Patient-led charity welcomes move towards Welsh mental health legislation

Assembly Shadow Health Minister Jonathan Morgan AM who is involved in plans to devolve mental health legislation from Westminster to Cardiff Bay

Hafal, Wales’ principal charity for people affected by severe mental illness, today welcomed moves led by the Assembly to devolve mental health legislation from Westminster to Cardiff.

Jonathan Morgan AM won a private member’s ballot enabling him to formally request a transfer of powers under the Government of Wales Act, and a full plenary session at the Senedd today will see AMs discussing the proposal to seek a Legislative Competence Order (LCO) on mental health. The proposal is expected to have all-party support.

The Shadow Minister has said that a priority for new legislation would be to ensure that people have a right to be treated at an early stage of their illness, when symptoms first emerge.

Bill Walden-Jones, Hafal Chief Executive, said: “Hafal has campaigned for mental health legislation for Wales – Scotland has its own Mental Health Act after all – and we have worked to raise the profile of mental health issues at the Assembly. So we welcome this proposal.

“We think current UK mental health legislation is inadequate in its omission of a basic entitlement to early treatment.

“The evidence points very strongly to improved outcomes for individuals, a better chance of recovery, and enhanced public protection when people can come forward early on in their illness and be diagnosed and treated.”

If the Assembly decides to pursue an LCO, an application would be made to the Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain MP, to allow the Senedd to draft an Assembly Measure (Welsh law) on mental health.

Meanwhile, mental health services across Wales have begun considering the implications of the case of 24-year-old Geraint Evans from Trecynon, near Aberdare, who was yesterday sentenced to be detained indefinitely at Ashworth Special Hospital having admitted the manslaughter of 59-year-old Father Paul Bennett. Since his arrest in March Mr Evans has been diagnosed with severe mental illness.