Tuesday 7 December 2021
Health and Social Care
Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018: Commencement
Today, I am delighted to announce the commencement of the majority of the provisions of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018, and alongside this, the publication of:
the Government’s response to a public consultation on the draft statutory guidance; and
the revised statutory guidance, which has been reviewed considering the public consultation held earlier this year.
The provisions specified within the commencement regulations will be brought into force on 31 March 2022. This will allow reasonable time for mental health units to prepare for the new requirements the Act will place on them, and enable them to take account of the statutory guidance which is being published in advance of commencement, alongside the response to the recent public consultation on the statutory guidance.
The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 was introduced in the House of Commons by the hon. Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed) in July 2017 and received Royal Assent in November 2018. The Act, also known as Seni’s Law, is named after Olaseni Lewis, who died as a result of being forcibly restrained by up to 11 police officers while he was a voluntary patient in a mental health unit. Seni was 23 at the time of his death, doing a postgraduate Masters in IT and business management at Kingston University and should have had his whole life ahead of him. Following their son’s death, Aji, Conrad and the Lewis family campaigned and fought for justice for their son, and the answers to what happened to him on that day. It took seven years before there was an inquest, which ruled:
“The excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints were disproportionate and unreasonable”.
The Act aims to clearly set out the measures which are needed to both prevent the inappropriate use of force and ensure accountability and transparency about the use of force in mental health units, encouraging a human-rights, trauma-informed and person-centred approach to patient care. The statutory guidance sets out how we expect mental health units to meet the requirements of the Act. The requirements of the Act and the statutory guidance provide a much needed opportunity to embed a consistent approach across services nationally.
I believe that every individual has the right to be treated with dignity, in a caring therapeutic environment which is free from abuse. The use of force can sometimes be necessary to secure the safety of patients and staff. However, it is always accompanied by risk and can often be a traumatic experience for patients when they are most vulnerable and in need of compassionate care. For too long mental health services have relied on the use of force, with data showing the use force is at an all-time high.
This Act represents a vital step in efforts to reduce the use of force in mental health units, which affected over 13,000 individuals in 2020-21 and disproportionately those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.
I am encouraged that this landmark piece of legislation enjoys the support of patients, people with lived experience, voluntary and charitable sector organisations and the NHS. Today’s commencement of the majority of the Act represents a significant step forward in our efforts to prevent the use of inappropriate force in mental health units, which would not have been possible without the tireless campaigning of the hon. Member for Croydon North, Aji and Conrad Lewis and their daughters Kemi and Lara. Aji Lewis, with the support of her family, continues to campaign to reduce the use of force and improve mental health services for all patients. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to meet Aji and hear her family’s and Seni’s story directly from her.
This is part of the Government’s wider reform agenda to improve support for individuals with severe mental illnesses. The Government published their Mental Health Act White Paper on 13 January 2021 which sets out proposals for once in a generation reforms to the Mental Health Act, responding to and building on the Independent Review of the Act, led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely’s. As part of this, NHS England and NHS Improvement has developed the Patient and Carers Race Equality Framework to support mental health services to improve the experience of care for people from ethnic minority backgrounds by increasing staff understanding of their racial and cultural differences.
We are also working hard to achieve our NHS long-term plan commitment to give 370,000 adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses greater choice and control over their care and support them to live well in their communities by 2023-24. Through this plan, we are also expanding services for people experiencing a mental health crisis including working towards 24/7 crisis resolution and home treatment services and investing in a range of local complementary and alternative crisis services. In addition, all NHS mental health providers have now established 24/7 all-age urgent mental health helplines for those experiencing a mental health crisis or those supporting them.
Prisons Strategy White Paper
Today the Government have published our Prisons Strategy White Paper which sets out our plans to build the prison places the country needs, transform the prison regime to protect the public, and to drive down reoffending and cut crime. The White Paper sets out our plans to deliver on this.
The White Paper sets out our ambitious plans to:
Deliver the biggest prison building programme in more than 100 years, with almost £4 billion to create up to 20,000 additional prison places to help us to meet demand as tougher sentencing rules come in and the courts clear backlogs.
Support a zero-tolerance approach to weapons, drugs and contraband in prisons, disrupting criminal activity from within the prison walls and, crucially, ensuring good order and discipline in our estate so that staff and prisoners are safe and can focus on the purposeful activity which reduces reoffending.
Use the prison system to get more prisoners off drugs, by improving drug testing and delivering access to a full range of drug and mental health treatment, including abstinence-based drug treatment options, with stronger continuity of drug treatment on release.
Introduce an improved prisoner education service, which ensures prisoners have access to a range of services to improve skills, such as literacy and numeracy, and acquire qualifications, and is focused on opening up employment opportunities for prisoners on release.
Transform the opportunities for work in prisons and on release on temporary license (ROTL) to increase job prospects for prison leavers, by holding governors to account for the job opportunities and outcomes they achieve for prisoners.
Provide the basics that offenders need to live crime-free lives (such as a CV, setting out the qualifications, skills and work experience gained in custody, ID and conditions of release) through a system of “passports” to better aid resettlement and investing £200 million a year by 2024-25 to transform our approach to rehabilitation.
Empower governors to innovate locally, while still operating with and being assessed against clear outcome measures that align with the Government’s priorities.
Use clear, public and transparent prison performance statistics with published key performance indicators (KPIs) for prisons and league tables to compare performance and spread best practice, ensuring success is measured against our priorities: security and stability; substance misuse and mental health; and resettlement and family ties.
Recruit an extra 5,000 prison officers and upskill our existing staff by enhancing training, supervision, and qualifications; as well as making sure we hire the next generation of governors through an HMPPS fast-track scheme.
Modernise our prisons with digital infrastructure so that prisoners have autonomy over their in-prison affairs, and staff have a reduced bureaucratic burden, enabling them to work more efficiently.
The full package of proposals will help us bring down rates of reoffending, which cost our economy over £18 billion per year, beat crime and build back better—to make our communities safer, and level up opportunities across the country. This White Paper sets out what we will deliver over the next two years as well as our longer-term 10-year vision. The White Paper can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prisons-strategy-white-paper
Independent Reporting Commission: Fourth Substantiveusb Report
I have received the fourth substantive report from the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC).
The IRC emanated from the Fresh Start Agreement of November 2015. That agreement set out the Northern Ireland Executive’s commitments around tackling paramilitary activity and associated criminality, and led to a programme of work to deliver a Northern Ireland Executive action plan containing 43 recommendations.
The New Decade, New Approach Agreement, in January 2020, included a commitment to ongoing work to tackle paramilitarism and, earlier this year, it was agreed that a second phase of the programme of work to tackle paramilitary activity would run until March 2024.
This fourth substantive report builds on the work already undertaken by the Commissioners and highlights the ongoing challenge of paramilitarism, and reminds us of the important work still to be done.
I would like to thank the commissioners for their work, particularly in delivering this year’s report in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic.