Commission for Racial Equality slams government over Mental Health Bill

    The Department of Health has not addressed Commission for Racial Equality criticisms dating from August 2005 that it has failed in its duty to assess the Mental Health Bill’s impact on black and ethnic minority communities.

    CRE director of policy and public sector Nick Johnson wrote to health minister Rosie Winterton last week to restate fundamental criticisms of the DH’s race equality impact assessment of the bill, which he described as containing “at best flawed and at worst highly misleading” information.

    The letter comes with the DH under investigation by the CRE for failing to carry out any race equality impact assessments on its policies from April 2004 to March 2005.

    Johnson said the CRE had “repeatedly raised significant concerns”, most recently this March, about the development and contents of the Mental Health Bill’s impact assessment since August 2005, accusing the DH of contravening its Race Relations Act duty to promote racial equality.

    However, the DH’s failure to address these meant that the CRE had “been left with no other option” but to write to Winterton directly.

    The CRE’s specific criticisms of the impact assessment include a selective use of available research and the failure to “provide data or reasoned argument” to support the DH’s view that the bill would not have an adverse impact on BME communities.

    The commission has warned proposals in the bill to introduce supervised community treatment orders will be used excessively and unnecessarily on African-Carribean young men. It has also warned that the widening of the definition of mental disorder in the bill will increase the detention of people from ethnic minorities, and that approved mental health professionals, who will replace approved social workers, will not be fully covered by the race equality duty.

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