Queen’s Speech: Mental health laws to be overhauled

By William Eichler | 10 May 2022

The Government has confirmed that it will seek to reform mental health laws to make it harder to detain people with autism and to stop the disproportionate use of the laws against people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Today’s Queen’s Speech, delivered by Prince Charles, included confirmation of the draft Mental Health Bill which aims to transform the mental health system in England and Wales and give greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis.

Drawing on the recommendations set out in the review of the Mental Health Act 1983, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the draft Mental Health Bill aims to reduce the number of people being detained under the current laws in England and Wales.

In 2020-21, 53,239 new detentions under the Mental Health Act were recorded, but the overall national totals will be higher, according to NHS Digital.

The draft bill states that learning disabilities and autism will no longer be classed as mental health disorders. This means that people with learning disabilities and autism will no longer be detained under the Mental Health Act.

The reforms also aim to tackle the disproportionate number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities detained under the Mental Health Act. Black people are over four times more likely to be detained and over 10 times more likely to be subject to a community treatment order.

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