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Advocacy leaders urge government to swiftly’ implement Mental Health Act reforms

10 February 2023

A joint letter calls for rapid action to improve the mental health system.

Over 30 leaders from across the advocacy sector have today written to Mental Health Minister Maria Caulfield MP. The letter urges the Minister to embrace the recommendations of the recent Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill and to legislate and implement them swiftly to deliver a more person-centred mental health system. 

The government has promised to reform the Mental Health Act when parliamentary time allows’ and must respond to the Joint Committee’s recommendations within two months.

Jonathan Senker, VoiceAbility’s chief executive and one of the authors and signatories of the letter said:

Our letter to the Minister highlights the potential of advocacy to transform the lives of people with a learning disability and autistic people in hospital. We make it clear that often this potential lies unrealised.

This is because many people simply don’t get access to high quality advocacy, and this is often poorly supported by funding and commissioning arrangements. We know from listening to people with a learning disability and autistic people, as well as from our own experience, how to deliver advocacy so that it can be most effective in these critical circumstances. We are urging the government to work with us at pace to make the changes needed, so that people get their voices heard and rights respected. 

Alongside this, we spotlight important legislative measures the government must take, following on from the Joint Committee’s report on the draft Mental Health Bill. We urge the government to ensure advocacy is provided on an opt out’ basis for all people detained under the Mental Health Act and the extension of both advocacy and opt out’ to voluntary patients. 

Advocacy is vital, but advocacy alone is not a silver bullet, solving all. Systemic and cultural change is required, and we continue to urge the government to demonstrate the political will to lead this. In our letter, we set out some of the practical legislative changes which could be taken now and would help. These include requiring public bodies to invest sufficiently in community-based support, better identifying and supporting people to prevent the need for admission to hospital, and strengthening the role of tribunals so they can hold NHS bodies and councils accountable for enabling people to move out of hospital.”

The letter has been signed by:

Jonathan Senker, Chief Executive, VoiceAbility
Eleanor Bradley, Advocacy Manager, Advocacy Focus
Philip Bramson, Chief Executive, The Advonet Group
Amanda Brooks, Head of Service - Advocacy and Wellbeing, n-compass
Sharon Cullerton, Director, Vital
Pete Dempsey, Advocacy Service Manager, One Advocacy
Dawn Dixon, CEO, Swindon Advocacy Movement
Emma Edwards, Director of Operations and Quality, Together for Mental Wellbeing
Christine Forde, Chief Executive, Solihull Action through Advocacy
Mick Gillick MBE, Head of Services, Onside Advocacy
Lindsay Graham, Advocacy Director, People First Independent Advocacy
Suzi Henderson, CEO, Cloverleaf Advocacy
Vikki Holloway, Chief Executive, South West Advocacy Network
Norya Irani, Head of Operational Business Compliance, Advent Advocacy
Jacqui Jobson, Jacqui Jobson Consultancy
Philip Kerr, Contracts Manager, Carers Federation Ltd
Jane Kingston, Head of Advocacy, Connected Voice Advocacy
Paul Marshall, Chief Executive, The National Development Team for Inclusion
Kate Mercer, Director, Black Belt Advocacy
Helen Moulinos, Chief Executive, POhWER
Ruth Plant, Interim CEO, Asist
Marty Slade, Chief Executive, Dorset Advocacy
Sabrina Solomon, Head of Service Delivery, The Advocacy Project
Lynne Stafford, Chief Executive, Gaddum (Culturally Appropriate Advocacy Pilot Provider)
Gary Underhill, Advocacy Consultant, Spearman Consultancy
Chris Vick, Service Director, ASNEW
Teresa Waldron, Managing Director, Deaf-initely Women
Richard Walsh, Associate Director - Advocacy Services, Rethink Advocacy
Rita Waters, Group Chief Executive (England/​Wales), NYAS
Jon Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer, Advocacy for All
David Woolley, Chief Executive, Your Voice Counts

You can download the letter below.