Article 39 is delighted that the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill has passed through the Commons. We have been working on the Bill all this year, as part of a coalition of mental health and human rights charities co-ordinated by YoungMinds. This is the first standalone law in the UK specifically designed to protect children and adults from abusive restraint.
After filibustering by two MPs, Philip Davies and Christopher Chope, last month, the Private Members’ Bill was genuinely under threat. However it passed without objection today (6 July), after which it received a round of applause by MPs present in the Chamber.
Watching the proceedings was the family of Seni Lewis, who died in 2010, aged 23, after being restrained by up to 11 police officers who were called to his hospital. In a moving tribute, Steve Reed MP, whose Private Members Bill it is, said the legislation will be “a lasting and proud legacy for Seni Lewis”.
At earlier stages, Article 39 pressed for parents or others with parental responsibility to be notified when a child patient is restrained. This was extended to all patients and is included in Clause 6 of the Bill. We also wanted the impact of restraint on a child’s development to be included in the Bill’s training requirements: this is contained in Clause 5 (covering all ages).
Other priorities, which we plan to continue to pursue when the Bill enters the Lords, include a prohibition on restraint techniques deliberately designed to inflict pain; patients to be informed of the techniques used in their unit; the recording of the patient’s perspective after each use of force; and patients to be informed of their right to independent advocacy.