Mental Health Act 1983 — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark 1:30 pm, 25th July 2019

Certainly, there is insufficient support for a whole range of people. We have sadly seen a roll-back of support, independence of choice and control in a number of areas, including social care support, health services and direct benefits for some disabled people, particularly in the past nine years.

The extensive powers, which I described, were used to detain 50,000 people last year—a 47% increase in the past decade. The only other people detained in this country are those in criminal custody. Those citizens have safeguards to protect them from going to jail, but we do not have the same safe standards of support and safeguards for mental health care. Those who commit a criminal offence have a police investigation, the CPS evidence threshold, a trial, the right of appeal and advocacy throughout, but for the 50,000 detained under the Mental Health Act few such safeguards exist, despite the deprivation of liberty, choice and control.

We can turn this situation around. The independent review of the Mental Health Act, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, recommended that four principles be written into a revised Act. First, it recommended that choice and autonomy, even for someone detained under the Act, must be respected, enabled and enhanced wherever possible. Secondly, it recommended that the compulsory powers contained within the Act should be exercised in the least restrictive way possible. Thirdly, it recommended that services and treatments should be of therapeutic benefit and delivered with a view to minimising the need for Mental Health Act powers to be used. Fourthly, it recommended that the individual must be respected, and that care and treatment must be provided in a manner that treats them accordingly.

I seek the Minister’s views on those principles being incorporated in forthcoming plans. If those four principles had existed when my mum was detained—she has been sectioned more times in my lifetime than I can remember—I would have had more reassurance that her needs, rights and wishes would have been the starting point for the care and treatment she received. Sadly, that was not the case.

This is the first debate to be held on the Mental Health Act since that review was published, which is astonishing, given the level of use of the powers in the Act and the level of support for reform. The review made 154 recommendations. The Government accepted two immediately and agreed to publish a White Paper by the end of this year to bring forward full legislation. I welcome that; there is no one who does not want to see that. However, given the paralysis caused by Brexit, and the new Prime Minister and Cabinet, can the Minister can confirm that that timetable has not slipped?