Mental Health Act: Call for “unequivocal commitment” to improve access to advocacy
Over fifty leaders in mental health and advocacy are calling on the government to “make an unequivocal commitment to improving access to Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs) as part of the reform of the Mental Health Act” in a joint letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.
The letter, written and coordinated by VoiceAbility, has over fifty signatories including the chief executives of Mind, Rethink, the National Autistic Society, the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
It follows concerns that proposals to improve access to advocacy, as recommended by the independent review of the Mental Health Act in 2018, might be scaled back because of funding constraints and that government commitments to improve access to advocacy will be sacrificed.
Ahead of the upcoming Spending Review, organisations are calling on the government to fully implement its white paper proposals to extend the right to advocacy to voluntary patients and to implement an ‘opt-out’ model for advocacy, where people automatically get support from an advocate rather than having to ask for one.
Jonathan Senker, Chief Executive of VoiceAbility, said:
“Being admitted to a mental health hospital involves the loss of many basic freedoms. It can be extremely distressing and many people’s experience is that their voice is no longer heard. It is vital that people’s views are sought and responded to, including about care and treatment. This is exactly what advocacy does.
“We welcome the government’s recognition of the importance of access to high-quality advocacy. We share their ambition that everyone in hospital for a mental illness, whether sectioned or there voluntarily, should have a right to an independent advocate on an opt-out basis. This now needs to be fully funded by government and legislated for in the reform of the Mental Health Act.”
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Mind, said:
“We hear day in and day out from people with mental health problems who tell us what a difference it would have made for them to know their rights while receiving treatment in hospital and to have someone independent help make sure those rights and their wishes were respected.
“It was encouraging to see this also recognised in the UK Government’s White Paper on reforming the Mental Health Act but decision makers now risk being unable to implement an automatic right to independent advocacy because of a lack of funding for this change. It is vital the UK Government allocates sufficient funding in its upcoming Spending Review to introducing this crucial change.”
You can find out more information about Mental Health Act reform here.