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BASW submits consultation response to DHSC as part of proposed Mental Health Act reforms

BASW also submitted an accompanying letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, highlighting issues that we feel are fundamental to improving the operation of the MHA, but which BASW felt were not adequately addressed in the consultation

In April BASW submitted its response to the UK Government’s White Paper consultation on its proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act 1983. BASW also submitted an accompanying letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, highlighting issues that we feel are fundamental to improving the operation of the MHA, but which BASW felt were not adequately addressed in the consultation itself.

The White Paper accepted many of the Wessely Review’s 154 proposals, although some it has accepted only ‘in principle’ at this point. It was noticeable that many of the technical proposals of the White Paper were focused upon the NHS and medical treatment for mental health issues rather than whole systems matters including improving social care, access to social work and other crucial aspects, a point which was raised in both the letter and the consultation response.

One of the UK Government’s stated intentions is to drive down the rate of detentions. However, this cannot be done effectively without a significant investment of funding and resource in social services and non-NHS community services. Raising the detention threshold criteria will not work if there are no appropriate community-based alternatives available. Issues of recruitment, retention and working conditions for social workers also need to be addressed in order to support more individuals being treated within the community.

Our letter also raised the issue of whether the steps outlined by the UK Government would be sufficient to address the over-representation of individuals from Black and minority ethnic communities under the MHA – in detention rates, in the use of Community Treatment Orders and in the use of Section 136. There were no directly related consultation questions on the proposals to address this issue which focus upon the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework (PCREF).

The Department of Health and Social Care will now review the consultation responses they have received before drafting legislation to amend the MHA. This will likely be laid before Parliament next year – but this will be dependent upon space in the parliamentary timetable.

The consultation response was produced with contributions from SWU, the BASW England Mental Health group, the Homes not Hospitals workstream and the Law Policy, Practice and Education Group of BASW Cymru. We also ran a survey in February using the quantitative questions from the UK Government White Paper which received 152 responses.