Rightful Lives Response to the Mental Health Act White Paper

Rightful Lives welcomes the government White Paper to reform the Mental Health Act

We welcome the fact that autism and learning disabilities will no longer be seen as conditions that can be treated.

However, we are concerned that it will still be possible to detain people under section 2 of the Act for up to 28 days because we feel this rule will be open to abuse and that s3 detentions will follow far too often. Most autistic people find the hospital environment extremely distressing and this will adversely affect their mental health and their ability to manage and regulate themselves.

We are concerned that some doctors will diagnose people as having mental health conditions because these doctors do not understand autism and learning disabilities.

We believe that not enough consideration has been given to the reasons why autistic and learning disabled people end up on criminal sections. Abuse and/or a failure to meet their needs can be the triggers for events that lead to their involvement in the criminal justice system.

We know that some autistic and learning disabled people do have mental health conditions for which they will need the right kind of help. We urge mental health trusts and other organisations to include this in their work and to ensure that the specific needs of autistic and learning disabled people are met.

We welcome the proposal to ensure that Responsible Clinicians will have a statutory duty to consider the findings of C(E)TRs and to justify and explain any deviations. However, we also believe that this same statutory duty should apply to the commissioners responsible for the person’s care.

We are concerned that the Mental Capacity Act may be used to detain people instead of the Mental Health Act. This could also mean fewer protections for the detained person.

We believe that the right community services are crucial to ensuring that this new law will have the right impact and we urge the government to ensure these services are fully funded.

Finally, we demand that the government ends human rights abuses in psychiatric hospitals and residential settings as a matter of extreme urgency. It is not enough to wait until this new legislation is enacted.