Reform of the Mental Health Act
My experience was very harsh. I felt staff lacked empathy and so instead of being put at ease that I was being put in a ‘place of safety’, I was confused and scared at what was happening. I was not consulted on the procedures and process of being detained or made to feel less anxious.
We are working to influence government proposals on reforms to the Mental Health Act. We believe more people should be able to get support from an advocate so that their rights are protected and voices are heard when it matters most.
Each year, tens of thousands of us will be treated in hospital for a mental health problem. For many of us, it is one of the scariest and most difficult times of our lives. An advocate is there to support us when it matters most and make sure our voice is heard.
Currently, the Mental Health Act provides a right to an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) only for people who are detained (often referred to as ‘sectioned’) or for people who are subject to supervised Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). If we go to hospital voluntarily and do not object to being there, the law says that we don’t have the right to an advocate at the moment, which means that lots of us miss out on advocacy support when we need it most.
What we are calling for
To give people more choice and control over their treatment, the reforms should
- make it easier for more people to get an advocate when they want one, by strengthening the legal right to advocacy and automatically offering everyone a mental health advocate with an ‘opt-out’ service
- give voluntary patients the right to an advocate so they are better informed about their rights and supported to speak up about their care and treatment
- formally extend advocacy to support people in decisions about their care and treatment, including around advance choices
- provide more powers for Mental Health Tribunals to make sure people get the support they need outside of hospital, and so that people with a learning disability and autistic people are not kept in hospital when it is not the best place for them
- make sure that everyone who is detained as an in-patient on a mental health ward has the rights that are set out in the Mental Health Act, as recommended by the Law Commission; the Mental Capacity Act should not be used to keep people in a mental health hospital
What we are doing
VoiceAbility is leading work with other advocacy organisations to make the case for better and more accessible advocacy support in the Mental Health Act. With over 30 other organisations, we submitted a joint consultation response to the government’s white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act.
We are working with friends and colleagues across the mental health sector to make sure that the reforms go as far as they need to and make a difference to people’s lives.
When it comes to passing a new law, we will work with parliamentarians to make sure people’s voices are heard and that changes lead to improvements to people’s rights and experience when they are in hospital because of mental ill health.