Mental Health and Seni’s Law

I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of Olaseni Lewis after he voluntarily admitted himself into Bethlem Royal Hospital in August 2010.

I support the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill 2017-19, which received its First Reading in the House of Commons on 19 July 2017. The Bill would require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training so that staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill-health.
More than 34,000 people have signed an online related petition in support of this Bill, which clearly demonstrates the depth of feeling on this issue. I hope the Government takes this into consideration when the Bill is debated at Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 3 November 2017 which I am also attending.

The 2017 Labour Party manifesto stated: “Prison should always be a last resort – the state’s most severe sanction for serious offences. It should never be a substitute for failing mental health services. We will review the provision of mental health services in prisons.”

The Queen’s Speech 2017 confirmed that the Government will reform mental health legislation under which people with severe mental illness can be detained for assessment and treatment.  The review of mental health legislation will consider problems including: looking at why rates of detention are increasing and taking the necessary action to improve service responses; examining the disproportionate number of those from certain ethnic backgrounds, in particular black people, who are detained under the Act; and ensuring that those with mental ill health are treated fairly and protected from discrimination.

Responding to the announcement, the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, Barbara Keeley MP, said: “The burning injustice that remains in mental health is that underfunding means services are failing too many people. An independent review of the Mental Health Act is long overdue and to be welcomed but, far from being better funded than ever before, more than a quarter of CCGs have under-spent their mental health budgets for 2016/17. A Labour Government would invest more money in mental health and ring-fence budgets so that money for mental health reaches the front line rather than being siphoned off for other priorities.”

I welcome the independent review of the Mental Health Act, which is long overdue and will follow the progress of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill 2017-19 closely.