Committee highlights worrying gaps in Mental Health Act


A worrying lack of data to allow for comprehensive scrutiny and assessment of whether the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 is delivering on its duties of equality and non-discrimination has been highlighted by an Equal Opportunities Committee report published today.

The report follows on from the committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Act. The Act has introduced statutory rights for every person with a mental disorder to have the right of access to independent advocacy services. It also places duties on health boards and local authorities to ensure that these services are available.

Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: "It is vital that legislation passed by this Parliament is assessed to ensure that it is fit for purpose and is being delivered in practice.

“The committee has highlighted some areas where there are worrying gaps, as well as improvements necessary, to ensure that two of the key principles underpinning this Act, namely equality and non-discrimination, are being met.

“It heard, for example, that there is real pressure on advocacy services which are simply not available to the most vulnerable in need of this service.

“It is concerned, from the evidence it took, that the provision of these services appears to be provided only through crisis management, rather than through the implementation of long-term strategies.

“The committee is also concerned that monitoring of the Act and in particular the Local Authorities duties under section 26 of the Act, is no longer being carried out by the Mental Welfare Commission under changes made recently by the Public Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

“The Equal Opportunities Committee therefore calls for clarification of how this will be monitored in the future."

The report also highlighted:

• Concerns in relation to gaps in advocacy provision (including advocacy provision to prisoners which is not being delivered). In this regard, the committee calls on the Scottish Government, as part of its consideration of the McManus Review, to look closely at the issue of provision to ensure that advocacy is available to all vulnerable groups, not just to those presenting as crisis cases.

• The need to ensure that unpaid carers have access to all the services they require to enable them to perform their invaluable role. The committee believes that the Scottish Government should consider the issue of the provision of advocacy for carers further in the context of its Carers Strategy.

• The failure to reach the target for reducing the number of admissions of children and adolescents to adult hospital beds, meaning that often the young person does not get the age-appropriate care to which they are entitled.

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