Report outlining recommendations of the advisory group formed by the Department of Health to advise it about the race equality impact assessment on the mental health bill – a summary

The advisory group was set up in May 2005 to advise the Department of Health on its duty to conduct a race equality impact assessment. The group welcomed the opportunity to comment on the bill but said: “for reasons beyond our control and in view of a tight timetable that was set for us, we have not had the opportunity to carry out our terms of reference in full.” 

The advisory group goes on to stress that the report itself is not a race equality impact assessment. The report says: “It is not part of our remit to do a race equality impact assessment: that is the department’s duty.  We must also stress that we do not think that a comprehensive race equality impact assessment could have been achieved in the timescales that were set.  There have also been some elements, such as consultation, that will need to be taken forward by the Department.  We have made some specific recommendations about this.  We consider that the department should have conducted a race equality impact assessment at an earlier stage in the development of the Mental Health Bill.  It should still ensure that it conducts a comprehensive race equality impact assessment, in accordance with the Commission for Racial Equality guidelines, in order to fully meet its duty under s71 of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.”  

The report goes on to make a series of specific recommendations in relation to the bill, including:

–          There should be principles governing the bill, and these should be on the face of the bill

–        The definition of mental disorder and the relevant conditions should be narrowed

–        The Department should tighten the criteria for initial examination requests in order to reduce the risk of vexatious and inappropriate requests being made

–        We consider that additional support should be available to the patient at the point when they are being examined to see if they meet the relevant conditions.

–          The criteria for the use of non-residential orders should be tightly drawn so that they are targeted on a small group of patients for whom they might be effective

–          In delivering the tribunal system, the department should consider carefully the potential race impact of any proposals that streamline the process – such as. paper tribunals or single member tribunals

–          The implementation of the new tribunal system should also work towards building a more ethnically representative tribunal membership and the Department of Health, along with the Department for Constitutional Affairs, should ensure that a robust plan is in place to make this happen.  All tribunal members should be properly trained in cultural competency.

–          The bill provides an opportunity to build on the recommendations of the independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett.  The department should use the opportunity created by the Bill to prevent inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint, and in particular must ensure that its use is effectively monitored.

–          The department should not rely entirely on consultations that have already taken place around the bill, or related policy developments on black and minority ethnic issues.  It needs to ensure that there is a wide based consultation of users of the bill.   In particular, there should be an effective consultation exercise involving users and carers.






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