Ministers Donnelly and Butler welcome Government approval of the heads of bill to amend the Mental Health Act

contains over 120 proposed changes to the Act
introduces guiding principles for adults and children into the Act
enhances the voice of people using mental health services
strengthens provisions for consent to treatment

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, welcome the Government decision today to approve the heads of bill to amend the Mental Health Act.

Speaking about the Government decision today, Minister Donnelly said:

“I am delighted that Government has agreed to the heads of bill, which contain over 120 proposed changes to the Act. The heads of bill introduce guiding principles for adults and children into the Act, to enhance the voice of people using the services; strengthen provisions on consent to treatment to bring it in line with the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015; expand the Mental Health Commission’s regulatory powers to regulate and inspect all mental health community residences and services, and provide for 16- and 17-year olds to refuse or consent to their own mental health treatment. It is an important step in ensuring that the rights of people accessing services are fully vindicated.”

The heads of bill are the result of extensive consultation between the department and key stakeholders over the past number of years, including the Mental Health Commission, the HSE, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and a recent public consultation on the review, launched by Minister Butler in March of this year.

Minister Butler added:

“I would like to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who has engaged with the department in this process, including everyone who took the time to submit their views in the public consultation, particularly those submissions from people with lived experience of mental health services and their family members. These submissions were invaluable to the department in finalising the heads of bill. I plan on publishing a summary report on the public consultation in the coming weeks.”

Following the Government decision to approve the heads of bill, a formal Bill will be drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Department of Health.

The heads of bill will be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and will also be published on the department’s website this month.

Speaking on the next steps, Minister Butler said:

“I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on the Oireachtas Committee on Health as they carry out their own review of the heads of bill. Completing the review of the Act has been a major priority for me since my appointment last year, and I am glad to see we have reached that milestone. The Bill will be a significant step in ensuring parity between mental and physical health, in empowering people to make decisions about their own mental health care and in enhancing protections and safeguards for people accessing the mental health services. I am committed to seeing the Bill drafted as quickly as possible so it can be introduced to the Oireachtas.”

Notes
The Mental Health Act 2001 (the Act) sets out the care and treatment of people receiving inpatient mental health care, particularly by providing the legal basis for involuntary detention. The Act further provides for an Inspector of Mental Health Services, safeguards for the rights of involuntarily detained individuals, the establishment of the Mental Health Commission as regulator of mental health services and for mental health tribunals, which review detention orders for people involuntarily detained. The Department of Health has been leading on the review of the Mental Health Act. The department has considered in depth:

the 165 recommendations of a 2015 Expert Group Review of the Act
the 100 submissions received in the March/April 2021 public consultation
extensive consultation over the past number of years with the HSE, the Mental Health Commission, the Ombudsman for Children, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Ireland’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
domestic legislation such as the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018
Cabinet has agreed to draft a Bill based on the General Scheme, to send the General Scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health for pre-legislative scrutiny, and to publish the General Scheme on the Department of Health’s website. The publication of the General Scheme on the department’s website is expected in the coming weeks.