On 26th October 2023 the CBF, Mencap, NAS and VoiceAbility handed in our joint petition to Parliament, telling the Prime Minister and the government that it is ‘Time to Act’ on the Draft Mental Health Bill. We would like to thank everyone who has signed and shared the petition.
The Draft Mental Health Bill will reform the Mental Health Act so that learning disabilities and autism are no longer classed as mental disorders – meaning that it will no longer be possible to section people with a learning disability and autistic people who do not also have a mental health condition under the Mental Health Act. This will mean that people with a learning disability and autistic people cannot be inappropriately detained in mental health inpatient units, where they are restrained, secluded and segregated, overmedicated, and traumatised by being in a place that cannot meet their needs.
Over 2000 people with a learning disability and autistic people are still stuck in inpatient units, often far away from their families and friends, when they could be living in their local community with the right support. More than half have no discharge date, so they and their loved ones have no idea when they will be getting out. The average length of stay for someone who has a learning disability and/or is autistic is nearly five and a half years – with some having been there for more than 10 years.
Since the Draft Mental Health Bill was introduced last year, it has had cross-party support, recognizing the urgent need to reform the Mental Health Act. But, seven months after the deadline to respond to the Joint Committee’s report passed, we have heard nothing from the government about plans to introduce the Bill, despite repeated questioning from MPs, campaigners, and charities. Our petition tells the government that we need this Bill to be passed – the longer they wait, the more harm is done.