Campaigners have criticised the government’s decision to carry
out its own race impact assessment on the draft Mental Health
The Department of Health plans to conduct the assessment before
the bill is presented to parliament and said it would involve
stakeholders from ethnic minorities.
But the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 60 organisations
opposed to measures in the bill, believes the assessment should be
“Something independent has the complete hallmark of being done
outside government,” an alliance spokesperson said.
“But if it is going to be done by the department then it has to
be much more than just consultation. It has to make sure that
people are involved in designing the assessment and the results
must be made public.
“We need to be able to see what is concluded and what has been
changed in the bill as a result.”
Professionals and service users fear the proposed legislation will
lead to more compulsory treatment and believe people from ethnic
minorities will suffer most.
Research has shown that the Mental Health Act 1983 is not
implemented equally, and black people in the UK are at least three
times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than
The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, a member of the
alliance, believes the bill will be applied more harshly because it
relies on notions such as “substantial risk” and has no specific
measures to promote race equality.
It also says the bill has many connections with the criminal
justice system, where black people are also over-represented.
Last week, new Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair joined
the debate by suggesting an early-warning system with details about
mentally ill patients who posed a risk to the public could be
“Clearly, something has not gone right because we have had a
series of cases in which people have been murdered by offenders
with psychiatric problems,” he said.