Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mental Health Bill completes Parliamentary stages

In the end 'ping pong' was rather limited, with the Lords agreeing to the Commons' amendments and the Government agreeing a few more (rather significant) amendments and the Commons agreeing to the Lords' amendments.

The Bill has therefore now fully completed its passage through Parliament and awaits Royal Assent so as to become law and doubtless will enter into force in a year or two's time.

The final stages saw a further clause agreed by the Government which includes as one of the fundamental principles:

"respect generally for diversity, including in particular, diversity of religion, culture and sexual orientation"

which in my view is by far preferable to the 'exclusions' previously proposed, which muddy the water to a considerable degree.

Further amendments included sensible amendments to the process for renewal of detentions as well as improvements to the criteria for Supervised Community Treatment.

The Bill, whatever critics may say, is now much improved - hence the reason for it passing with relative ease (in the end......). Campaigners and amendments from the opposition have improved the original proposals but much time was wasted by caricaturising the Bill and seeking to defeat it completely rather than engaging on sensible improvements which in the end have been acheived.

The sense one gains from reading a lot of the wildly exaggerated campaigning material is one of having marched your troops to the top of the hill and now marching them down again but without necessarily achieving any more for adopting an exagerated and at times misleading stance.

The links to the latest parliamentary debates are:


All of the debates can be viewed here.

In the words of Tony Blair in another context "That's that - The end"

Post Script to the Mental Health Bill

Although the Bill itself contains vast areas of work for the Government to get its teeth into there are still significant areas for all of us to work on. Here's a few:

  • Dealing with unequal outcomes for people from BME communities. At the very least this will mean undertaking clear measures to promote race equality at local level, clear and consistent monitoring at all stages, the use of positive measures, community outreach and mental health promotion and consideration of the need for alternative service models (the DoH Delivering Race Equality is a start)
  • putting equality at the heart of all mental health service provision, across all strands and in particular ensuring that the forthcoming Single Equality Act includes a clear requirement to promote equality across all strands of equality
  • monitoring the use of Community Treatment Orders to ensure they are being used in a sensitive and benefical way and do not discriminate
  • a lot more still to be done to counteract stigma and discrimination associated with mental ill-health
And finally, there is considerable scope for issues of concern to be addressed in the Code of Practice which is going to open for consultation - link here.

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