Reform Needed

Government must reform mental health laws to protect the rights of adults and children

On 30th November 2021, Mental Health Reform told the Sub-Committee on Mental Health that Ireland’s mental health legislation must be reformed to protect the rights of children and adults receiving inpatient mental health treatment and care.
In an opening statement to the committee on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill, our CEO Fiona Coyle, said:

“The Mental Health (Amendment) Bill represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for positive change in our mental health legislation. The Heads of Bill are very welcome, however there are key issues that must be addressed to adequately protect people’s rights. It is very concerning that the legislation still provides for the admission of children and young people to adult facilities. We request that an express provision should be contained in the amending legislation that no child or young person shall be admitted to an adult inpatient unit.

We also wish to highlight a lacuna between the Heads of Bill and the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 relating to people under 18. The Mental Health (Amendment) Bill is set to provide for 16 and 17 year olds to give or withdraw consent to treatment in mental health services if they are deemed to have capacity. However, the 2015 Act doesn’t provide for decision supports for under 18’s. Mental Health Reform has urged the Government to address this gap in the legislation as a matter of urgency.

The Heads of Bill should provide for an independent direct and specific complaints mechanism for mental health services. This would provide a safe avenue for children and adults in inpatient facilities to raise concerns. The Inspector of Mental Health Services should be conferred with a statutory obligation to receive, investigate, and determine individual complaints relating to mental health services.

A whole generation of people will be impacted by the long-awaited reform of this legislation. We must grasp this opportunity to make fundamental improvements to the delivery and support of mental health services in our country, to ensure the horrors of the past are not revisited.”

Mental Health Reform have published an independent, human rights analysis of the Heads of Bill to reform the Mental Health Act 2001. This document can be found here.


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