Making equality key to mental health services

This week’s network hub: The National BME Mental Health Network, seeking to reduce racial discrimination in social care services

The network aims to reduce inequality in health and social care provision for black and ethnic minority groups and promote good practice.

History: The network was set up in 2003 with funding from charity the Afiya Trust. Its goal was to address the issue of over representation of black and ethnic minority people in the mental health system by gathering together a group of people who had this as a common interest, so they could discuss policy, be a voice for this group and lobby government.

Members: There are 450 members comprising community, voluntary and statutory organisations, users, carers and psychiatrists. Membership is free and the main objective is to provide an accessible place to share information and have input into major national developments, for example consultations on the Mental Health Bill.

Members receive information updates on policy development, legislation, good practice, workforce development, cultural diversity issues and research affecting BME groups.

Main activities: Much time has been taken up with challenging the Mental Health Bill (now an Act).

There are three issues that the network is pleased to see the government changed as the bill made its way through parliament after lobbying from organisations. First, extra safeguards now exist in relation to supervised community treatment orders so that an individual must have previously been sectioned to receive one and it has been proved that their condition would deteriorate if they weren’t subject to one. Second, the treatability test has been reintroduced, so that if someone is sectioned the aim of any treatment must be to improve or alleviate their condition and third, a commitment to have a statement of equalities within the act.

As the network is London-based, time is spent widely consulting its members in different regions to find out what work is being done for BME mental health users around the country.

It has worked with the Department of Health on its Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care plan.

Service user network: Catch-A-Fiya is the National BME Mental Health Network’s survivor-controlled forum. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund to facilitate positive change for survivors over three years. The primary purpose of the project is to establish and maintain contact with survivors from BME communities.

This is done through facilitating peer support, training (where service users are involved in training sessions for practitioners) and self-employment opportunities in partnership with other groups.

Events: The network’s annual two-day conference will take place this year at Manchester Conference Centre, 24-25 September. Entitled “The journey in the ward and in the community”, it will explore the issues facing mental health professionals delivering services on the frontline, including in hospital wards, through outreach services, in community-based projects, or via housing or a range of other social services.


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