Learning Disability Charity Mencap Responds to the Queen’s Speech – “Reforms to the Mental Health Act are a vital step in protecting human rights”

Mencap responds to today’s Queen’s Speech and the announcement of the Government’s draft Mental Health Bill.  

Edel Harris OBE, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: 

“We welcome today’s announcement which is a huge step in the right direction and will make a significant improvement to the lives of many people living with a learning disability and autism.  

“For the last decade, Mencap has campaigned tirelessly alongside families, carers and other disability groups to ensure that people with a learning disability who have no mental health issue cannot be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and detained. 

“Laws are supposed to protect people, yet this outdated legislation has continued to fail people with a learning disability and/or autism. There are currently over 2,000 people locked away in institutions, the vast majority detained under the Mental Health Act. Many are subject to physical restraint, solitary confinement and overmedication. They face increased abuse and neglect, and are often forced to live many miles away from their families inside institutions.

“We welcome the Government’s Mental Health Act reforms which recognise that a learning disability is a lifelong disability and not a mental health problem. People deserve to live in homes, not hospitals, and this legislation will support efforts to put a stop to this human rights scandal once and for all. The challenge for the Government now is to develop suitable community-based support and housing to prevent people with a learning disability and autism from being admitted to institutions in the first place. 

 “We look forward to the Government action plan on ‘Building the Right Support’, which should prioritise delivery of the right support at the right time. Families have waited too long to see their loved ones living fulfilling lives in the community, and these reforms are a vital step in protecting human rights.”