The government have today announced a review of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
This does not appear to be something that individuals can directly contribute to but the press release from the Secretary of State for Health makes it clear that this is a joint review with the home office and will take account of a wide range of stakeholder views, including the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health and the recently announced inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee chairman, Keith VAZ MP. You can submit your views to that (see below).
No particular mention is made of a timescale by which this will be done – but I wouldn’t expect to hear anything significant until towards the end of 2014. The press release makes it clear that one option at the end of the review will be to do nothing at all, either to the primary legislation OR to the Code of Practice. There could be amendments just to the Code of Practice or to both.
REVIEW OF PRIMARY LEGISLATION
The full press release from the Secretary of State for Health —
I am announcing the details of the joint review between the Department of Health and the Home Office of the operation of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. These provisions are aimed at giving support to a person experiencing a mental health crisis, by giving the police powers to temporarily remove people who appear to be suffering from a mental disorder, who need urgent care, to a ‘place of safety’, so that a mental health assessment can be carried out and appropriate arrangements made.
The review will consider whether the primary legislation supports our overarching objective for all public services to respond to the needs of people experiencing mental health crises at the right time, and improving the outcomes for people experiencing mental health crises when they come in to contact with the police. The review formally starts today and a briefing paper setting out the aims and timescales has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon Members from the Vote Office, and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
Work on this issue was initiated by the Home Office, since when the Home Secretary and I, the Minister for Care and Support and the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims have been working together to find the right way forward. We know there is a lot of interest about the way that Sections 135 and 136 of the Act operate in practice, and the impacts both on the person detained, and on the use of police and health services’ time and resources. In particular, police officers can be called upon to make decisions on how to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis, when they may not be the best people to do so.
We want to look at the evidence and to make sure that this part of the legislation is fit for purpose, clear, and workable. The review will bring together evidence and cover a range of options, which may include leaving the legislation as it is and making changes to the associated Codes of Practice, or proposing amendments to the legislation. We will be engaging widely on developing the options with practitioners as well as those affected by the legislation. We will also seek the views of interested hon Members, including the All Party Parliamentary Group who recently led a debate on the matter. I welcome the current Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Policing and Mental Health, which will explore the relevant evidence.
INQUIRY BY HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
If you do wish to give a view, including on the above matters, then the Home Affairs Select Committee is asking for written evidence by 07th May, ahead of taking evidence from interested parties later in the year.
The Committee would like to hear your views on Policing and Mental Health. We would welcome any relevant views, but are particularly interested in hearing about:
- What groups might have particular mental health needs when they come into contact with the police? For example, people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome
- What impact does the policing of individuals with mental health problems have on front-line police resources?
- What examples of best practice are there in effective working between the agencies responsible for mental health? And what have been the results for those who suffer mental health problems, the police and health care providers?
- How have local initiatives, including the street triage pilots, improved effective working between mental health nurses and the police?
- What improvements could be made to the training and guidance available to police staff that regularly come into contact those with mental health problems?
- What more could be done to reduce the number of people who die or suffer serious injury during and immediately following police custody?
- Should s136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 be reformed? And if so, how?
The Committee would welcome views on these and any other matters that may be relevant to the inquiry. Individuals should not feel obliged to address all the points above. We would particularly welcome responses from those who have experience in the front-line delivery of mental health care and policing. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent online via their web page.
The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by noon on Wednesday 7 May 2014.
Each submission should —
a) be no more than 3,000 words in length
b) be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
c) have numbered paragraphs
d) include a declaration of interests.
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