Memorandum submitted by Bro Tāf Voluntary Sector Mental Health Network (MH 19)
This Network has followed with great attention the progress of the current proposed legislation. The Network feels that its member organisations' contact at close quarters with people experiencing mental health difficulties makes it well-placed to make the following observations.
It is understood that the new elements of legislation contained in the Bill do not carry a set of guiding principles. This is seen as a major omission, which should be re-thought urgently. It is understood that an argument has been advanced that because the Bill is an amendment of existing legislation rather than a new Act, as was introduced in Scotland, that a set of guiding principles is not necessary. However, the Network feels that the radical nature of the changes entailed in the new legislation clearly necessitates the inclusion of such principles to inform how competing imperatives in relation to the mode of compulsory treatment orders issued, and the safeguarding of beneficial relationships with supportive agencies and professionals.
Such an underpinning by a set of guiding principles would be of particular importance in balancing the interests of the individual against the resource priorities of agencies, and ensuring consistent application of the new arrangements across all geographic areas.
The Network feels strongly that further consideration is needed of the arrangements by which a service user may nominate a person other than their legally-identified "nearest relative" to uphold their interests.
The possibility of an individual being able to nominate an alternative person is itself welcomed, as it is by no means uncommon that the closest family member to have been the major player in precipitating a mental health crisis. However, the stipulation that this can only be effected by a decision of a Court prompts major concerns. At a time when someone is particularly vulnerable, it is likely that in the bulk of cases the person will in reality be too daunted to proceed. Furthermore, the fact that the process incurs a cost is held to be unacceptable in principle.
An alternative arrangement, analogous in some way with the process for devising advance directives for treatment, is strongly advocated.
In order to be implemented effectively and for the benefit of mental health service users, the changes will need to be supported by rigorous and ongoing training of professionals in all agencies, including the police service. Provision for obligatory training requirements with respect to the workings of the new legislation, should be a major priority.
APPENDIX 1 Members of the Network
 For members of the network, please see Appendix 1