Consulting for positive change
I hope many of you are now aware the Government has launched a new white paper and accompanying consultation: Reforming the Mental Health Act.
This consultation, which asks for your views on changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA), is the Government's response to the MHA review of 2018, led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely.
The launch, like so many other things, had been delayed by COVID-19, so it is really positive to see this commitment to getting a white paper written and shared, and to begin the process of turning the review into future legislation.
The MHA review was a real achievement and made a number of positive suggestions to develop and modernise the Act, with an emphasis on human rights, dignity, equality, choice and appropriate care and support. The white paper also contains new proposals about the care and treatment of people with learning disabilities that were not fully developed at the time of the review. This is a significant development in how we assess and support people with learning disabilities, with the aim of reducing the number of people detained to mental health units and to improve support for people in the community.
Close and comprehensive collaboration
The Chief Social Workers for Adults' office has been working with the MHA review team from the beginning. We supported Simon Wessley and team throughout the review and worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) team developing the white paper.
We have been committed to involving approved mental health professionals (AMHPs), mental health social workers and social workers from other areas of practice, local authorities, Association of Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS) groups and Local Government Authority (LGA) colleagues in the development of this important work.
The white paper marks a clear commitment by the government to accept and implement many of the recommendations of the review. It also asks a number of consultation questions where DHSC would like to hear the views of professionals and people who use services on a number of important issues. The consultation will last for 12 weeks and we have been working with the mental health social care sector to make sure we give a considered response.
Something for everyone working in mental health
There are many aspects of the white paper that will be of interest to AMHPs, social workers, local authorities and the services they commission and support. These include new criteria for the assessment, detention and review of decisions under the act, new rules to replace the nearest relative, new rights to advance choice documents and statutory care planning. There are suggestions about extending the role of the AMHP, strengthening social supervision and supporting local authority roles in commissioning advocacy and supporting people in the community.
One of the main changes is the development of new principles to underpin the way that the Act is used. The commitment to least restriction remains, but is joined by the principle of improved choice and autonomy, that each person should be seen as an individual and that any detention in hospital must have therapeutic benefit. Assessing people under the Act will be a new process for AMHPs and S12 approved Drs, with new criteria to be followed.
We hope that our colleagues across the social work and social care sector will welcome the white paper and join us in responding to the consultation and helping to develop the next stage in the future of mental health care.