Friday 29 October 2010

Law in Action

We are sending a briefing today to all Assembly Members urging them to go the extra mile to ensure that the Mental Health Measure (Welsh law) has teeth when they take it through the final plenary stage next Tuesday - see the briefing here.

There is a lot at stake. If, either through amendment and regulations or through the regulations alone (either way can work), we can prescribe unambigously what must be covered in all the individual care plans to which people with a serious mental illness will have a legal right, then we could be on the brink of establishing a unique, unprecedented legal platform for mental health services unequalled in the UK or (so far as I can see) anywhere in the world. The key life areas which will certainly appear in the regulations can be seen in the diagram I have posted - but there is a world of difference between requiring these 9 areas to be considered in drawing up care plans and requiring them to be addressed in writing: on this apparently slight distinction lies the difference between a helpful but unambitious law and a truly revolutionary and transforming one. I am not exaggerating!

We also need some clear but flexible guidance on timescales because a legal right to something at an unspecified time in the future isn't much of a legal right (actually it's not quite as bad as it sounds because delay could be challenged and a court could rule that delay as "unreasonable" - but how much better to be clear about what is expected!).

Final decisions on these crucial matters will not be made on Tuesday - we have to wait to see the draft regulations which follow - but this will be a key opportunity for Assembly Members to seek assurances about the Government's intentions for the regulations.

Next Tuesday will be an early outing for our new National Assembly lead Junaid Iqbal whom we have recently assigned to liaise with Assembly Members on two days a week. He and our National Service-User Champion Sue Barnes will be on hand to speak for patients and families and answer AMs' questions.