Government’s draft bill race review attacked for lacking independence

    Campaigners have criticised the government’s decision to carry
    out its own race impact assessment on the draft Mental Health
    Bill.

    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
    done independently.

    “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
    others.

    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
    developed.

    “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.

     

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