw/abt-nafw-election-results/abt-nafw-election-results-2007.htm
To read Hafal’s election Manifesto, [link=http://www.hafal.org/pdf/Manifesto/English_Manifesto.pdf]click here.
For a background to the Mental Health Amending Bill currently in the House of Commons, click here.
For more information on Hafal, go to: www.hafal.org