We must make the Mental Health Act work for children and young people, says the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition welcomes today’s report by the Joint Committee on the Government’s Draft Mental Health Bill.

In response to the report, coalition lead Charlotte Rainer welcomed the committee’s calls to help modernise the Mental Health Act.

“While the proposals in the Bill will help improve the treatment of people in need of urgent mental health care, little consideration has been given to the specific needs and experiences of those under the age of 18. We therefore welcome the Committee’s focus on children and young people detained under the Act and those placed in mental health hospitals as informal patients.

“The Committee has outlined several recommendations that will help strengthen provisions for children and young people. Their report rightly recognises the need for a statutory test for competence to be included in the Bill and call on government to consult on what this will look like. We support this recommendation and would like to see the statutory test work effectively for those under the age of 16.

“It’s sadly still the case that some children and young people are inappropriately detained in adult hospitals or far away from their homes and these numbers have been growing in recent years. The Committee has acknowledged this issue and calls for the strengthening of safeguards around this.

“All those detained under the Mental Health Act have the right to be heard and have a say in decision-making, but we know that this isn’t always the case, particularly for children and young people. Access to advocacy is vital in helping those who might be facing challenges around their care, including informal patients. We welcome the Committee’s call to extend advocacy on an opt-out basis to informal patients and believe this must be properly resourced. A Nominated Person may also support a child or young person; however, it is yet to be determined how this role would interact with parents and carers. The Committee also recommend the Government consult on this to further explore how this will apply to under 18s.

“The introduction of a Mental Health Bill provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve how people experiencing mental health crises are treated by the law. The Government must now act on the Committee’s recommendations and introduce the Bill at the earliest opportunity. The Government must also invest in and continue to deliver on its commitment to expanding and improving children and young people’s mental health provision, particularly within the community.”

Author: Charlotte Rainer (CYPMHC Coalition Lead)