Legal duty on service providers may leave them open to judicial review

Strategic health authorities and primary care trusts may be
subject to judicial reviews if they fail to provide adequate
services for children and adolescents with mental health problems,
MPs were told last week.

Christine Daly, social policy adviser at the Children’s Legal
Centre, told MPs scrutinising the draft Mental Health Bill that the
duty on service providers to work for the best interests of
children, spelled out in the Children Act 2004, could leave those
that failed open to judicial review.

Research by charity Youngminds has revealed that there are 260
young people, including some
who are victims of violence, on adult mental health wards because
of a lack of suitable provision.

Nancy Kelly, principal policy officer at Barnardo’s, urged the
government to look again at the bill to ensure it complied with the
act. “This bill was drafted long before the Children Act came in.
There is a real need to look again at this in the light of the
act,” she said.

Kelly added that the draft Mental Health Bill should include the
children’s welfare checklist from the Children Act 1989, adding
that such a move was “not desirable but necessary”.

Earlier, adolescent psychiatrist Dr Patrick Byrne said it was
“scandalous” that there were not enough beds for young people,
particularly in north east and north west England.

Kelly also told the MPs that tribunal panels should include
people who understood children’s issues.

Child psychiatrist Brian Jacobs said the biggest area of
confusion working in adult mental health services was dealing with
social services in relation to children who ended up there. “The
two systems [adult mental health and children’s social services] do
not mesh nicely, even today,” he said.

The Local Government Association and the Association of
Directors of Social Services have also warned that neither the
draft bill nor the 1989 or 2004 Children Acts focus sufficiently on
the mental health needs of children and young people.


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