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Joint Committee investigates impact of draft Mental Health Bill on children and young people, and people with learning disabilities or autism

8 November 2022

The Joint Committee continues its scrutiny of the draft Mental Health Bill, which proposes removing learning disabilities and autism as conditions which can justify long term civil detention in inpatient care (if the person is suffering no concurrent mental health conditions.) On Wednesday 9 November, the committee will question clinicians and experts on whether this is likely to improve the treatment of people with autism and learning disabilities.  

An independent review found that the current Mental Health Act is “being used inappropriately for people with a learning disability, autism or both.” In the Committee’s previous session, a witness recounted her experience of being “transported in cages and handcuffs” while held in detention. The Committee is expected to examine whether proposed changes to the bill sufficiently prohibit unnecessary and harmful detention while simultaneously allowing people with autism and learning disabilities access to the right support.  

The session will also examine whether the draft Mental Health Bill does enough to support children and young people. Many stakeholders have argued that the draft Bill has missed opportunities to strengthen safeguards for under-18s detained under the Mental Health Act. Concerns have been raised about poor inpatient care for young people, low-strength advocacy services which provide children with insufficient guidance, and inconsistent criteria to assess whether a young person can make decisions about their treatment.  


From 13:45

  • Dr Margaret Flynn, Chair, National Mental Capacity Forum
  • Dr Quinton Deeley, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, National Autism Unit and Neuropsychiatry Brain Injury Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.   
  • Professor Mahesh Odiyoor, Finance Officer, Faculty of Intellectual Disabilities, Royal College of Psychiatrists 

From approx. 15:00

  • Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
  • Charlotte Rainer, Coalition Lead, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition  
  • Dr Susan Walker, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Great Ormond Street Hospital  

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock