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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:55 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 2:55 pm, 25th July 2019

Yes, that was most certainly the case. I shall remark on that a little later in my speech. I was really concerned to find that the number of joint working arrangements was diminishing rather than increasing across the country, but I will address that a little later.

I was surprised to hear in the evidence sessions that health and social care integration, which the Government are officially pursuing, is going backwards. My right hon. Friend spoke about that in detail. A key message from the APPG is that the Government need to urgently examine how they can better support the integration programme, arrest the decline and ensure that people work together. Social workers in health and in local authorities need to work much more closely together.

Integration in mental health services is about bringing the social mode into healthcare settings, where social approaches sometimes struggle to gain acceptance and respect when compared with the medical model. We do not suggest replacing one with the other but, as integration implies, a full marriage of the two models so that the needs of the individual are met in one place. Better still, a properly integrated social model would make sure that treatment and care planning were guided by the person in their own context, rather than fitting them into a pre-existing diagnostic box. Such an approach means greater consideration of the social determinants of mental ill health—factors such as socio-economic background, education, housing and family dynamics. We have heard examples of that throughout the debate.

The APPG report made several recommendations. The new mental health legislation should open with a definition of the social model and the importance of addressing the social determinants of mental illness alongside biological and psychological determinants; it should explicitly name social workers as the key professionals doing the work; Ministers should ensure that the team preparing new mental health legislation also produces guidance on how it is intended to interact with other legislation such as the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Equality Act 2010; the CQC should be mandated to provide an annual report to Parliament on the progress of health and social care integration; and social work leadership—this is particularly important—on trust and CCG boards is necessary. I think it is more than necessary; it is essential. They are professional people with a major and specific role and they should be at the table where the decisions are made.

The report also recommended that new mental health legislation must have greater regard to both health and local authority resources. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham talked about the lack of resources within the system. CCGs should be held transparently accountable for their duties under section 140 of the current Mental Health Act, or any new legislation, making sure that there are enough beds in the right places. The people detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act should be reviewed by a social worker, and families and carers of all people detained away from home because of a lack of local provision should be provided with financial support. That point was raised by my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy, who talked about the effect that it can have on families when a family member in crisis is 150 miles or more away. A national dataset on the number of Mental Health Act assessments should be established as part of the DHSC mental health services dataset. Those recommendations are not unreasonable. I hope that the Department for Health and Social Care will take note and address the gaps where professionals say that they are.

I recently had the opportunity to serve on the Bill Committee for the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, and key issues that I and other colleagues raised still need to be looked at. During the passage of that Bill, I was quite surprised to find out that the Bill had not been subjected to any pre-legislative scrutiny, despite its central role of redeveloping the laws of this country for depriving people of their liberty. I said that I thought the Government needed to pause and think again about the implications of the plans that Ministers were putting before us, listen to the countless charities, other organisations and professionals who work with the legislation every day, and come back with a Bill fit for purpose. It should not have been about a basic political argument between the Government and the Opposition. It is about a debate between the law makers and the people, some of whom at a particular time in their life can be subject to some of the most restrictive legislation that we have. Sadly, at that time the Minister did not listen, and the legislation we are left with will need to be reviewed before too long. I feel the same about moving forward with reviewing our legislation in general around mental health, and perhaps putting new legislation to this House, but whatever it is, it needs to reflect wide views.

The legislation that we create or amend affects the most vulnerable in our society, as I have said before, but it should be considered with extra care and attention. I do not think that we did that in the recent Bill Committee, so we must include those who know what they are talking about such as the professionals, the experts and the social workers—those who have worked on the frontline of mental health care and know where the gaps are and how we can ensure that we do better for those who receive care under mental health provision. We must and can do better. I hope that as we move forward, Ministers will listen and get it right.