We’ve been told by the man at the top that this government has no
reverse gear. So perhaps it’s not altogether surprising that the
Department of Health looks all set to completely ignore the almost
universal criticism of its draft mental health legislation.
It appears that the “revised” version of the bill, expected early
next year, is pretty much a dusted-down version of the old bill.
The outcry that greeted the proposals the first time they were put
forward seems to have had little worthwhile effect.
So here we go again then. The draconian plans to introduce a wider
catch-all definition of mental disorder are bound to prompt more
protests from those concerned they will lead to more people facing
compulsory treatment orders.
It also seems the proposal to open up the approved social worker
role to other staff groups is to be re-cycled. This time it comes
with reassurances that the government has recognised the role
requires specialist skills and so extra training will be offered to
those new individuals taking it on.
But that wasn’t the point was it? Surely the concern is that
approved social workers can offer an independent assessment of
whether somebody should be detained under the Mental Health Act
1983. No doubt many community psychiatric nurses would argue that
the medical model is anathema to them too and that they are more
than capable of standing up to a psychiatrist.
But approved social workers are in a unique position because they
are not employed by the health service so they really can take a
step back and see things from a different angle.
As the bill goes through parliament no doubt this and other
controversial clauses will be thrashed out and, in some cases,
hopefully thrown out.
Apparently the government is hoping to reach a “consensus” over the
bill. Yet it’s hard to see where the common ground lies – unless,
that is, their definition of consensus is “when everyone else comes
round to agreeing with us.”