New draft mental health bill may fail to meet campaigners’ demands

A revised version of the draft mental health bill could be
published early in the New Year, Community Care has

However, the revised version is still expected to include the wide
definition of mental disorder that caused such outrage when the
bill was first unveiled in June last year.

It is believed that the proposals to open up the approved social
worker role to other mental health professionals, such as community
psychiatric nurses, will also still appear.

However, the government is thought to have recognised the
specialist skills that ASWs contribute to the process of deciding
whether to detain an individual under the Mental Health Act 1983
and the new version is expected to reflect this.

It is also anticipated that the new proposals will still have
significant workforce implications, with estimates suggesting that
5 per cent more mental health workers would be needed across the

Over the past few months, stakeholders have been meeting with
government officials to discuss the bill, but some are still
concerned that the government is pressing ahead with its plans
without properly listening to their views.

Mental health charity Mind said it was still “deeply unhappy” with
the wider definition of mental health problems in the draft bill
and pointed out that, so far, no one had explained where the
necessary extra staff would come from.

Rowena Daw, head of policy development, added that the government’s
claims of a consensus being reached on the bill were unexpected
because “clear and virtually unanimous concerns” had been raised at
the expert stakeholder meetings.

“We have been surprised by this talk of consensus but hope that
this indicates that our objections will have been taken into
account in any new draft bill,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Directors of Social Services has said
that, while it supports the broadening out of the ASWrole in
principle, a long lead-in time would be necessary in implementing

Jenny Goodall, joint chairperson of the ADSS mental health strategy
group, added that ASWs were proud of their role, but that
broadening it out could lead to fewer social workers putting
themselves forward.

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