A RECIPE FOR CRISIS
Friday, February 18, 2011.
Human rights group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) has called for caution over the proposed legal aid cuts, warning that they could tip the mental health crisis in the black community into meltdown.
The comment comes as the organisation makes its submission to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) consultation on proposals for the reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales.
BMH UK warns that services users could be left locked up on wards without the legal counsel they need to appeal against their detention, unless there is a radical rethink of MoJ’s plans.
It argues that funding cuts will hit those with disabilities and ethnic minorities hardest at a time when detention rates of people from the UK’s African Caribbean community now at an all time high.
In response to the Ministry of Justice consultation BMH UK points out that the Equality Impact Assessments that have been conducted on these proposals clearly show that they are likely to hit vulnerable groups the most.
BMH UK says it is concerned about the lack of publicity the consultation has had within the Black and Minority Ethnic communities who stand to suffer the most from these spending cuts.
“There are already reports that it is becoming increasingly difficult for service users who are locked up on wards to get the expert legal advice and representation they need for a Tribunal hearing,” says Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK. “This raises serious concerns about what people are likely to face once the cuts really start to be felt. There is a danger that the legal rights of one of the most vulnerable groups in society will be further eroded by these Legal Aid reforms.”
Jackie Maclean who is a mental health campaigner says the country needs to look after vulnerable people in our community who through no fault of their own can’t make certain decisions.
“When people don’t know their rights and the systems that should be in place aren’t there to support them, which is when things could go into meltdown. There is a lot at stake here. We need to get this rights or else people will stay in hospital a lot longer than they need to and some might not come out at all,” she said.
It is a sentiment shared by Rachael Barclay, director of Two Way Street community mental health service:
“It is already a challenge getting a lawyers for patients on general wards, can you imagine the challenges of getting a good lawyer for someone on a forensic ward? With these cuts we will begin to see a culture in the hospitals where people are going to get more frustrated and end up getting even more medication and the outcomes of this could be catastrophic,” she said.